A reader writes:
I recently had a very strange situation at our office. Could I ask how you might handle the following situation?
Let’s say you call a coworker on his or her extension during office hours. You think you are talking with someone who is a friend, and you whisper something about another coworker. Your comments are, at best, not uplifting. You mention the person by name.
The person you have called informs you that you have actually called the person that you have just said something ugly about. So, you deny that you said what you said.
More specifically, I received the call. The woman on the other end said, “Her very existence annoys the *#!$ out of me.” I said “Who?” She said, “Did you not see your email?” I said, “Whose?” She said, “Jane’s!” I said, “This IS Jane.” She said, “Oh, I thought you were [name].” I said, “Obviously. If I have offended you in some way, I hope we can discuss it at some point.” She said, “Oh, no. I was talking about something else.”
We have a small team, and I don’t want to make a big fuss, but there is obviously a problem of which I’m not aware.
You can read my answer to this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and often updating/expanding my answers to them).