I have a problem which I'm not sure how to handle. I work in a "creative" industry that combines usage of very specific software with individual approach to the specific project. So, technically speaking, we are all "artists".

Yesterday, after my part of work has been approved, I've got a request from the top supervisor to touch base with my colleague regarding his part. I've politely approached him, showed where he can find approved version and mentioned that he is welcome to use my materials or write/call me if something is not clear.

He answered that he will do it his own way, but it was perfectly clear that at least he saw my version and understood what was needed to be done. So, I have answered to the supervisor's message, claiming that I've talked to that artist and we were all good.

Later, the artist has submitted his version (which was different from approved one) and supervisor came by his desk with notes to give him an idea of how it could be done.

As it happened after my message "all clear", I've tried to talk to that artist (again, very politely and without any pressure) and mentioned that he is more than welcome to use what is already done from my part.

In response to that he started swearing loudly using "F word" as noun, adjective and verb, telling me I shouldn't talk to him, that I'm not a lead artist, calling Jesus for help and so on.

I felt really embarrassed by response and the fact other people heard he was talking to me in such manner. Same day, when supervisor talked to me about certain part of work, I have mentioned that unfortunately I can't effectively communicate with that person and explained the situation to him. As one of the managers was present at that moment, I have offered to talk to that guy (he was also near by). After this, he turned around and walked away without saying anything to all of us. Manager told me not to worry about it and assured that she will talk to him in person.

The question is, what have I done wrong and what should I do next? How to resolve this situation? What is your experience/recommendations about approaching people with big ego? Thanks a lot.

  • As it happened after my message "all clear" and then I've tried to talk to that artist (again, ... I think your fault is right here. You cleared it and then talked to him again. Why not leave him alone? I think you owed him an apology. – scaaahu Jun 20 '15 at 7:10
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    Can you explain more what your supervisor initially asked you to do? I expect "touch base with my colleague regarding his part" was not his/her exact request. – Avon Jun 20 '15 at 9:45
  • @Avon I was actually asked to "touch base with him to be sure versions are matching". It is not 100% exact quote, but phrase "to touch base with" was present. – Anonymous Jun 20 '15 at 11:42
  • I see thank you. I think "touch base" is the least important part of the request. Was then your message "all clear" to your manager that you had done that? That you had communicated to your colleague that the versions should match and how to ensure they do? And your follow up talk to the artist was to check that they were? If that's the case then I think Mhici's answer is spot on and I see you have ticked it as such. – Avon Jun 20 '15 at 12:32
  • @Avon I sincerely believe it was and yes, her answer is spot on. Now is the hardest part, how to communicate with that person in the future? :) Likely, e-mail is not an option for every single situation. – Anonymous Jun 20 '15 at 12:43

The question is, what have I done wrong and what should I do next?

It's not clear from your post if your colleague is required to use your work as the basis for his. If he is, does he know this? "Touch base" can mean a lot of things.

I would make a few points.

  1. You didn't go wrong by being polite, you went wrong by being indirect and evasive. If he's supposed to be building from the approved version, and is not doing that, that still doesn't automatically make it your responsibility to bring him back on task. If it is your task, or if you think he's misunderstand, and as a colleague want to give him information he doesn't have, just give it to him: "Jim, the directions for this project include you building up from the approved version, not starting over from the beginning. You'll find the approved version here." In future, don't waffle. In this present situation, as managers are involved, let them handle it.

  2. If he is allowed to start over and approach the task however he wishes, then you went wrong not just by being unclear but by also meddling. You might like for him to use your work, but if he's not under any obligation to use your work, then once you'd made him aware that there were resources available for him to use, you were done. There was nothing left to add, and going back to him a second time to get him to do what you wanted was inappropriate.

  3. Regardless of points 1&2, his reaction was inappropriate. You don't make it clear where you're working, and in many places, very little will be done about such outbursts. Hopefully your manager will address it.

In fact, at this point, that's all you should do for now: let your manager address it.

What is your experience/recommendations about approaching people with big ego?

Again, it's not entirely clear that the situation is your colleague's ego, or just your colleague's ego. So I would reflect on that first. If you were out of line and meddling, then your colleague still should not have treated you as he did -- he should have addressed it with you professionally or gone to a manager himself.

But in general, here is what I would advise: be clear and direct. Don't evade the main point when you're addressing your colleague, and don't make it personal. "The task is this, Jim. You'll find the resources here."

Don't make repeated interventions -- if Jim brushes you off to do his own thing and it's impacting your work, go directly to your manager. Unless it's your task to supervise Jim, don't do it. It's not your job, and it's inappropriate.

Finally, I would recommend written communication. Email your colleague rather than approaching them directly. This makes it clear what was said and how it was said, and leaves little room for outbursts on his part.

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    Thank you for such clear and comprehensive answer! I do agree with what you've said and it was really beneficial to see the situation from neutral perspective. – Anonymous Jun 20 '15 at 11:40
  • I'm glad I was able to help. – Saoirse Jun 20 '15 at 13:00
  • "is your coleegues ego, or just your colleague's ego" did you mean "is your ego and your your colleague's ego, or just your colleague's ego" – HLGEM Jun 21 '15 at 16:37
  • @HLGEM -- no, I didn't. I was trying to express "the problem may not be other person ego, or it might be a combination of his ego and other factors". – Saoirse Jun 22 '15 at 9:02

It's not at all clear to me from your post that he was required to use your material as the baseline for his work. If it's clear at all that he was supposed to build from your material, then that clearness exists only in your mind.

Your failure to communicate with him was epic because you totally prioritized politeness over clarity. You screwed it.

Michael Angelo is beyond frustrated with you because he was under the impression that he didn't have to build from your work - an impression you did NOTHING to correct. And if I were your manager, I'd be pretty frustrated, too.

Clear the air and SPELL OUT what he has to do and make sure that he comes through and when he has to be done by. Consult your manager for a revised deadline if that's necessary. And cut out the "politeness" - it's too expensive in terms of time and energy wasted.

  • Thanks for an answer. Not sure I've got your reference to the "Michael Angelo" though. @Jack Thanks. The question is how to communicate with that guy after the story happened (you know, it's not always feasible to write an e-mail for every single thing). – Anonymous Jun 20 '15 at 11:47
  • Forget about email. You are going to have to SPELL it out to him face to face - The historical Michael Angelo was a superdiva with a temper and his own vision of his art. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jun 20 '15 at 12:30
  • @Jack I read the OP's post correctly that he completely fumbled being clear about requiring Michael Angelo to build on the OP's work. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jun 20 '15 at 12:32

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