Dear Bob ...
I can't go into details on this, because quite a few people in my company read Advice Line. I hope you can help, even though my description is going to have to be pretty generic.
I'm one of the top-ranking executives in my company. Not long ago, I got a call from a department head. Due to a slip on the part of someone in his department, he needed my help to get something accomplished outside the normal procedures, in order to make a hard deadline. What he asked made good business sense, so I took care of it over my signature.
Two days later, a member of his staff sent me an e-mail that I can only describe as snippy, copying several others in the company. It complained that when I bypassed the standard procedure I didn't notify her, and in the future, if anyone in the company does this, could I please make sure she is notified.
My tongue still hurts from how hard I bit it.
What I did do was send the department head a note, suggesting that he has a teachable moment and should coach his staff member on the value of (a) getting her facts straight before drawing a conclusion; and (b) being polite to a member of the executive management team ... and everyone else in the company too.
What I wanted to do is considered a felony in this state.
What do you think I should have done?
Dear Seething ...
I think you left out just a couple of important steps. The first is that, as part of the teachable moment, the department head should also mention the importance of only making requests that can be taken care of. The notion that this individual should delegate to you the responsibility for personally ensuring that the entire company follows procedure is laughable.
Second, the department head clearly owes you an apology, since he should have informed his staff member that this had taken place. He should also point this out to her, and suggest that since he was the one who goofed, she should now make a similar request of him, to see what the result will be.
And third, you might have considered a stiff jolt of bourbon. I've found that one or two can sometimes take the edge off the pain of dealing with idiots.