I’m a senior professional in a large corporation. My success depends on my ability to interact well with the managers in marketing, IT, finance and customer service. We all report to the Director of Operations.
I ticked off the head of finance two weeks ago. She heard me describing her in unflattering terms on a day when I’d just about had it. When I turned around and realized she had overheard to my cell conversation with a friend, I immediately apologized away. She looked at me and said “we’re done.”
After that, she stopped answering any email request for information I sent her. I let this go for a full week days thinking she needed “cool down” time. Then, since didn’t want to get into an email war, I stopped by her office and asked, “Do you have a minute?” She said, “No, I’m busy, on my way to lunch.” Then she left. Since it was ten-thirty in the morning, I got the message.
I went back to my office a drafted a lengthy email apology, telling her much I appreciated her intelligence, respected what she’s accomplish and regretted the foolish comments I had made. I asked her if we could meet so I could apologize in person and so we could again work well together.
She sent back an email saying, “I’m done. I don’t want to deal with you. You can put any questions you have in writing, and I’ll respond to them in writing. I’m not going to meet with you. We can’t work well together because you don’t know what the heck you’re doing.”
The next week, I took my email and hers to my manager. He skimmed mine, then hers, gave a short laugh and said, “Take her out to lunch.” When I said “she won’t go with me,” he said, “Well, wait a week and ask her for coffee.”
What do I do? Grovel more?
You’ve groveled. It hasn’t worked.
Although your manager didn’t create this problem and reacts as if it’s your problem, he now owns it as well. He supervises two highly placed individuals who need to work together and one says she’s written the other off. His laugh indicates he either thinks the situation funny and not worth his time or he doesn’t want to get the middle of what appears to him as a cat fight. Not only does your success depend on working well with the finance director, but your Operations Director can’t afford a manager under him who responds “I’m done” to another senior professional.
Since he asked you to wait a week, do so and in the meantime, try to figure out what leads the finance director to decide she can simply write you off. Did she formerly reach out to you and you repaid her with caustic comments? Does she have enough power that if she marginalizes you, you’re done for? Often, figuring out what motivates another individual to act as she does can give valuable clues for how to fix things.
If finance director refuses to call a truce after another week, ask the Director of Operations to take you both to lunch. You may need to make a case to him that you’ve done your best to handle the situation yourself and that it costs your company for you and your finance director’s relationship to remain crippled.
Finally, let your manager know that you’ve learned an important lesson. You can’t afford to open your mouth and let fly. While your manager may be able to affect a reasonable rapprochement, you’ll likely never re-establish a great relationship with the finance manager.
© 2018, Lynne Curry
Lynne Curry writes a weekly column on workplace issues. She is author of “Solutions” and “Beating the Workplace Bully” and founded The Growth Company, an Avitus company. Curry is now a Regional Director of Training and Business Consulting at Avitus Group. Send your questions to her at Lcurry@avitusgroup.com, follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10 or at www.workplacecoachblog.com.