To make amends, open with an apology
Q. One of my co-workers is extremely angry because I shared some information with my boss. “Grace” and I manage complex projects for a global consulting firm. Recently, an important client complained to me about the quality of Grace’s work on a previous assignment.
Because the firm needs to keep this client happy, I mentioned the concerns to my manager, who asked me to summarize them in an email. Despite some misgivings, I agreed to do this. My boss forwarded the email to Grace’s manager, who then sent it to her. Now Grace is furious with me. How can I fix this and avoid similar problems in the future?
A. Because client relationships are the lifeblood of any consulting firm, Grace definitely needed this feedback. However, you should have given her a heads-up before reporting the complaints to management.
For example: “Grace, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but Bob at XYZ Corp. is unhappy about certain aspects of your last engagement there. Because I’m currently working with him, I have to share this information with my boss. She might mention it to your manager, so I thought I should let you know.”
Although delivering this message would not be pleasant, the advance notice could have allowed Grace to break the news to management herself. As it was, people were discussing her competence in emails before she even knew there was a problem. So if you wish to repair this relationship, you must acknowledge your mistake.
For example: “Grace, I’m so sorry that you were blindsided by Bob’s concerns. Although I had to share the information with my boss, I should have talked with you first. I hope you can forgive this oversight, because our working relationship is really important to me.”
Upon receiving this apology, Grace is quite likely to fire one final blast in your direction. But if you seem sincerely remorseful, eventually she should calm down.
Q. My boss is a micromanaging dictator. She is very condescending and won’t let anyone make decisions without her approval. She gave me a reprimand when I hadn’t done anything wrong. I feel mistreated and disrespected, but don’t know what to do about it. Should I ask human resources to intervene?
A. When a lone employee criticizes the boss’s leadership style, management may view it as a personality conflict. But if several people present the same case, it begins to look as though there might really be a problem. Therefore, if you plan to report your overbearing manager, you should think in terms of “we,” not “I.”
Before contacting HR, see if other dissatisfied colleagues will agree to accompany you. Instead of complaining about your boss’s character, provide specific examples of how her actions are hurting your work. By calmly focusing on business issues, you will increase your credibility.
If soliciting support from co-workers proves to be difficult, then perhaps they don’t share your strong feelings. In that case, you might as well abandon this crusade, because no one is going to back you up.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”