Victim Of Bully Co-Worker?

Question:

I have just encountered a problem at the workplace. This co-worker of mine and I had a good work relationship until lately. Sometimes we two with other co-workers used to attend plays, dinners together with other friends, and hang out in social outings. She usually has been argumentative with other co-workers. She always likes others to listen to her opinion and her suggestions. But never gives others a chance to express or explain themselves. If they try to explain or express themselves, she raises her voice and gets very upset. Sometimes it ends in such a disagreement that she does not speak to them for some days, and after a time she talks with them again. Her ways have not changed at all since the time I have been working in this organization. That is the way she is and thinks everyone has to put up with her as she is so opinionated. On occasions whenever she made some comments or just said anything out of line I had always taken it as well that is the way she is and will never change so accepted the same. It just happened recently that she came up to pass on some office related matter and then in the wake of passing on some news she suddenly accused me of the way I do things. I had first tried to make peace by saying well thanks for the suggestion but she would not leave and continued saying why I was getting upset. Her approach to anything is not good and ends up in an argument when she comes on to strong to people.

Well I just lost it with her and told her off. I had expressed my opinion about her behaviour. I told her that she is annoying and that she never lets others express themselves and listen to what others say. Why should it be that others always have to listen to her? I told her that she is very annoying with other co-workers as well, and then she yelled at me saying I was blowing things out of proportion. I told her that it was not so and that she was picking on me all the time. She said, “I had a problem.” I replied asking if she does not think that she has a problem. Then she yelled, “If ever you approach me for any help or ask any questions on anything, I not help you.” I responded, “Where is team spirit if you act that way?” She said she would take the issue to my manager, and I said I would be doing so too. My manager, who considered her behaviour inappropriate, informed me that she would address the same with her. After my manager spoke to her, she has not come near me or even made any comments.

I have been upset and disappointed with her attitude toward me. She was told not to approach me; so is staying away. I just wanted her to learn to use a proper tone of voice and approach with people in the workplace rather than her bullying tactics. She lacks professional skills. My manager assured me that I am a valued worker and should not plan to quit because of a co-worker. This incident has upset me since I am a people-person and always am friendly and happy. This incident has made me feel like a victim. I found after this incident that her approach to people in the workplace so far has been mellowed and her tone of voice very good. But what upsets me is that the other people went through the same that I went. Some of them argued with her. They stayed away for each other for a few days and then again the matter just blew away like nothing ever happened. I am the only one to challenge her ways–to make her know what she is and that her approach to people is not good.

One co-worker was took her side and stated I was totally wrong, that I should be the one to apologize. I felt I did nothing wrong and was provoked. That is why I just got upset at that moment and told her off. When discussing the issue with my manager, she had mentioned that I challenged the other co-worker and nobody ever challenged her despite the way she makes rude remarks or says anything. My manager talks to me as well as to her like nothing has every happened or taken place. Now we two co-workers ignore each other and keep aloof. My question is: What should one do in a situation like this–resolve our relationship, just let it pass or is it best to not bother? This incident has affected me. I am very quiet now and upset that she disturbed my peaceful working relationship in the workplace. I have never ever had any altercations or confrontations with anyone before.

Signed,

Victim of Conflict


Answer:

Dear Victim of Conflict:

I can tell from your lengthy description of the blow up between you and your co-worker that you are still upset. Should you have expressed yourself angrily? Would there have been any other way? Possibly, you could have kept your cool and politely said, “Sally, we need to take a few minutes to talk about how we could work together more cooperatively. Does that sound like a good way to deal with this difference we now have?” Possibly you could have but also is possible that the way you lost your cool brought to the surface a problem in communication that had accumulated over time and someone needed to firmly say, “No more”? The good news in your email is that Sally appears to have softened the way she communicates with others. Should you apologize? You say you did nothing wrong and you implied that to say, “I’m sorry” is uncalled for. So you can go on feeling quiet and unhappy.

However, might it now be time for you to speak with your manager; to tell her how you feel unhappy because this incident weighs on your mind and that you would like to find a way to a cooperative and harmonious working relationship with this co-worker and all others? If you did that you might find that your manager also wants cooperation and harmony rather than to have employees whom she has told to avoid each other. If so, possibly then this will be a time when you manager will encourage you to speak with Sally and to tell her how unhappy you are not to talk with her and for both of you to be ordered to avoid each other. In such a meeting, might it not also be time to tell her you are sorry to have lost your temper and to argue. Also you could ask her what rules of communicating she thinks could make both of you jobs more effective and pleasant. Talking about how we speak and listen to each other about what needs to make our jobs more effective often is a topic taken for granted. Rather nothing could be less important.

Reflect on these thoughts and possibly talk them over with your manager, and then with her approval, approach your estranged co-worker. Work is hard enough without carrying a burden of animosity from day-to-day. You will continue to see yourself as a victim until you voice your discomfort about the current cool environment. Incivility will not be out of bounds until and unless we confront it. You did that. Now, can you put that behind you and replace it by helping yourself get past it?

Before you choose a course of action, it might be good for you to read several recently posted Q&As, one I answered and especially those answered by my associate Workplace Doctor, Tina Lewis Rowe. In addition to those recently posted, we have hundreds in our Archives dealing with co-worker problems. Here are two you with their Internet sites: http://www.west2k.com/wpdocs/qdetail.asp?id=712 Alpha Female http://www.west2k.com/wpdocs/qdetail.asp?id=696 Verbally Abusive Language

Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and it is when we know that WEGO spirit, that we are happy members of a team. Incidentally, I took the time to slightly shorten and edit your e-mail. I apologize if I changed your meaning in any way.

William Gorden