I’ve hurt the feelings of a co-worker I actually care a great deal about and I feel awful about it. I mimicked her and made some snide remarks about her to another co-worker, and unbeknownst to me, she was in earshot. I can’t justify my mean behavior but I think it’s somewhat understandable when you know the context for it. I had had a very bad day and everyone, including this co-worker, had plucked my last nerve. I’ve tried to apologize by talking to her but she rebuffed me. I’ve also tried calling her but she wouldn’t pick up, and I’ve sent her a text and email, but she didn’t respond. I want to make this right but she won’t allow me to. I’d appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.
Desperate to apologize
Dear Desperate to apologize:
Although it is understandable that you want to make things right immediately, it is not fair to expect your co-worker to be ready to accept your apology. In such instances, time can often be your best friend. Allow a decent amount of time (i.e., a month or two) to pass and then communicate your sincere apology in a handwritten note. You also have to realize that things may never be the same between the two of you. Hopefully, you have learned a valuable lesson from your lapse in judgment.
I’m a lobbyist and have a colleague that’s in his late 70s. He’s over thirty years older than me. I’ve always respected him and not because he’s so much older than me, but because he’s been a lobbyist for a very long time and he’s very knowledgeable and great at what he does. In the past year or so, he’s had some health issues with his heart and he can’t hear as well as he used to. Despite all this, he’s still very skillful and successful in our business. I’m emailing you because a few days ago I observed him being very rude and condescending to some of our support staff right before a high-powered meeting was supposed to start. The staff was getting everything ready and he berated them for no apparent reason. I’ve never seen him act like that. I was not only in disbelief but embarrassed as well. I can’t figure out what would make him act like that, and I’m wondering if I should do something about it.
Floored by colleague’s deplorable behavior
Dear Floored by colleague’s deplorable behavior:
It always upsets me to hear about such instances. I hurt for the recipients of such bad behavior and I am disgusted and disappointed with anyone who treats someone else inappropriately. If a person has all of his/her mental faculties, there is no excuse for such mean behavior. If you have a good relationship with your colleague, you can try to have a thoughtful discussion with him, but do not be surprised if he is defensive or claims ignorance. Best of luck!
On a side note, the senior lobbyist’s behavior appears to reflect some uneasiness on his part. What he did was not and is never acceptable, but in trying to understand what may have been behind his behavior, I am thinking he may have been feeling anxious and vulnerable about the meeting because of his failing health and hearing impairment.
I’ve just learned that the husband of a person I work with has been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, but this co-worker hasn’t said anything to me about it when we’ve talked. I heard that when she told our boss, our boss’s assistant overheard their conversation and that’s how it got out. From what I understand, our boss hasn’t said anything to anyone in our office about it. So, now, I feel awkward when we interact or pass in the halls, bathroom, or break room. A big part of me wants to tell her how sorry I am, but the other part of me knows she’s chosen not to tell me about it. What do you think I should do?
Torn – to speak or not to speak
Dear Torn - to speak or not to speak:
I understand your concern for your colleague and your desire to console her, but until she is ready/wants to talk, respect her privacy and her choice not to discuss such a personal matter with you.
© 2011 Rozanne R. Worrell