Rise above a co-worker’s e-mail attack

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Your co-worker, Marie, sends you a venomous e-mail, detailing how she feels you mishandled something ... and she copies your boss.

Now what should you do? Reply to the e-mail, with a cc to your boss, and defend yourself? Tell your boss privately that your co-worker has had it in for you from day one?

Rise above the situation and act maturely, advises management consultant Joan Lloyd, who writes a column for Business Journal.

Here’s what to do:

Say, “I’m disappointed that Marie did not come to me first, so we could have resolved this issue without involving you.” Then suggest that the three of you meet to discuss the situation and sort out emotion from fact.

Keep your defenses in check as you explain the situation.

Tell your boss that, in the future, “I think it would be helpful for me to try to resolve any issue with her first. Then, if that doesn’t work, we’ll involve you.”

Try to figure out why Marie feels hurt. Since Marie is trying to blame you, “there is a good chance that she feels you have done something to hurt her, or cast her in a poor light,” says Lloyd. That’s likely the root of the problem.

Suggest homework, prior to your meeting with the boss. “Each person could write down what you want the other person to do more of, less of and keep the same,” says Lloyd. “In addition, you would also list what you are willing to do more of, less of and keep the same.”

Ask for ground rules at the meeting. Otherwise, it could turn into a gripe session. One rule might be to speak to each other, rather than to the boss. Or, try to paraphrase each other before speaking. That forces you both to listen.

“I have found that when both parties have to speak to each other, the venom drains more quickly and solutions emerge,” says Lloyd.

If your co-worker had done that in the first place, you wouldn’t be in this mess.


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