A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about dealing with a coworker that acts like she knows everything and can do everyone’s job better than them.

I sent an email to my co-workers asking for guidance on an email that I had to send out. Moreso for them to proof and to edit it if need be. The co-worker in question sent back a harsh email telling me that my email was incorrect. Instead of giving me advice on what it should say she just told me that it was incorrect and if I sent it out the employees would never trust our department again.

So my response to the co-worker was that I did not ask her to tell me that it was incorrect, I asked her to make any needed corrections. She runs to tell my boss that I hurt her feelings and that she does not want to work with me or talk to me. So unprofessional. So told my boss who then asks me to apologize for my email response since I am the bigger person. I asked was she going to apologize also, he said NO. Not taking into account that she also lied on me.

Signed–Bigger Person

Dear Bigger Person:

It’s annoying when a coworker tries to make you look bad! And it is more annoying when you supervisor asks you to apologize. Unfortunately a boss, your boss, did not order your coworker the grow up and to cooperate. Bosses try to smooth over pettiness and hurt feelings, even those that might be faked such as your coworker probably did to make you appear to have insulted her. Such an instance as you describe should signal your boss that more needs to be done by him than to have you apologize.   So what have you learned from this tiff with Ms. Know It All?

Possibly you learned not to ask MS. Know It All to expect her to edit what you have written. Also you have learned that you going to your boss following her tattle-tale to him doesn’t make things right. So you are left with several options you might have thought of an others that you have not considered:

1. Apologize sincerely saying you regret that she felt hurt.

2. Apologize insincerely simply to comply with your boss.

3. Ignore your boss’s advice to apologize and behave as though this never happened.

4. Gossip about this to coworkers and vent your disgust about Ms. KIA to your friends and family.

5. Candidly ask Ms. Know It All for a Time-Out Talk about how you and she might develop a working relationship that is what you both were hired to do.

6. Before a staff meeting suggest to your boss that your work group should spell out communication rules that will prevent such conflict being reported expecting him to resolve it.

You might think of others, such as finding ways to make Ms. KIA look bad. This trouble with her can circle about in your head and escalate to genuine dislike of seeing her when you come to work. Right? I propose that you weigh all options rather than assume one is better. Realize that this specific instance probably didn’t come out of the blue and it won’t go away like it never happened. A boss should see that his workgroup meets frequently to make tasks go well. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes special effort such as discussing with a disagreeable coworker and with the staff what is not going well and what might be done to make work productive and satisfying–what I refer to as makes big WEGOS. You might not be athletic or have observed how a coach and team do that before and after a game. But this is common and bosses who follow this practice are more like coaches.                 

I propose you scan a dozen or more of our Q&As. They will help you see that workplaces have many kinds of frustration and difficulty. Even scanning their titles will forewarn you of what is going on out there and help you to see your particular workgroup as worse, similar or better. And if you study the advice provided you will be better prepared to cope–to be forearmed. You will also see some specific feel good instances that have been submitted. These too do not come out of the blue. They result from specific effort and they accumulate to make going to work satisfying. I have not advised you what will work best. Only you will know that, but I do suggest it is not good for you to obsess about it. You are more than your job. Remember to find satisfaction beyond your work and that will give you strength to deal with pettiness at work. 

I hope to get an update on what you do or don’t do and how it works or fails. Working together with hands head and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.–William Gorden