Office Coach: Prevent tiffs from flaring up

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Question: “Jerry” and I are jointly responsible for producing our company magazine. Last month, I missed the deadline for submitting an article by one day. When I told our editor about the delay, she said it would not be a problem. After I completed the article, I was shocked to find that Jerry had instructed her to publish the magazine without it.

When I sent Jerry an email questioning this decision, he responded with a very vindictive reply stating that I deserved to be left out because I missed the deadline. Now I’m afraid this conflict is about to get out of hand.

Answer: Your own reaction will determine whether this disagreement heats up or cools down. Responding in kind will just escalate matters and possibly create an ongoing feud. To reduce the emotional temperature, you need to remain calm and professional.

Start by initiating an actual conversation, since email is never appropriate for resolving conflicts. If you and Jerry are in different locations, try using a wonderful invention called the telephone.

You should also consider why Jerry is so angry. Given his intense reaction, I can’t help wondering whether you have a history of missed deadlines. If so, Jerry’s frustration may have been building for quite awhile. To keep the discussion productive, acknowledge the past, but focus on the future.

If the two of you can agree to collaborate before giving orders, carrying out your shared responsibility will be much easier.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.” Send in questions and get free coaching tips at

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