update: my coworker framed me to try to get me in trouble and now wants to meet for coffee

Remember the reader whose coworker tried to frame her (making it appear that she had wrongly used a company car service) in order to get her in trouble and then later wanted to meet for coffee? Here’s her update.

Thank you for posting my question and for the response, it really helped me. Thought I’d update you as something quite funny happened today.

I hadn’t seen or heard from the colleague in question since writing to you at the beginning of September. Today I received a card from her in the internal mail at work — a blank card with a nice picture of water lilies on the front. Inside it says “Dear (my name), I am so sorry for upsetting you. This was never my intention and I sincerely apologise. Kind regards, (her name).”

Without thinking, I simply emailed her saying: “Hi (her name), thank you for the card, I received it today. I am not upset and there are no hard feelings. Hope you’re well. Kind regards, (my name).”

I wanted to be the bigger person and just accept her apology and continue moving on. I think it’s preeeeeetty weird though, after all it’s been 7 weeks and I haven’t seen nor heard from her. Do you think I have been too soft? Does she have an ulterior motive?! I don’t intend to meet up with her or reply to anymore emails.

Well, you’re a bigger person than many of us, who probably wouldn’t have said there were no hard feelings … but I think that’s a perfectly fine response, and certainly one that’s professional and above reproach.

I have no idea if she has an ulterior motive, but unsurprisingly, her apology is kind of lame. Note that she’s sorry for upsetting you — not for her actions. Classic non-apology apology.

In any case, I think your best bet is to simply move on and not stress about this — but not to let your guard down with her in any future interactions either. Forgive if you want, but don’t forget, since she’s shown she’s willing to try to harm you.

{ 54 comments… read them below }

  1. The Other Dawn

    OP, you’re seriously a much bigger person that I would be. I agree with AAM, though, that it was really a non-apology. She’s sorry you got upset, not that she did this awful thing to you. Obviously it’s up to you, but I would stick to your plan and don’t have any more interactions with her.

    1. Jamie

      Bigger than me as well, I don’t think I would have acknowledged it. I hate when people apologize to me for my feelings.

      You were very gracious – I’d still keep my guard up if I were you.

      1. TL

        Ug, every time I hear “I’m sorry you feel that way” I have to fight the urge to slap someone and then say, “I’m sorry your face feels that way.”

        But I think the response is very professional and nice.

        1. Anonymous

          Every time I hear “sorry you feel that way”, I think of Sheldon Cooper.

          Sheldon: Mom, I want to apologize for my behaviour last night.

          Mrs Cooper: Apology accepted.

          Sheldon: Great. Now, you’re going to love the lecture. Look, he will be stating that the universe is older than 6,000 years, but I thought you could stick your fingers in your ears and hum Amazing Grace during those parts.

          Mrs Cooper: I am still going out with your friends.

          Sheldon: But I apologized. And that was hard for me because I didn’t do anything wrong.

          1. Jamie

            Or Sheldon with Amy in the lab…

            I’m sorry, but… and Amy cut him off every time he used a qualifier until she got an actual apology.

            1. Amy B.

              I have had to “train” my husband and children by constantly saying, “Apologies don’t have but’s.”

        2. FD

          There are some times when something like it is appropriate. For example, if you’re dealing with a customer and you KNOW they’re in the wrong (i.e. they want you to break a policy you can’t break and they get angry), but you’re doing your best to remain professional and not argue, you might find yourself needing to use that phrase or something similar.

          “I want a rate of $75.”
          “I’m afraid I don’t have that available at this time.”
          “Your rates are highway robbery!”
          “I’m sorry you feel that way, sir. However, $130 is my best rate tonight.”

          Yes, I have had this conversation a few times.

          1. TL

            Yes, but that is an insincere apology in and of itself. (appropriate for the situation, yes, but not sincere.)

            1. FD

              Technically it’s accurate.

              I am in fact sorry that the person feels our rates are too high; I would prefer them to feel the rate was reasonable and buy the room.

            2. Ellie H.

              I think one compromise is saying “I’m sorry that I am not able to offer a lower price” or “I’m sorry that I am not able to offer a price that you would be happier with.” It’s factual and it’s less “I’m sorry you feel that way”-ish.

              1. Sourire

                I like the phrasing, but at least in my experiences in dealing with the public, many times that would not be factual/sincere either. A lot of times customers/the public are being ridiculous and unreasonable, and nope, I am not at all sorry my workplace’s totally normal policies won’t accommodate their ridiculousness.

                Can you tell I had a bad day at work? :)

                1. dustycrown

                  “…I am not at all sorry my workplace’s totally normal policies won’t accommodate their ridiculousness.” I would love to add that quote to my email signature for a select list of clients. :)

        3. teclatwig

          I tried to pull this with my 3-year-old today, but she was having none of it:

          Crying daughter: “Mommy, you hurt my feelings.”
          Hugging and lovey mom: “Oh, sweetie, I’m so sorry your feelings got hurt.”
          Chiding daughter: “No, Mommy, YOU hurt my feelings.”

          I don’t know if I will survive her teenage years…

  2. QualityControlFreak

    Actually, I think that was the perfect response. To me, it sounds like she was doing her best to upset you, and letting her know she failed to do so both adds to your professional appearance and probably drives her batsh*t crazy. Like I said – perfect!

  3. A Bug!

    Yeah, that the card doesn’t say at all that she did anything or what that thing was, it’s pretty much textbook non-apology.

    But you rule! You are a rad person for being so gracious. Thumbs up.

  4. Lily in NYC

    Wow, that was almost too nice of you. She could have gotten you in big trouble if you weren’t sent that invoice by mistake. She gave you a complete non-apology and has gotten away with being a total shitstain of a human being. I honestly don’t know what you could have done differently, but I was selfishly hoping she’d get a comeuppance.

  5. Not So NewReader

    I guess she blinked first, eh? Good for you, OP. In all likelihood, she does want something from you and time will tell what that is.

    Continue treating her the same as any person who is not trustworthy. Keep your distance, say NO to invites and do not offer an explanation, etc.

    No, you have not been too soft and yes, you can be more direct in the future if your message is not being understood. For the moment though, everything seems to be in a peaceful place. Hope for the best, be prepared anyway.

  6. TR

    OP, your apology was perfect and professional. There’s no need for the other person to respond. She sent you an “apology” and you were kind enough to respond. That’s the end of it.

    I never heard of a non-apology apology before so thanks AAM for pointing that out. That’s a good way to tell if someone is being sincere.

    1. Grey

      Yeah, that line confused me too. I would have been tempted to respond:

      Dear Colleague,

      You intended to have me wrongfully disciplined. Please explain why you felt such an attempt would not upset me, then perhaps we can get past this issue.

      Kind Regards,
      OP

  7. PPK

    Maybe the coworker is going through a program and reached the step where she’s supposed to apologize. She made a big list of people she probably pissed off and/or wronged. So she sat down and cranked out a bunch of these cards. She doesn’t really remember what all the wrongs are, so they’re all non-apologies.

    1. Anon for this

      If so, she did a terrible job. It would be something along the lines of ‘I was wrong for doing this. What can I do to make this right?’ and not this half baked ‘apology’. That’s not how we roll. :)

    2. TL

      How about “I apologize if my actions harmed you in any way. My behavior was wrong.” Don’t need specifics but still apologizing for your own actions.

      1. fposte

        No, “I apologize if…” is still a non-apology apology. There’s no “if,” and somebody who thinks there is one isn’t owning their own hurtful behavior.

  8. Steve G

    I don’t understand why she didn’t give you a real apology. Usually doing things in writing gives people more of a chance to be honest, its not as uncomfortable as face-to-face moments. You just say what you think and send it off. Which is why people are so much bolder in internet comment sections than in real life as well!

    1. JMegan

      It’s not the fact that it’s written rather than face-to-face, that people are objecting to, it’s the wording. As written, she is apologizing for *upsetting* the OP, not apologizing for her *actions.* She’s not saying she’s sorry for what she did, or for potentially costing the OP her job – she’s saying she’s sorry that her actions upset the OP.

      She’s not taking ownership of her actions, but rather pushing it back to the OP’s response to her actions – that’s where the non-apology part comes in.

  9. Liz

    Ooh, thanks for the update on this one. That was definitely an interesting letter! This co-worker sounds sincerely off with her attempts to stir up drama with you and the non-apology. Good job diffusing the situation. You definitely don’t want to give her reason to contact you further.

  10. ANON - I'm the OP!

    I really regret sending that email. I WISH I had instead sent this:

    “Dear ___

    You should not be apologising for “upsetting” me. If anything, apologise for the sh*t you put me through for a year, and for the difficult position you put me in when you tried to frame me for your fraudulent usage of the car service. Also feel free to apologise for pushing me so far with your constant putdowns that I had to resign from the job I enjoyed.

    Saying that none of your apologies could change what you’ve done so please lay off sending me cards – if anything, a large bottle of vodka would suffice.

    Peace”

    1. Amy B.

      Those are the emails I write so I can get it all out, and then I delete them and send the short, nicer one. You did the right thing. Letting someone like that know she had an effect on you only gives her fuel and will not make her feel the guilt she should have felt.

      1. ANON - I'm the OP!

        Thanks Amy – that is true.

        I’m not a vengeful person but there’s part of me that just wants her to feel bad. Because she made me feel so awful for the year I worked with her… and after, with the car thing.

        Meh

        1. AMG

          She won’t. If only people–all of us–could comprehend the complete and true ramifications of our actions in dealing with others.

        2. khilde

          I am so with you on this feeling. I posted it on an open thread back in May (and probably alluded to it once since) but my sister in law snooped through my phone at Christmas, read my messages between me and my brother, and then tattled on me to her mother (My brother joked that I was in hell that Christmas being at their house). My MIL confronted me on Christmas morning as we’re leaving their house to return home and passively, aggressively, childishly and snidely says: “I hope you had a fun time in hell. I overheard your phone conversation.” I was floored cause I didn’t know what she was talking about; my husband was pissed at me that I’d be whining about them loudly over the phone (cause I whine loudly at home). Anyway, it really cast a bad shadow over our own Christmas at home with our daughter. Later that evening it dawned on me there was no phone coversation – MIL had lied! I pieced some stuff together and realized that SIL snooped through my phone. It’s all too convoluted to go into again (I’ve done too much already) but we didn’t confront them immediately. We retreated, figured out what we should do, burned their effigies (ha, not. but it would have been satisfying) and made them reach out to us first. Wanna know when SIL finally caved first? September. 9 months later. And ther was virutally no contact with his family between that time. They came out once about a month after our daughter was born. She called my husband and asked what was wrong with us and gave a non-apology as above. Then she turned it right back to me and asked if I was ever going to apologize? I nearly had a stroke when my husband relayed this conversation to me. This was a few days before our newest baby’s baptism and his family didn’t come to the baptisim (and they’re the type of people that thinks family needs to be at every event, no matter how miniscule; so they were definitely sending a message). My husband finally had it and called his mom to try and hash it out, but she just didn’t see it. She kept defending SIL.

          So – that huge long story that I tend to do is meant to tell you that you are not alone in wanting SO BADLY to just rake the person across the coals. But you chose the high road and it’s the best place to be. It’s an unsatisfying place to be, but it’s the best if you want the moral high ground. My SIL and your person are totally not worth us losing our own self-respect over by descending into the pit with them.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            How awful! From your posts here, you’ve always stood out as an unusually kind and thoughtful person, and someone who always seeks to understand where others might instead get prickly … so it is shocking to me that your in-laws are treating you this way! I would love to have you as an in-law :)

  11. Tara T.

    If I had been in the reader’s shoes, I would not have answered her card, or if she said anything in person, I would have just said, “Ok,” and hurried off. I would be superficially and minimally pleasant, but I would not forget that she tried that trick, and I would be on guard against her FOREVER.

    1. Andrea

      Yeah, this is my version of the “high road”—-just never, ever respond to these emails/letters/whatever. Let it drive them nuts. It’s hard to do, especially if you are (like me) pretty good at putting folks right where they belong. (My husband likes to joke that “making words hurt” is my superpower, because he’s seen me do it to others so many times before.) But I’ve been using this strategy over the past couple of years, and I think it’s the best—I’m not getting riled up as much (I do vent to my husband or best friend a little, then let it go), and I’m not spending my time and energy on it. If it’s an email, mark it as spam; if it’s a letter or a text, trash it. And I’ve been using it in conversations, too—stare, wait several seconds before saying anything and let some silence sit there, and then give your best and most succinct Miss Manners-type response and walk away. Seriously, it is the best. You’re taking the high road and driving them nuts, and they eventually tire of it all and leave you alone.

  12. Mena

    A sincere apology needs to be specific, specifically naming the action for which one is apologizing. This card is nothing at all. Keep your distance.

  13. Working Girl

    Accept the card, no coffee, no personal meetings, only work related matters. Forgive but that doesn’t mean you should forget.

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