I sent a nasty text about my boss ... to my boss!

I meant to be venting to my husband about this woman ... and now I'll never work in this town again!


Cary Tennis
September 19, 2007 2:43PM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

I recently sent a text message to the wrong person, and it was about her!

I was upset about something she'd done without my knowledge, and so in my tizzy, typed out a message to my husband, venting about the situation, and instead sent it to her! I didn't abuse her directly, but it generally stated that if she thought I was her lackey she had another thing coming, and she couldn't just go changing things around without telling me first, and how I was sick of her.

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It's bad enough that it happened. The fact is that she is -- kind of -- my boss. She outsources her extra interior design work to me. I received a very surprised message back from her, upon which I realized my horrible, horrible mistake.

I called back at once to apologize, and she explained what and why she did what she did, but I still feel so terrible. I even texted her back later to say sorry again, but there has been only silence from that end. I feel this will be the end of our working relationship, and I really don't want that.

She has suggested a meeting next week to finish up the project I am doing for her right now, but I am so chary of that. What do you think I should do next? How do I really communicate to her that it was, yes, very unprofessional of me, but very silly too?

Mortified

Dear Mortified,

You gossiped about someone and were caught. That is unfortunate, but it's not the end of the world.

In fact, it's a sort of classic situation, and it gives me an idea. There's a movie here, a sort of interior-designer chick/buddy flick, on the order of "Thelma and Louise" meets "The Devil Wears Prada."

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Think about what happens in a lot of westerns, action movies and buddy movies: Two ambitious, likable men meet. They have a fistfight in the dust. We know the fistfight will not be fatal because this is a buddy movie and you need the buddies.

They have different values and different styles, but both have a lot of pride and ambition. They'd like to kill each other but they have to fight the common enemy. Or they have to cooperate to find the killer. In the end they have a beer together. Or one rides away and the other nods sagely.

The mutual admiration is unstated. When the two competitors meet, they do not say, You, sir, I view as a competitor, and though I recognize that you are necessary both to the success of our endeavor and to the wide commercial success of this movie we are in, my motivation includes an intense desire to see you fail.

They don't say that. It might be funny, but it would be too self-referential for the genre. Instead, they eye each other warily and act in accord with their deeper motivations.

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So anyway, in the first scene of this interior-designer chick/buddy flick, when your nemesis/doppelgänger gets your incendiary text message, she smiles wryly and continues shouting orders to the shirtless, muscled young man who is hanging her drapes.

She smiles wryly because there's a flashback coming. She's been there. She's cursed her share of bosses. She's clawed her way to the top and she knows what it's like to be a young, ambitious interior designer, enduring insults and obscurity, waiting for a break. She's gotten her break now, and she has no intention of letting some younger competitor take her place. At the same time, she's intrigued. She thinks you may have something. Perhaps she can find a use for you.

So she has an expensive lunch with her androgynous muse figure and wonders out loud what you'll do. Will you slink away in horror? Or will you try to turn this to your advantage, make an appeal to her that shows you have a larger vision? Maybe you two will bond. She and her muse place a bet: Will you come clean? Will you make a power play? Or will you shrink from the challenge?

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If you shrink from the challenge, there's no story. So you have to meet with her and apologize but also make a play.

So you meet with her and you say, "I'm sorry I sent that message. It was stupid of me. It was a mistake."

And she says, "Don't be sorry, darling, it was charming." She is trying to seduce you. You play up to her.

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You say, "Yes, OK, I do admire you, I want to be like you, I want to have what you have, I want so badly to be a well-known interior designer, but I am a proud woman, I will not beg for it, and I am sensitive, too, yes, I am a sensitive woman, and in that moment I could have clawed your eyes out."

You tell her this. You tell her that you were angry, that you have a lot of pride and ambition and ego and that you are also quite sensitive and you felt your toes had been stepped on and you did not have the presence of mind or the maturity or the habit of reticence that would have allowed you to analyze what was happening and understand where your feelings were coming from, and she waves off your apologies and your explanations. She looks into your eyes and says, "Tell me. What do you really want? Not all this horseshit. Tell me what you really want."

You tell her that you are young and ambitious and want what she has. You tell her the truth. If you are a little spoiled and you know it, tell her so. If you genuinely believe that you have talent, tell her so. If you want to work with her again, tell her so.

And she says, "You know, I met with a client this morning, the biggest client of my career, and he is not so crazy about my design ... but you. I could see him looking at you. I know he likes you. So I could keep you on ... if you are interested in him. Know what I mean?"

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And so you are handed a Faustian bargain.

Or maybe it plays out differently. Who knows. But the thing is, you meet with her and you level with her. Don't minimize it. Don't tell her that it was silly and she should forget it. She'll do whatever she's going to do with it. That's her business.

Just meet with her and tell her that you're ambitious and passionate about what you do and you were angry with her and made a mistake and see what she does. Maybe she will suggest that the two of you get a convertible and go rob a gas station. I don't know. All I know is there is a lot of energy here. It's a classic situation. Enjoy it.


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