Fixer: My colleague is fired up over an email rant

How do you move on from sending an unflattering email to the wrong recipient?

I have been having a number of disagreements with a colleague about budgets and responsibilities. Her attitude towards me is often confrontational and after a recent stand-off, I emailed my husband to tell him about our latest argument and said I was fed up with her unpleasantness. As you can probably already guess, I sent the email to her instead. She read it straight away and asked to speak to me. I immediately apologised. But although she said she accepted the apology, she is now terse and barely speaks to me if she can avoid it, and the basic problems between us certainly haven’t got better. I fear Christmas lunch could bring things to a head.

I feel your pain, because I have been in exactly the same position. Years ago, I worked with a fellow manager I just didn’t respect. She was a bit of a bully and was very difficult to be around. I wrote an email to a friend to get my feelings off my chest but then sent it to this woman instead.

At the time it seemed awful and I certainly had to apologise for the way it happened, but it turned out to be the best thing I could have done. It started a conversation between us where we could confront our differences. And although we certainly never got on after that, it meant we knew where we stood and could respect each other’s boundaries.

It’s a shame your own office nemesis hasn’t been quite as mature. But you also can’t let things carry on like this. Make the time to talk to her about what happened and apologise again for what came out. But help her understand too how her behaviour makes you feel and listen openly to how you both want to forge a future working relationship.

You are already pre-empting friction over Christmas lunch, but things will only come to a head if you allow them to. A nasty confrontation could lead to you both entrenching your positions, and this could have a negative effect on the whole team.

Clearly, you both communicate differently and are unlikely to ever become best friends, but you need to find a way to work together. If you can’t resolve things, you’ll have to consider whether a third party you trust can mediate between you, whether you have any grounds to raise a grievance about your colleague or whether you simply need to move on. I hope it doesn’t get that far.