Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: I was really frustrated at work because of a project that went wrong on my watch. My assistant dropped the ball big time. Recently, she made another giant mistake. She brushed it off like it was not a big deal, and I lost it. I yelled at her. I apologized, but I feel bad. How can I fix this? -- Out of Control, Cincinnati

DEAR OUT OF CONTROL: Schedule a review meeting with your assistant where you calmly talk about what happened. Go over the details of the project and explain what was expected and what didn't happen. Point out, with specificity, what her responsibilities were and how she failed to complete them. Also let her know what the consequences have been due to her actions.

Apologize again for your outburst. Explain that you were frustrated and your fuse was short. Let her know that your intention was not to raise your voice and that you will do your best in the future to remain calm. Make it crystal clear to her that she has to step up and be more proactive and responsible. This should include letting you know if she suspects that a project is going wrong.

Your assistant may also need more detailed coaching through the steps of her duties. Assume that she wants to do a good job and give her support through the steps. Encourage her to believe that she can achieve her goals.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I would have answered "Friend in Deed," the reader wanting to give money to a friend, a little differently. Gratitude is an emotion that does not wear well. While Friend might want to help her friend, if it makes the about-to-be-evicted friend feel obligated with no chance to return the obligation, it may well be the end of the friendship. However benevolent Friend may feel now, she may sometimes want to be treated specially for her prior act -- even without being aware of it. Unless she has enough money that the gift is truly a drop in the bucket for her, and it didn't sound like it -- she mentioned that it was her savings -- I would urge her to offer it as a loan with a plan for repayment. That way the obligations are clear on both ends of the act of kindness. -- Practical, Chicago

DEAR PRACTICAL: Thank you for your input. I have seen this situation pan out in a multitude of ways. Mainly, I have seen strain when friends help each other with debt. And yet, often all people have are friends and family to turn to when they are in a financial crisis.

Your ideas are sound. The challenge there is that the one receiving the loan may never be able to pay it. In that case, friction likely will ensue if deadlines go unmet. Someone did write in a while ago saying that when the debtor is patient and has the luxury to wait, the other has a chance over an indefinite period of time to repay the loan.