I was impatient (yes one of those 'busy' days). A co-worker only went on a simple 30 minute errand and did not return for hours. I sent a message to our group chat asking if he was still running the errand and he said he'd do it only then. As our team was on a very tight schedule and was waiting for him to return to proceed. Impatiently I asked him on chat, where was he before that with lotssss of question marks. It turned out he had a family matter to rush to. I later received a warning from my boss not to put my co-worker on spot like that. Thinking back, I could have opened a private chat instead. I felt horrible and it doesn't help that I'm also a new rookie to the workplace. What's the best way to apologize or a good method to keep your cool when you're impatient?

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    A free lesson straight from the chapters of "reply vs. reply-all 101". Sorry about the situation :-/
    – MonkeyZeus
    Oct 19, 2016 at 19:14
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    "or a good method to keep your cool when you're impatient?" Don't be impatient. When at work think of yourself not as a person, but as a component in a machine. Your feelings don't matter, your emotions don't exist, you push all of that away and focus on being the most effective component you can be in order to accomplish the task at hand. Business is not a personal routine. Unless you're in customer service or sales, but even then you're still just fronting a perfectly friendly, calm, infinitely patient attitude, not necessarily your natural self.
    – J.Todd
    Oct 20, 2016 at 1:39
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    Well, your coworker could have simply sent a message to the group just saying "I'll be delaying task X due to some issues, if it's important to do that now somebody else takes it"...
    – Bakuriu
    Oct 20, 2016 at 12:08
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    "Least said, soonest mended". Oct 20, 2016 at 13:07
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    I would say print out and fill in one of these bureauofcommunication.com/formfiles/apology.jpg and hope he responds with one of these adhdrollercoaster.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/…
    – nl-x
    Oct 21, 2016 at 8:11

6 Answers 6


How about:

"Hi. I'm really sorry about the other day. There's no excuse for the way I behaved."

Tadah, an apology

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    I would also consider making the apology as public as the original comment.
    – Chris E
    Oct 19, 2016 at 15:04
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    Just do this, and move on, whether they accept it or not. The second most important thing is not to put them on the spot again by fishing for a certain reaction.
    – user30031
    Oct 19, 2016 at 21:46
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    I think it's be better to go with something like "I'm sorry about my impatient queries the other day, I let stress get the best of me. I won't do it again". 1. make it clear what you are apologizing for. 2. explaining why you made a mistake is not the same as making an excuse for behaviour. People like to know why people do unpleasant things. It's important for moving past them. Otherwise they may continue to wonder about the outburst. Also, you don't really want to be so matter of fact about doing inexcusable things and not commit to improvement.
    – JimmyJames
    Oct 20, 2016 at 18:03
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    I'd drop the final sentence. In hindsight, more tact would probably have been beneficial, but the OP was ultimately not at fault for any of this. Someone who was being relied upon had [seemingly randomly] vanished for hours. It's the boss's fault for not letting everyone know that it's not random. Simple as. So don't be too apologetic; you're only apologising to be polite, not because you actually did anything wrong. Oct 20, 2016 at 22:46
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit Well, asking in public rather than in private could easily have been avoided.
    – Taemyr
    Oct 21, 2016 at 11:15

I'm not seeing a problem here that would require you to apologize to your co-worker.

Your co-worker left on a 30-minute errand, then had an emergency come up. It happens. But then your co-worker apparently didn't bother calling work to inform you there was an emergency and kept you in the dark for several hours, during which time you were apparently at a total work stoppage. You didn't put him on the spot; he put himself on the spot.

If he called work, but your bosses failed to inform your team, it's on them. But it certainly isn't your fault. Nor were you acting "impatiently" by asking what the hold-up was several hours after he was expected to be back. If anything, I'm wondering why you waited so long. Where I work, if you're 20 minutes late, we're calling you (that's about enough time to miss your bus, catch the next one, and be at work). Some places I've worked you'd get a call within 5 minutes.

Is a question with lots of question marks rather informal and a bit on the juvenile side? Sure. Is it unprofessional? A little, but not really. Could you have asked via private message? Sure. Should you have? Maybe. Is it really a big deal? No.

The bigger problem here is that you had a work stoppage and apparently didn't escalate it to your supervisors, who may have been able to help you work around the issue. Your next step should be asking your supervisors how they would prefer you handle situations like this in the future.

Personally, if a co-worker is late, I go to my supervisor and ask, "Hey, did you hear from John Doe? His shift started 20 minutes ago, but I haven't seen him." This lets my supervisor know there's a problem, that they may need to assign personnel to help me, and that they should find out from John Doe what the hold up is and if/when he's going to be in today. It also gives them the chance to inform me, "Oh yeah, he's running late. He'll be here in about 30 minutes," so I can react properly or ask for help if needed.

There no reason you can't tell your co-worker, "The other day, you didn't show up for hours, and didn't let anyone know what was going on. You should have handled the situation better, but I could have handled the situation a bit better too, so, sorry about that." But the fault really seems to be your co-worker's. So I wouldn't worry about it too much.

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    This answer needs to be upvoted to the top spot.
    – user8036
    Oct 20, 2016 at 8:22
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    @WorksOdd Why is it old-fashioned? Absentee was asked to run errand (work), then buggered off to tend to family matter (not work) while still in the process of running said errand. AWOL comes to mind, yes. Furthermore boss knew and didn't communicate and that's just stupid. Oct 20, 2016 at 13:46
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    I'm not sure that it was really the questioner's place to chide her co-worker for his absence.
    – Casey
    Oct 20, 2016 at 13:53
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    @USER_8675309: "Focusing on my job" involves ensuring I have the necessary personnel and equipment to get said job done. Informing supervision of a potential problem early on gives them maximum time to fix the problem, and informs them some work may be late. Sitting around doing nothing until supervision eventually realizes something is wrong means you're behind schedule before you've even started problem solving. It's different if you have a job where due dates are months away and you can just work a different case. But this isn't such a case. Avoid stoppage, rather than fixing it later.
    – MichaelS
    Oct 20, 2016 at 21:34
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    @USER: This "snitches get stiches" mentality needs to die,painfully and horribly. When the team is relying on a colleague who has gone AWOL for hours, escalating is the professional and responsible thing to do. Don't just ignore it because "hey we're all buddies!" In this case, it turns out that the co-worker had a reason. It's the boss's fault for not informing the team right away (no details as to 'why' necessary) that the team wouldn't be hearing from John Doe for the rest of the day, particularly as apparently there were issues blocked on John. What a ridiculous way to run a team. Oct 20, 2016 at 22:44

In general, it's not a good idea to discipline employees in front of a group for personal transgressions. It's acceptable at times if the group needs to hear the message, because it applies to all of them, and many of them are infringing/possibly infringing. But in this case, the message was clearly intended for one person only, and should be delivered that way. As you can see, you don't know what the story is until you know what the story is.

Your apology should be public as well. Anyone who saw this on the chat should know that you were wrong, and that separated from your concerns at the time, your behavior wasn't acceptable. Don't castrate your own apology by reinforcing that you need to be notified if there's an emergency, or that things need to get done.

  • But wouldn't this put the person who put the OP on the spot, on the spot?
    – user49733
    Oct 19, 2016 at 16:12
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    @JeffQuick, you could privately apologize first and then ask him if he woudl prefer a public apology. THe person might prefer to forget about it or he might want vindication.
    – HLGEM
    Oct 19, 2016 at 17:20

I agree strongly with jimm101. But I'd like to add that if you make the apology public, it is good to go the extra mile and after the public apology, make a private one directly to the person that apology was intended for so that the message that you are sorry is clear to that employee.

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    This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. - From Review
    – jimm101
    Oct 21, 2016 at 13:21
  • @jimm101 but the comments are generally ignored on workplace, if you want to be heard here, you need points.
    – user49741
    Oct 25, 2016 at 20:32
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    I didn't get that. I don't read the comments.
    – jimm101
    Oct 25, 2016 at 22:54

As for your question about "a good method to keep your cool when you're impatient", the act of making the personal and group apology will help you learn to avoid this mistake again. In addition, if a normally reasonable person isn't acting reasonably your first reaction should be to treat the situation as if there were a valid reason behind the situation. Reacting this way will come to be instinctual if you practice it every day (such as with rude drivers on your commute).

  • Minor quibble: "Isn't acting reasonably" ---> "Appears not to be acting reasonably." Absolutely fantastic advice, that I would benefit from putting into action a lot more frequently than I do.
    – hBy2Py
    Oct 20, 2016 at 16:27
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    Agreed, it really is best to assume the best of other people since we don't have the advantage of knowing everything about their situation and thought processes. This is good life advice in general, and very applicable to the situation the OP found themselves in
    – Kevin
    Oct 20, 2016 at 18:48

I see several problems:

1) expected time of errand was 30 minutes and you waited hours before asking him.

2) you should have asked him in private chat not the group chat.

3) you should inform your boss that you are blocked until the errand is finished (whether you got response or not)

4) You've used more than one question mark. Don't do that. - I cannot stress this enough!

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