my coworker accidentally fractured my arm

A reader writes:

I recently started a new job as a courier who delivers essential supplies to several businesses and industries. I am very fortunate that my job has not been affected by Covid-19 due to how important our services are, especially now.

I’m currently being trained by a woman named Melissa. She is teaching me everything I need to know to do the job by myself — how to take orders and check inventory, how to deliver everything and where to go to bring supplies in, how to get all deliveries done on time, and how to do all of this safely in the Covid era. Once I am capable on my own, Melissa will be moving on to a higher position in the company. During this time, I have learned that she is very rigid in the way she does things and can be bossy, but she’s good at her job and is clearly respected by her bosses.

Last week, we had a mix-up in our delivery schedule that meant we were not going to make one of our very important deliveries on time unless we rushed considerably. So Melissa asked me to help gather all the supplies we needed and then put it in the trunk of her car so we could drive it over there quickly, which I did.

Once we arrived, she was agitated and being very short with me, but I knew she was just worried that we wouldn’t make it so I didn’t let it bother me. We both went to the back of her car and started picking up boxes of supplies so we could rush them inside as soon as possible. Melissa got her stuff out a few seconds before me and immediately reached up and pulled her trunk lid down, which landed on my arm, as I still had my arm in there as I pulled the last box out. After that, she turned and took off inside, and I closed the trunk and followed her.

We made our delivery on time and Melissa was much more relaxed on the way back. She never mentioned my arm or apologized. I don’t even know if she realized she did it because she was so frantic. My arm hurt at that time but I knew it had been an accident, so I brushed it off and figured it was just bruised.

The next morning, though, my arm was still really sore, so I went to the doctor before work and got it X-rayed. Turns out, I have a very small hairline fracture in my wrist. I was given a splint and told to return in three weeks for another X-ray to see how it looks.

Of course, everyone wanted to know what happened at work, and I gave vague answers like, “Oh, just an accident but it’s no big deal.” Melissa still has not said a word about it.

Honestly, I’m a little upset, but this is so awkward to bring up and I don’t know what to say. I know I erred by not bringing it up sooner and I’m probably too late now with it being a week after the fact. I don’t expect anything grand — just an apology from Melissa would have been nice. Should I just let this go at this point, or should I try to say something?

Say something. She fractured your arm!

Yes, it was an accident — she’s presumably not a monster who intentionally slammed a trunk lid down on your arm. From what you’ve said, it sounds like she might not even realize it happened. But if you were Melissa and had broken someone’s arm with your hastiness, wouldn’t you want to know? Wouldn’t you feel worse if you found out the person wasn’t saying anything about it because they didn’t want to make you feel bad?

And even aside from how Melissa might feel, you should say something because she broke your arm and you deserve not to have to tiptoe around that.

You could simply say, “I’m not sure if you realized you closed the trunk on my arm the other day when we were doing that delivery to X! It turns out it’s fractured.”

I was going to add some additional language after that like, “I know you didn’t mean to, but I thought I should mention it since I think we were moving too quickly” … but I don’t think you need it. “I know you didn’t mean to” is about softening the message for her and it might make sense to say it later in this conversation, but to start you can open with just the facts: not sure if you realized, and here’s what happened.

She will presumably respond with some version of “I had no idea, I’m so sorry” and at that point you can tell her you realize it wasn’t intentional.

If she doesn’t respond with some version of that, then Melissa is a bit of a monster. If she questions you skeptically or denies it could have happened, don’t get sucked into a debate. At that point, you might as well just say, “Well, it’s my arm and I was there when the trunk came down on it, I thought you would want to know, we were probably moving too fast” and end it.

(Separately, I am assuming you have looked into workers comp, etc. since this happened in the course of your job.)

Also, please note this is the second letter I’ve received about a coworker closing a trunk on someone’s arm. Beware of your arms when you’re around coworkers!

my coworker accidentally fractured my arm was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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