When Melissa asked Tom for his data, again, Tom responded flippantly that he would get it to her when he was done with the analysis. Melissa resented Tom. When she tried to pin him down to a due date, he would make it seem like she was being controlling and stupid.

In frustration, Melissa sent an email to Tom’s manager, copying Tom, outlining her concerns about the amount of time Tom was putting into the analysis and how it was holding up the overall project.

Tom responded to the email, insinuating that Melissa did not understand the analysis process and the time it needed.

When Melissa’s boss called her in to talk about the situation she suggested that Melissa be more patient with Tom and understand that we was doing his best. When Melissa brought up that he was not doing his job and was blaming others for not getting his part done, her manager shook her head and said, “I wish you two could get along.”


Melissa feels stymied by Tom and unsupported by her boss. Her work environment is getting more frustrating and her interactions are increasingly strained. And – here is the thing – She is absolutely right.

She is right that Tom is interacting in a demeaning way. She is right that he must set a due date and then get his analysis done on time. She is right that her boss is not supportive and certainly no help with the situation.

She is right, but not effective. Nor is she likely to be effective until she can remove herself from her emotional reactions and sit down and ask some tough questions.


Who is ultimately accountable for the timing of this project? Is it the boss? Whoever Melissa answers to needs documentation of Tom’s responses explaining she is waiting for the data to move ahead. Be accountable for the things you are accountable for and let go of the things that aren’t yours.

What are the real priorities? Work and deadlines are important. Keeping commitments are crucial to effective relationships. But are mental health and workplace happiness so easily sacrificed? Is being miserable worth being right? Melissa can focus on her part, doing a good job and keeping people informed. While waiting for the analysis she can work on something else. She can offer to help.

Is there someone you can help? Seeking feedback and insight from someone you respect could help you reframe an experience and learn new skills. Or, maybe it is time to look for a new opportunity if you don’t want to continue to work in this environment. If you have given too much importance to a project maybe you can’t see your own barriers or constraints. There are many skilled people around you. Why not seek help?

Be effective. Being right is just too difficult and not fun for anyone. Read part three of this accountability series, “Turning Conflict into Cooperation: The Role of the Boss in Conflict Management

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