When I was working in the family business, there was a woman who keyed parts sold into an inventory program in my department. She was the wife of one of my father’s best friends and was getting back into the work force after staying at home to raise her kids. The salespeople handwrote part numbers on a sales slip and it didn’t always match how it was listed in the inventory program.  There was a learning curve for everyone in that job but she struggled longer than most of the others I’d trained to do the job.

Since she worked in a different store than I normally did, I would make a special trip there once a week to do work with her.  She seemed uncomfortable to need this much training and started to develop an attitude towards me.  Looking back, I probably developed an attitude with her too because I was frustrated with having to repeat myself so many times.  But there was also an aspect of her feeling golden because she was friends with the owners.  She would bring my dad’s partner food and trinkets because, in her mind, HE was her boss not I.

The situation blew up when she didn’t show up for work one day.  After waiting for her for 45 minutes, I called her to find out that she’d called in sick by speaking to one of the salespeople and, even though she knew I was there, didn’t ask to speak to me and didn’t tell them to give me the message.  I felt disrespected and yelled and demanded she come to work.

It didn't end well.

In a different situation, I would’ve been very understanding but, even though I was justified in feeling that she could’ve handled it better by letting me know personally that she wouldn’t be in, when all was said and done, the only thing anyone remembered was that I was the monster who told a mother with a sick kid to come to work.

No amount of apologizing/remorse can undo the memories/impressions.

In time, I developed better communication skills and learned how to be proactive in avoiding such outbursts.  Nowadays I pick and choose my battles – the exact right thing at the exact right time.  And you can too: you can speak your mind firmly but with dignity and grace.