How To Deal With Big Mouth Trash Talker?

Question:

I have worked with my company for three years and have had several problems because of bad management. I’ve been grabbed by the head by a male that was training me and yelled in my ear right in front of shift manger and nothing was done about it. So, I went to upper management [HR]person and they pulled the person from the press he was working on and moved him across from me. End of story.

Then, a few months later I had five dollars in my purse and was going to lunch and found that my money was gone and I went to my shift manager and told him. He reported it to the security person and his response to me was that I should not have brought my money in.

So, I became mad and told the manager that if I caught anyone with their hands in my purse I would kick them in the ass. I went home and came to work the next day and was suspended for three days. I went home and came back after three days and was moved to another shift. So, that turned out to be a blessing.

Here I am, three years later and my work area has been moved across from a woman that instigated the problem on the other shift. But, I have earned a lot of respect with my boss by making a bad situation a good one, working hard and being pleasant and helpful when I can.

The problem now is this woman who listens in on everyone’s conversation and tells people to shut the F up and calls them stupid and this includes me.

She does this in front of people and even shift managers. Today she called me stupid in front of other co-workers and it took every thing I had not to punch her in the face, which would be just the thing to shut her up.

I have tried all the tricks like avoiding this person, being nice, only talking to her when I have to and also changed my break times. She started going on break at the same time.

I’m not sure why management has done nothing about her, but she has had several people in her department that have moved or quit or complained about her mouth. Still, nothing has been done.

She has targeted me again and I’m at the end of my rope with this company and her. I cannot quit my job or kick her ass, so any help would be great.

Signed,

Want To Avoid Trouble


Answer:

Dear Want To Avoid Trouble:

I’ll start with the way you ended: You can’t quit your job and you can’t kick her ass. So, where does that leave you? It sounds as though you will need to learn to either tolerate what is happening or find a way to improve things.

I think managers should intervene when there is conflict and bad-mouthing going on in the workplace. But often, according to the workplace, the feeling is that there is so much being said or done on all sides that no one is guiltless, so they don’t take action unless someone complains–and if the complaint is viewed as valid.

In this case, you say you have earned your boss’s respect. Why not go to him or her and say that the way your coworker has talked to you isn’t right and it’s making you feel angry and frustrated. You could mention that you’re not the only one who is feeling that way and give the names of others who your boss could talk to, to verify the situation.

You also could try telling the coworker to stop using that kind of language to you or to stop talking to you that way. You could support other coworkers when she talks down to them.

I think you’re wise to try to avoid her as long as you don’t make your avoidance seem surly or insulting. If she or others asks you about it you could point out that she hasn’t treated you in a good way and you’ve learned to stay away from people like that.

However, consider this: Your coworker says rude, unpleasant things. But you threaten to do something physical to respond to that. Look at your letter and you’ll see that you apparently talk that kind of “trash talk” quite a bit! If you talk that way at work, even among friends, you could be in big trouble.

If someone is going to get fired, who do you think it would be, the coworker who is rude or you, who threatens to react in a physically violent way? Answer, without a doubt: You.

So, if you value your job I think you had better have a meeting with your boss and ask him or her to step in to protect everyone from the big mouthed, trash talking person. Never say, even jokingly let alone in anger, that you would hit her or kick her ass or whatever you might be thinking. Otherwise, she’ll still be there while you’re looking for another job.

I’m just being honest with you about that. The coworker may realize how you react to pressure of that sort and may delight in pushing your buttons about it. But, you don’t have to respond. Just focus on your work and be the best employee you can be. Your boss will be more likely to make sure you aren’t bothered by someone who isn’t doing as much as you are. This would be a good time to think about ways you could improve the work situation in a general sense. What would help the company be more productive or save money? What could employees do to keep the place better organized, cleaner or more productive?

You say you try to be pleasant and to help others. Keep that going and be a role model for that rather than responding to someone who isn’t trying to add anything good.

If you have a close friend at work, ask him or her to help you stay strong and not give into an urge to say something nasty back. Get that person to support you in talking to the boss. Or, find a way to shrug if off, if you don’t want to talk to the boss or to HR.

You can deal with this if you put your mind to it. Speak up appropriately and tell your coworker to stop talking to you that way. And/or talk to your boss. Or, just deal with it and figure she’s a jerk but you don’t have to respond. Or, feel angry as you try to put up with it while seething inside.

Those are your choices if you want to keep your job. I hope you’ll choose the first two so you can be more at peace in your work. Then, go home, relax, enjoy your life away from work and don’t let that person have the power to upset you so much.

Best wishes as you deal with this issue. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe