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I went to an event not related to work and met a writer, who is friends with a freelance writer working for us. I told him that the freelance writer submitted an article that is "late". That's what really happened. But to be honest, he delayed our product and caused a huge problem. But I just said "he submitted an article late" and not in a serious tone. In a joking manner. And I followed up that it was because he went out of town and had no Internet. So it wasn't a negative comment. At least for me I think it wasn't. I actually haven't even met this freelance writer. I just know he submitted an article late.

So after the weekend passed, the writer wrote an email to our boss, a long email saying that he heard "malicious" things about him that were said by [my full name]. And he was saying a "handful of people". Like I just told that one guy I met at the event. And that he will not get the money we would have paid him and just pay it to me. That just made me feel bad.

I thought I was going to get fired because of it. Since our boss can let go people easily. But she was nice about it and understood my side and just told me not to tell anything about what's happeneing internally in the company.

Now, I'm going to meet him together with my boss tomorrow. I mean, I will apologise, but I still have to explain myself, because I think I did nothing wrong. The argument I was thinking of is: "Why would I even say malicious things about you when I haven't even met you? And that I work at a completely different department?" But I don't know if that's a good argument. How should I respond to the accusations? How can I get my point across?

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    'an article that is ";ate"' - did you mean "late"? – Brandin May 26 '16 at 13:28
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    @Brandin He obv. did (But I just said "he submitted an article late"...). – Seth May 26 '16 at 13:42
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    Yes I meant late. – J doe May 26 '16 at 13:46
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    @JoeStrazzere Yes, i definitely learned my lesson. – J doe May 26 '16 at 14:44
  • It sounds like when you can't find reasonable conversation pieces you instead focus in on a negative about the situation. My advice is if you have nothing to say, don't say anything at all. This is true in any aspect of life not just work. – Dan May 26 '16 at 19:29
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I strongly advise you to swallow your pride and simply say that you are sorry. Just to be safe, ask your boss how to approach the situation, and take her lead. She may even want to do most of the talking, and only ask you to say a few words.

I wouldn't worry about shaking the guy's hand - he most probably won't want you to. If your boss initiates handshakes or anything like that you can go with the flow.

Keep in mind that if the company needs the writer to stay happy and keep writing for them you need to ensure that the company's interests are met. If not, they may decide their interests lie in letting you go.

Understand that this situation is not personal. A lot of "creative types" are very eccentric, and you have no idea how badly this writer's so called "friend" misrepresented your statements. The author may even be using this situation simply to get a leg up in some negotiation with the company.

I think this situation will have taught you two very important questions:

  1. Don't discuss company business with random people. In fact, don't even discuss project details with other employees who are not a part of it. And even then, be careful what you say. If you're the guy walking around telling everyone that the project is behind, over-budget, etc. you may find that no one wants you on their team, no matter how true, or factual your statements. Always be diplomatic, especially when speaking to outsiders.

  2. Sometimes it's no good fighting and accusation, and you have to swallow your pride for the good of the company/project. Ideally you will have learned lesson #1, and will end up in this situation as infrequently as possible.

  • Thank you for this.. Yes, usually on situations like this, i dont get mad at all. Like i just say sorry and look as nice as possible. So yes, i will say sorry and say that there were no malicious intent cause there were really is none. To be honest, i just said that because i just wanted to say something cause we were just two on the table and i have nothing to say and it was awkward. Like i just needed a small talk topic. Thats why i said it. Should i mention that to the writer? Cause its true, it was just to break the ice. – J doe May 26 '16 at 14:35
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    @JDoe - Nope. Don't mention it because it will sound like you had nothing to good to say, so you bad mouthed him. Just say sorry, you weren't being malicious, and leave it at that. – AndreiROM May 26 '16 at 14:38
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Now Im gonna meet him together with my boss tomorrow. I mean, i will apologie but i still have to explain myself cause i think i did nothing wrong. But how can i get across my point?

My argument that i was thinking is that: "why would i even say malicious things about you when i havent even met you? and that i work at a completely different departtment?"

Is that a good argument? I dont know. How should i respond? What will you guys do in this situation?

No, it's not a good argument.

Look for the small kernel of truth into what he is saying and agree with that part. Once you do that, the writer will most likely deflate his outrage.

The bottom line is that you shared slightly negative information about a writer with an outsider. And you shouldn't have done that. Apologize for that part at the very least.

And don't worry about the "malicious" label. The writer doesn't know you. Plus, he doesn't know exactly what was said. So of course, lacking all this information, he is assuming the worst in his outrage.

Another thing you should do, is tell the writer the name of the person you spoke to, or at least give him a description of the person in question, and assure him that this was the only person you ever spoke to about him. Once again, he is assuming the worst, and that is perfectly normal. Assure him that you only spoke to that one person.

Do not try to argue with his reasoning. Agree to the part you can agree with. Assure him that you won't do it again. But don't start trying to control exactly what he will think of you (or labels you), that is only going to be counter-productive.

Also, don't try to sugarcoat the "he was late because he didn't have internet access" excuse. The writer knows deep down that's a bullshit excuse. That's one of the reasons he's so outraged. He probably knows that some people would see this was a bs excuse and that he would have been better served by saying that he was late and that he simply had no good excuse for it.

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Your boss may or may not ask you to relate the story you told here. She may ask you to apologize, she may apologize on your behalf, or she may have another strategy.

If she does ask you to explain, just be honest and apologetic.

It does sound like she is on your side and wants to smooth things over with the writer. These things happen sometimes.

Take on board the lesson that you shouldn't discuss matters like this outside of work and move on.

To answer the question in the comment, I think it would make sense to chat with your boss about how she wants to conduct the meeting. That way you will be prepared.

  • Yes i hope so. Should i ask her how to react to the whole meeting? Like should i shake his hand and say hi to the writer? Yes she kinda is on my side and said that "some people really take things out of context when hearing things not directly" – J doe May 26 '16 at 13:49
  • I think it would be valuable to discuss it with her beforehand to understand how she would like to conduct the meeting and if she will be asking you to contribute. I edited my answer to reflect that. – Laconic Droid May 26 '16 at 13:53

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