Dear J.T. & Dale: I recently received an e-mail that pointed out a minor mistake I made at work. The author copied my manager, her manager, and several co-workers. The mistake is easily corrected, but she strongly hinted that I violated our company’s ethics policy. I’ve uncovered dozens of similar errors and have worked with staff to correct them, without accusations of shady ethics. How do I respond to her veiled accusation? – Sue
DALE: Give in to your anger and you’ll make it a battle, which will focus attention on the mistake, and people who wouldn’t even read the e-mail, much less take its hints, will be forced to pay attention and take sides.
Still, you can’t ignore the situation. So here’s a chance to practice the entertaining and profitable art of office politics.
(Yes, “entertaining and profitable” – if you’re one of those who get uppity and say, “I refuse to play office politics,” you’re still playing them, and if you actually mean it, you’re playing them badly.)
First, go to the sender of the e-mail and have a conversation – not a confrontation, a conversation. Your goal is to win back her confidence in your professionalism, just like you’d win back an unhappy customer.
J.T.: Then go to your boss and say: “I got this e-mail, and I’m concerned about its questioning of my ethics. These mistakes are not uncommon, so I thought it would be a good time to agree on a proper strategy to deal with them. That way, we can ensure that nobody’s feelings get hurt and that the problems are resolved to the company’s standards. Can we do that?”
DALE: Beautiful. That’s office politics at its best. Your co-worker was claiming the high ground, but instead of getting defensive, you take even higher ground.
Not only are you correcting the mistake, but you’re leading the effort to prevent future mistakes.
J.T.: And instead of dividing the team, you’ll be bringing it together, which means that e-mail was an opportunity to do something powerful for your company and your career.
© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock