Q I don’t always drive to work, but I tolerate the traffic about every three or four days. Last week, though, my tolerance tanked. I was in gridlocked traffic and going nowhere. On top of that, I was late for a meeting with a partner and had forgotten to charge my phone, which was now dead. When a dark Mercedes SUV whipped in front of me and nearly took out my front bumper, I lost it. I spent the next ten minutes screaming, honking, flipping the bird—whatever I could do to show that I had absolutely no power except the most awesome power to be an asshole. Yes, I was an asshole.
Eventually, I calmed down and I made it to work, though as I got closer and closer to my firm (I’m at a large firm in D.C.) I realized I had been following the same dark Mercedes the entire time. Worse, as we both pulled into the garage and made it to the area where there are assigned spaces for the firm, I realized it was a partner in the firm. A partner I really liked. I slinked down in my car when I pulled in to my spot. She got out and went inside. I then got out and went straight to my office and closed the door.
I think the partner saw who I was, though it’s possible she didn’t. I just don’t know. There’s a chance she has no clue, as she is kind of like that. Nothing has happened since and I have not run into her at the office. So, here’s the question. Come clean and apologize? Or tread water and maybe this too shall pass?
AOh, shit. That’s a dilemma. Except you threw the dice a bit early by writing to me, who couldn’t help but post your story so that thousands of associates can read it. Not that any partners ever read my advice, but why publicize it here if you’re not sure what you want to do? For that, I think you’ve already made up your mind but are a bit chickenshit to follow through with your instinct: come clean and apologize. It’s certainly the big thing to do, unlike the inner street cred asshole that you displayed earlier. Plus, she’s either showing complete class by ignoring your total meltdown or, more likely, she’s slowly and methodically killing your chances to advance in the firm. Either way, you’re still the asshole. Be the midlevel associate you know you can be. Grovel and apologize.
Me? What would I do? I’d tread water. In fact, my career was one of treading water, and it seemed to do me some good. But why be me when you can be so much better— and a little less bitter?