Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: I went to a meeting with a colleague the other day where I was supposed to make a presentation to our client. My colleague was supposed to be there as an observer and to help answer any questions.

As it turned out, he jumped in before I even got started and basically stole my presentation. I could hardly get a word in edgewise. I was so angry. How should I handle this? The client was pleased and we got the business, but my co-worker overstepped his bounds. -- Irked, Washington, D.C.

DEAR IRKED: Ask your colleague directly why he chose to overstep the boundaries of your meeting and jump in the way he did. Tell him that although of course you are glad the business was secured, you do not appreciate the way he handled it. Get him to talk about his motive.

Perhaps he wanted to prove that he can pitch. He may have felt that you were moving too slowly in the beginning. He also may have intended to usurp your position. You won't know until you talk to him about it.

Include in your conversation a recommendation for how you can work together moving forward. Because the deal was secured, you may want to keep him around even if he did annoy you. Suggest that you divide up duties so both of you will have important roles in meetings, since clearly he does not want to be an observer. But it is important to establish ground rules for how you can best work together.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I owe my best friend a sizable amount of money. I borrowed it from her a couple of months ago and promised to repay her as soon as possible. Time is ticking. Even though we didn't set a particular date, I feel like I should say something to her. I don't have the money, but I don't want her to think I'm blowing it off. I could give her little bits over time. Do you think it's OK to suggest that? -- Empty Pockets, Shreveport, La.

DEAR EMPTY POCKETS: It is smart to follow up with your friend and give her a status report. Tell her that you have not forgotten your debt but that you do not yet have the funds to repay her.

If you think you can manage a payment plan, ask if she would accept it. Paying her in small increments could make it easier for you to pay down your debt, and you'd feel less guilty because you would be addressing the issue. Just know that if you promise to pay, you should not renege on your promise. Your friend needs to be able to trust that you will do what you say you are going to do, when you say you are going to do it!