Thursday, September 21, 2006

For the Sins...

We say the Avinu Malkeinu at almost every service during the High Holy Days, in which we ask God’s forgiveness for a litany of sins. But first we are told to make amends with those we have wronged during the past year. Only then are we worthy of asking God’s forgiveness.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the problem with one of my colleagues that I described in the "half-empty" post last week. I’m a stubborn person, so I was not ready to just offer a blanket apology for something that I didn’t feel was totally my fault. But I was more than ready to have a conversation with this person to see if we could work things out, so I sent her an invitation to have lunch together.

I was shocked that my olive branch was initially met with another scathing e-mail message of accusations. When she finally came to realize that the latest round of complaints against me was totally unfounded, she agreed to a meeting.

Late yesterday afternoon we talked in my office for a long while. We first spent some time discussing the paper that had been the source of the conflict. I came to better understand her frustration when during last week’s high-level meeting I suggested some radical changes in the overall direction of this paper that she thought was ready for final approval. She felt as though I was attacking her. She’s in a staff position with no one reporting to her. She feels a bit in limbo. So perhaps she is more sensitive than someone else might be about something like an issues paper that has now been made my responsibility.

I emphasized that my concern was much more about our continued relationship than about the paper, which I knew would get modified and finally accepted. I wanted to restore the mutual respect that had for many years existed between us. I suggested that if her frustration level with me ever reached a similar point in the future, she pick up the phone and call or stop by to see me. E-mail is a dangerous sword to wield.

After expressions of renewed mutual admiration, we came up with a plan to get the paper done. We also talked about hoping to have the luxury some day to collaborate in a one-on-one relationship to do research on data from this survey we have both been involved in launching.

Today I sent her an e-mail message reiterating my relief at patching up our differences. She responded with a message that was characteristic of the person I have known for 30 years.

I’m sure there are many more people I have wronged in the past year. But this is a good start in my effort to make amends.


Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I like that idea that your religion sugggests you make amends...I have a hard time with just asking for forgiveness and everything gets totally wiped clean. There is such a broad spetrum of wrongdoing. Everything you do affects others. We probably should ask the person's forgiveness as well.

8:04 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Great work, Barbara! I'm so impressed!! If more of us could do this kind of direct, face to face talking, the world would be a much better place. wow!! What a great report. I salute you!

9:22 AM  
Blogger Old Lady said...

I have a difficult time doing stuff like that.

10:00 AM  
Anonymous DRFS aka Sue said...

That is awesome. I totally suck at these sorts of things because it's difficult at times for both parties to sort out their anger or hurt feelings and just take a deep breath and come to a consensus. I'll have to try something similar sometime.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I really admire your ability to talk through the issue with your coworker. I tried to take a similiar approach fairly recently and it backfired. My coworker blamed me for any and everything while our communication continued to degrade. She's been moved to another project while mine remains understaffed. I wish we all could take such a mature approach (as yours, not hers).

12:24 PM  
Blogger Everyman said...

If we take the high road and give people a chance, most will come around in time.
EMail is a great tool but is no replacement for the face to face. Especially when things get thick. One of the reasons I have begun to do this blog thing is to improve my EMail and typing skills. I am amazed at how poor a tool eMail can be in some hands.steve

2:18 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Let us hope that this positive relationship will continue to prosper.

2:57 PM  

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