I used to be a secretary. About 100 years ago.
One of the things I had to do, was receive emails on behalf of my boss. There was a forwarding on his email address.
So, I am sitting in front of my new laptop one sunny morning in Johannesburg when an email pops up. It says “Dear Mr X, I had the displeasure of deeling with your secretary this morning”.
My first thought was “You can’t spell” but I read on.
It continued “I was looking for some information which she refused to give me, hence holding up the project. Delay will probably cost millions, thanks to Miss bloody rude!”
Bloody rude? Did I just see that?
My CEO (Mr X) and I had come a long way. We had a mutual respect and though I had moved on from the secretarial role a long time ago, I still dealt with his emails. We had that sort of relationship. Some call it trust, others habit. It’s just the way things were.
It took me 15 minutes to decide what action to take.
I responded “Dear Mr B, I take exception to the tone of your email and its inaccuracies. As such, I have deleted your email and have not brought it to the attention of Mr X. Sincerely, Bloody Rude”. Yes, I signed the email “Bloody Rude”.
Now, before you send forth waves of applause. Hold it. This kind of knee-jerk reaction is not something I advocate. It was also very out of character for me. I was blinded by rage and in hindsight, I am sure that my reaction would come in very low on an emotional intelligence scorer.
Mr B happened to be a very senior business associate. Someone we dared NOT challenge. We needed him. Our business depended on it. He sat very high up on the food chain. I knew this.
When I arrived at my office the next morning, I weighed up my options:
- Tell my CEO about the incident (and get fired)
- Wait for Mr B to tell my CEO about the incident (and get fired)
- Wait for my Chairman to tell my CEO about the incident (and get both of us fired)
- Shut up and hope for the best
My fear immobilised me and I could not do a thing.
Next thing, I hear a knock on my office door. It was Mr B. With flowers.
He said nothing. I said nothing. We smiled and parted ways.
I looked at his blonde hair as he walked off and thought “Bloody rude!”
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