Q I’ve fallen out big-time with a colleague and it’s affecting the team. Should I swallow my pride, or hope it will improve over time?

How critical is the relationship? If this is a close co-worker or manager you will need a very different action plan than you might in a further-removed relationship.

In almost every situation, if you want to get the relationship on the right lines, you have to think like the bigger person: ‘I’m going to be the adult here’. The miracle is that, if you sincerely wish to heal differences then sincerity usually delivers.

Finding the opportunity to deliver the line “I do want to work better with you and win your trust, how can I best do that?” needs delicate timing. You may prepare the ground by offering support or compliments in public arenas. But be very wary when the topic that originally caused the friction is inevitably touched upon. You need to have rehearsed how you can defuse this difficulty. But don’t milk it to death. Least said soonest mended. Acknowledge and move on. The relationship may be different but your job is to make sure it’s good enough not to get in the way.

Q I’ve been asked to provide a reference for a job I really want. Can I provide a referee for whom I haven’t worked for in the past six years and how can I influence what they say?

Tricky things, references. It’s no longer safe to provide anything more than a basic written reference and accessing a referee for a chat can not only be tricky but requires real skill from the interviewer to extract genuine insight. Yet business still seems happy to depend on them.

You should, of course, offer referees that know you and will be sympathetic. If you are going back six years or so, then it should be for either an important and relevant role or perhaps to locate an impressive referee. If either applies to you, then be persistent. A weighty CEO intoning “good man, Smith” to the headhunter could well be a deal clincher (though remember you will need an answer to what has happened in more recent years).

I certainly recommend talking to referees, to remind them of your successes “back in the day” and to describe the role in question and why you feel it will be a good fit. But do exercise restraint.