A Lack of Agreement Leads to an Abundance of Upset

Cathy Laffan returns to the blog today with a post for her monthly series.

2367962A recent upset showed me the drama that comes from a lack of agreement.

My husband and I had a household project that we wanted to complete and decided that we would hire someone to do the heavy work. We mentioned the project to a loved one, let’s call him Bob. Bob recommended a friend who does work for him, let’s call the friend Ted.

My experience with Ted has taught me that he is a negative judgemental person who always has to be ‘right’. I’ve experienced him tearing other people down to make himself feel superior. As a result, I limit my interactions with Ted despite the fact that he is a close friend of Bob. My first thought when Bob recommended Ted for the project was ‘no way’. Later my husband and I discussed it and he suggested that we hire Ted because Bob recommended it and it would make Bob feel involved in the project. The voices in my head kept saying ‘no way’ but I silenced them and agreed with my husband’s reasoning.

The project got completed, the bill arrived, and the upset erupted! My husband felt the bill was out of line because it was significantly higher than he expected. We spoke to Bob about the cost since Bob had experience with Ted’s work and billing practices. Bob was evasive and noncommittal which only increased the upset. Unflattering remarks were made about Ted and Bob was asked not to repeat the remarks to Ted or to speak to Ted on our behalf, we would handle the situation ourselves.

We contacted Ted and asked him to stop by so we could discuss the bill. Instead, we got a series of foul text messages justifying the bill, blaming us for being cheap, and telling us about our obligations to Bob. From the comments it was clear that Bob and Ted had spoken and that Bob had broken our confidence by telling Ted about our unflattering remarks. Will it surprise you to hear that this only increased the upset for all involved? Well it sure did.

All of this took place over the course of a few days. I was disappointed but not surprised by Ted’s behavior since it was typical of my past experience with Ted. I was very disappointed that Bob had not honored our request for confidentiality. My husband was furious. Clearly Ted was furious as well.

At the first upset, I started looking for the truth in the situation and what I realized is that my husband and I never had an agreement with Ted about the work. We agreed on the work that would be done and who would do what but we never discussed price. We made an assumption that Ted would charge us the same price that we knew he had charged Bob; an assumption that proved to be false. I also realized that we had only agreed to work with Ted out of obligation to our relationship with Bob. In both cases we were operating below the line of responsibility and our actions created the upset we were experiencing.


As soon as I realized the part my husband and I had in creating the upset, I was ready to pay the original bill and move on. My husband was not. He spent a couple of days being really furious about what “should” have happened, how Ted “should” behave, and how Bob “should” have honored our request for confidentiality.

After a few days, my husband asked me how we could end the upset and move on. I shared with him my thoughts about how we had not gotten agreement with Ted and had instead made assumptions and how we had agreed to hire Ted out of obligation to Bob despite our knowledge that Ted’s behavior is out of alignment with our values. The work got done and now the bill was waiting to be paid. Without the agreement on price, I felt that best approach was to pay the stated bill, learn, and move on. The lesson being that when there is a lack of agreement and you operate from obligation, it results in an abundance of upset.




Cathy Laffan

CL Nov 2013_cropCathy Laffan is a member of The Leadership Gift™ Program and accredited as The Leadership Gift Practitioner. She is a Managing Director with 24 years of experience working for a leading global financial services firm. She has 20 years of experience in the project management field and is certified as a Project Management Professional.

A champion of flexible work arrangements, Cathy has been working remotely full-time for 4 years. Cathy is also a Toastmaster and has earned the Competent Communicator and Competent Leader designations from Toastmasters International.

Posted in Responsibility on 07/20/2015 01:35 am
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