Little Man Who Is A Big Bully

Question:

My only peeer at work has what I call “little man syndrome.” He is mean, aggressive and cannot be approached by me or others at my work place. I also just recently found out that

my boss is buddies with him so this prevents me from approaching my boss about the situation. What can I do?

Signed,

Frustrated


Answer:

Dear Frustrated:

You don’t describe what your co-worker’s behavior is like, but I am picturing someone who is rude and discourteous, and who doesn’t want to communicate with you or others unless forced to do so. He is snippy and angry sounding much of the time.

You also don’t say the size of the business. If it is a small one, you might be right that your boss wouldn’t take action about it–especially if this employee has worked there for some time. So, you will probably have to find a way to work around it or through it.

One way is to consider what you want out of this work situation. I doubt you want to be his friend. You just want things to be tolerable and courteous enough that you can enjoy work. Focus on that as your goal and don’t compare his behavior with that of people who ARE your friends. I doubt you’ll ever have more than a civil relationship–but that is at least better than having a hostile one.

Step back a bit and start over. Focus on your own work and making it as close to perfect as possible. Communicate with the co-worker in a civil, courteous tone, about business. Don’t try to force more than that. Over time you might be able to talk about more personal topics, or ask him for his opinion about a work issue. But, it may be you’ll never be able to do more than the basics of communication with him.

Use the courtesy phrases of please and thank you. Express appreciation when it’s appropriate. Have a mildly friendly greeting when you go to work and a farewell at the end of the shift. If he is unpleasant, consider pushing the matter by making him talk about it. “Hank, what I did wasn’t reason enough for you to say something like that. What’s the matter?” Or, “While ago when I asked you for help you got really mad about it. Asking you for help shouldn’t have caused that, so what made you mad?” Or, “I didn’t sound mad at you, so why are you acting mad at me?” Don’t be angry about it in your tone, just ask. I’ve found that asking people point blank like that, puts them on the spot and they have to either explain themselves, or they see that they have no explanation. They either calm down a bit next time or get angry that you’ve put them on the spot. Either way, at least you are not just passively taking it and it alerts them to the fact that you WON’T just take it.

Your co-worker may sense that he is not well liked and might know that you and the others talk about him. There may be big differences between you in age, dress, conversation, interests and skills. It may be that he will never be happy working with anyone, or with you and the others specifically. But hopefully you can find a way to make it better or tolerate it, if you think you can’t make a change through the boss. Realistically he won’t be fired. But your boss may not like the idea of losing good employees, no matter how much he likes your co-worker. So, he might help more than you think.

But, as I said, the bottom line is trying to be realistic about what you can achieve. Even though you might not be able to do enough to make him want to change his style, I don’t think you should tolerate meanness or unpleasantness. I think you should confront it, right up to telling him in directly to stop. At some point he will either stop or be so obnoxious that even your boss will have to do something about it.

Best wishes as you work on this matter. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.