Caroline Moss is an author and host of the podcast "Gee Thanks, Just Bought It," which helps people find the products they need to make life easier, better and more productive. Now with this column, "Asking for a Friend," she's helping people with the advice they need to make life easier, better and more productive. To submit a question, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here.
I have a new boss and I made a terrible first impression. We met for a brief coffee at the office (vaxxed) and I asked her where she had been working prior to moving to San Francisco. She said she had been working in Houston, Texas. Immediately, I reacted by saying, "Oh wow, so this is a really good upgrade for you then!" I was just trying to make conversation, make a joke, etc., but I could tell it really rubbed her the wrong way. She kind of gave off a "Who does this guy think he is?" vibe for the rest of our meeting and it never really went away. I didn't say anything about it in the moment but now I fear I have really messed up.
Is there any recourse?
Foot in Mouth
Hi Foot in Mouth,
I have to say I laughed when I read this question and not because your comment was funny (sorry!). It's just that ... this is so classic foot-in-mouth. I am glad at least you recognize this and know that you want to fix it.
Yes, there is recourse but you need to move fast and make it short and sweet. She doesn't want you to harp on it. You're going to apologize, show some humility and explain your comment, and then you're going to move on. But she needs to know you're not that judgmental.
If I were you, I would pull her aside in the next two weeks. If you aren't back in office IRL, you could use Slack or another instant communication device. An email is too formal in this case, and while IRL would be ideal, obviously the circumstances of this moment may make that unrealistic. So whether you are online or both grabbing a coffee from the office kitchen, I would say the following or something similar:
"Hey (NAME), I just wanted to apologize for that flip comment I made about Texas when I asked where you had been working prior to moving here. I immediately knew that it sounded rude, and I regretted it. I am sorry I didn't apologize in that moment! I hope you accept my apology and I am so glad to have you here at (COMPANY)."
Hopefully she will say something like, "Don't worry about it!" and then you will both move on and go forward in your work relationship. You can't take back the first impression, but she will appreciate that you were thoughtful enough to apologize to her and own up to your dumb comment.
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