Deadlines and excuses


I’ve worked alongside “Mary” for three years. In those three years, she’s never made a mistake — according to her. For example, when she fails to give me critical information by a deadline I’ve given her, and I mention it to her, she invariably says it was because I wasn’t clear enough on what I needed or the deadline. I could give you dozens of other examples, but the bottom line is she always blames me for any problem.

Needless to say, this is annoying, but I’ve let her get away with it. I could easily print out the emails I sent her that totally laid out the deadline and what was needed, but haven’t wanted to deal with how tense things will get if I show her how wrong she is.

Today, I paid for this. I asked my boss why he marked me down on my performance review in three areas and learned he unfairly considered me the problem in all the situations where I let Mary point the finger at me. When I tried to set the record straight, he told me I was defensive.

I left my review feeling my supervisor took Mary’s side and that I have no option for getting fairly rated.


You can turn this around by learning a valuable lesson. Often, what we don’t say gets us into more trouble than what we say. Your conflict aversion led you to swallow what you could have said, allowing Mary to cast all the blame on you.
You can get your supervisor to listen to you if you stop doing what you accuse Mary of doing — finger-pointing. You consider your supervisor unfair, yet you never stood up for yourself. You see Mary as the problem because she shirks responsibility — but you did the same thing.

If you want your supervisor to hear what you want to say now, tell him your performance review was a wake-up call to learning to deal with problems when they happen and in a way that solves them. Admit your culpability in colluding with Mary in a “who’s to blame, it’s you” work relationship — and he may listen to you with fresh ears.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at

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