When Your Anxiety Reacts Before You Do…

The below is an email I sent to a colleague (names edited). Long story short, a third colleague was new to the business and his role and was thrown in to a troubled store with no help, no support. With the help of five others, we helped him. Soon after, the colleague who received this email and one other had begun spreading rumours and lies and, well, I reacted.


Dear John,

I apologise for the contents of this email but I’m not one to sit back and say nothing in the face of injustices. I mean no malice but please understand that I am, justifiably, unbelievably upset by this situation and I feel that it needs to be addressed directly before I escalate it. This is why I’ve chosen to do this via email rather than a phone call (I can at least edit an email, my mouth, unfortunately, does not provide me the same luxury) so I need you to understand that I am not addressing this with Beth because, after her blatant and deliberate disprespectful behaviour towards me during that meeting, I do not believe she should be given any opportunity to defend her behaviour before I escalate this. You do deserve that opportunity.
Since the last area meeting, I have been acutely aware that my project within Jake’s store had drawn criticism from both you and Beth. When I first heard what was being said and that it was the two of you driving the negativity, I will admit that I was both surprised at the two of you and seething. Not for me, but for everyone who had been involved with it and especially for Jake and Luke.
Now, I had been completely willing to ignore it and sit on my hands and not address the issue, but something you said to Jake yesterday brought all of my anger and sorrow and anxiety over the matter back to the surface.
Firstly, I know that Luke is now under the impression that we all criticised his management of the store during that meeting. I also know why he thinks that and who said what to him to lead him to believe such a thing. I do not recall one person saying anything negative about Luke at all during that meeting. Furthermore, not one person involved in helping Jake fix the store blames Luke. As I said to you yesterday, it is absolutely not his fault that he didn’t get the help and support he needed while he was there. He did the absolute best he could with what he had. He cared, he tried and he maintained a standard that not even some of the more experienced managers could have maintained if given the same circumstances. The area failed Luke. Those to whom he reached out for help failed him and, had I known he was struggling, I would have done the same for him as I did for Jake.
Second, neither one of you has contacted any of us to find out exactly what we did there or how it all came about or why we did what we did. And for you to trivialise the situation Jake found himself in by insinuating that the extent of the issues was LTO is both reckless and condescending when you don’t have all the facts. So for the two of you to be discussing a situation you have little knowledge of and imposing your opinions on others is at best immature and petulant and at worst manipulative, and ridiculously irresponsible. As senior leaders in our area, I have a great deal of concern surrounding the fact that those qualities are being associated with your behaviour.
The facts are that Jake walked into a store that had serious problems which could not possibly have been rectified in an acceptable timeframe by a new manager to our business. He asked me for help because I trained him and I had the connections within our area and between the two villages to pull in managers with different areas of expertise to assist.
Your village and Beth’s village didn’t get the call because it wasn’t needed. My and Jake’s village had it sorted and under control. Had there been a need, I would have come to you or Beth or both. But here’s the thing: projects like this are delicate and need to be handled as such. Involving 28 store managers when only 7 need to be involved can result in the team within the problem store being humiliated and feeling despondent. I understood that I had to be very careful and so I was. We now have a store which is fully set up, functioning and beginning to thrive and the team in it is happier, more knowledgable and more passionate. That is something which should be celebrated and looked to as a learning opportunity and an example of what our villages can achieve when we work together.
The managers who helped all believed we were doing something good and we felt like we had achieved something. We felt like helping other managers was something we could do and we felt safe knowing that we could ask for help without being harshly judged or criticised.
Then we started hearing what you and Beth had been saying and are still saying. Those uninformed, callous comments have deflated us all. Luke thinks we blame him, Jake thinks he was wrong to have asked for help in the first place while also worrying about what Jake thinks of him and the others are angry at the two of you for your words.
Me? You made me question whether helping a struggling manager was the right thing to do. You actually made me second guess my own intentions and my own ethics. And, honestly, you’ve both made me regret ever coming across to this business to the point where I genuinely don’t want to come to work anymore.
At the end of the day, all that has been achieved by this negativity is that you have damaged your own reputations and the levels of respect other leaders have for you. I’m angry at both of you for the damage this has caused for everyone. And the most frustrating thing for me is that you admitted to being the one who put Luke there in the first place. You admitted that he called you daily. You were in an incredible position to have done what I did but you chose not to for whatever reason and I don’t blame you for that. What I do blame you for is criticising me and the team I put together.
I know you gave as much as you could to Luke and maybe you’re frustrated because you should have thought to do what I did. The fact that you didn’t is also not your fault but you know what? It’s not mine either and I definitely don’t deserve to be spoken about the way I have been. On top of that, the other managers involved don’t deserve to feel the anger they feel. Worst of all, there is barely a manager in our area that hasn’t heard about this and felt the divide in the area.
The effect this has had on me has been pretty devastating but I choose to believe that your intentions were not vicious which is why I’m addressing this directly with you – to help you understand that no matter how harmless you thought those conversations and comments were, they have had serious repercussions and effects throughout the area.
So I’m handing back to you. You have the power to fix this, I don’t. I didn’t cause this. You’re a better leader and person than who you have chosen to be for the last couple of weeks and I know this because you have proven to me that this isn’t who you are. You’re getting this email because I care about how people view you. I will attempt to minimise any damage to you when I do go to the boss but he will be told the full story. I will not be protecting Beth.
If you want to have a talk about this, I’ll be in store tomorrow, but understand that this email is more of a courtesy to let you know that I am escalating it because far too many people are affected now. Again, I don’t believe that your actions were vicious but I do think you need to be more mindful of whom you form alliances with.

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