Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: Safe or sorry?

This reader admonished another manager's staff member when they failed to follow proper fire safety procedure. The other manager sent an irate email to complain. Who's in the wrong?

Share

Dear Virginia,

I'm line manager of a department in a big conference centre,
and recently one of the staff who's under a different manager
failed to unlock the fire exits during a performance when I was in
charge. Her line manager was away. I emailed her pointing out the
dangers and have now had an email from the other manager accusing
me of being high-handed with his staff. It was personal and
vindictive. Confusingly, when I meet him on a daily basis he's all
nicey-nicey. How do I respond to his email?

 

Yours sincerely,

Rhona

No doubt there is some ghastly guideline that you should have followed and no doubt there is some ghastly guideline that he should have followed – perhaps you should have gone to him rather than straight to her, perhaps you should have told her rather than emailed her… who knows.

But the essence of this dilemma isn't in the guidelines. It's that someone has written to you extremely unpleasantly and yet appears friendly on the surface.

I think you can assume that his vindictive and personal email was something written in the heat of the moment and represents his childish feeling of anger and fear when he heard you'd ticked off a member of his staff. At some level he clearly feels terribly insecure, has lashed out at you like a threatened animal and, unfortunately, pressed "send".

At another level, however, he equally genuinely wants to be civilised about the matter and may, for all you know, by being so amiable now, be trying to apologise for letting his feelings run away with him.

You've got to respond to his email and I think you would do this best by simply writing back saying that you quite understand how hacked off he must be feeling with you reprimanding a member of his staff. It's important to say this. He needs to have his hurt feelings acknowledged and he needs to feel reassured that, unpleasant as his outburst was, it wasn't stupid. Stupid to send the email, yes, but not stupid to feel the feelings. You must even add that you'd probably feel the same were the positions reversed. This may not be true, because you, perhaps, don't feel threatened, but be kind and forgiving to the poor man. If you make him feel like a total tit, he'll only get at you in other ways in the future. If he feels better, everyone feels better. However, you can say that it was a safety issue and very important and you just wanted to make it quite clear to the person involved that it was a real boob. But you've taken his point and that another time… blah blah

If someone's lying on the floor and having a temper tantrum, it's never a good idea to get down and join them, scratching and punching. It makes you look silly. Far better to smile indulgently, offer them a sweet and give them a kindly pat and make it better. He's doing his best to be civil now. And who knows, we can all get carried away. Isn't that how you'd like him to behave if it was you who ever lost it one day in the same way?

Readers say...

I'm on his side

I assume that the conference experienced no safety issues, so where was the urgency? Workplace etiquette demands that if you have an issue with a member of another manager's staff, you discuss it with the manager, not the employee. And why email? If you absolutely had to reprimand her, which I don't accept, surely a quiet word face to face would be preferable. I'm sorry, I'm on the side of her manager.

Ian Hurdley, by email

You were right

You did the right thing, as everyone's safety was being compromised and the whole point of a performance fire drill is to throw light on safety measures that need to be modified to be better prepared in the event of a real fire. Since the email was personal and vindictive and is obviously affecting you, I think it is important you email back explaining why you sent your original email and let the other manager know that you were not trying to parade your powers over his staff. I think you should copy your supervisor and his supervisor into the email.

Nowmi Zaman, by email

Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia,

Six months ago I made what I thought was a new friend. Since then we've met up a few times, but each time she's either late or she cancels at the last minute or wants to rearrange things. When we meet it's clear she enjoys our meetings just as much as I do, but I'm starting to wonder why she behaves like this. I keep thinking I must have done something wrong, or that she doesn't really want to see me. I don't want to make a fuss because I know she's busy, but should I have it out with her? I feel so second-best.

Yours sincerely,

Pam

What would you advise Pam to do?

Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas@independent.co.uk. Anyone whose advice is quoted or whose dilemma is published will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Fine Wine Sellers.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

History Teacher Urgently Required

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education is...

Primary Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: ***KS1 & KS2 Teachers needed for ...

Primary Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: NEWLY QUALIFIED TEACHER? WE CAN HELP ...

Relationship Manager

£500 - £600 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banki...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The No campaign has a classic advertising problem: they need to turn a negative into a positive

John Hegarty
 

August catch-up: genius of Apple, fools and commercial enterprises, and the Queen

John Rentoul
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone