Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Co-Worker Should Keep Thoughts to Himself

DEAR HARRIETTE: I was working on an intense project recently, and after a while, everybody got pretty testy, mainly because of the long hours and the lack of sleep or breaks. One of the members of the team, who has worked on this job for many years, has a short fuse; he started grumbling about the work conditions. He was pretty harmless -- mostly just letting off steam -- but it got back to the big boss, who was very upset. My co-worker apologized, but he continued to grumble about things in private while we were still at the work site. He didn’t seem to understand that he should keep his thoughts to himself until he was safely away from the job. How can I impress that upon him? He’s a nice guy and a hard worker, but I fear he will lose his job if he keeps this up. -- Shut Your Mouth

DEAR SHUT YOUR MOUTH: I worked on a project once with a high-level businessman, Earl G. Graves, founder of Black Enterprise. I was a young professional, and he entrusted me with supporting him on an important project. One day after a productive meeting, we were in an elevator leaving the building when I began to talk about how great I thought the meeting went. Immediately, he turned to me and said, “Wait until we clear the building.” When we got outside, he told me that you should never debrief in any way, including to say nice things, until you are completely off-site and out of earshot of your client. I never forgot that.

Tell your friend that if he wants to be successful, he must learn to be mum when silence is called for. That especially includes tense times when in the company of the boss!

DEAR HARRIETTE: I met a guy at a social work function and, after talking to him for a while, realized that we have a couple of mutual friends. One of them is the best friend of my ex-husband. We broke up more than 30 years ago, but it was not a good breakup, and I was not nice.

I didn’t know what to say to my colleague when we parted ways. I gave him the briefest heads up, telling him that I knew his friend because he was friends with my ex, and we had a bad breakup. I indicated that I told him so he wouldn’t be caught off guard in case it came up. I knew he was going to call his friend to say we met and how much fun we had together at this event. This man’s last interaction with me was about my ex, and it wasn’t positive. Did I do the right thing? -- Managing Expectations

DEAR MANAGING EXPECTATIONS: What you did was fine, in that you made sure the man wouldn’t find himself flat-footed if your name did come up in a bad light. It also could have been fine for you to say nothing. Your ex’s best friend likely has fewer memories of your past than you do. It could have been a nonissue entirely if you hadn’t mentioned that part of the past.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)