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I have a (female) coworker who always has a terrible mood and curses everything. While I can deal with that, now, after working a few months at this place, I see more and more that she terribly backbites people. Not just some usual shit-talk but just plain bullying with the goal to let the other person look as bad as possible.

At first, I didn't care because

  • she seems to always have a bad mood
  • she hates everyone
  • she isn't even working in my team
  • she (physically) changed the office

As this didn't stop and she didn't care to openly yell even at team leaders telling them all disgrace I'm cautious about confronting her directly.

I told another coworker who just bad-mouthed me once (and not as severe as the female one) that I'm always open to feedback and I would desire him to give feedback directly to me. He was very confused and left the place.

Why I consider telling her over mail:

  • I don't want a discussion. If I do something wrong you tell me, if I don't listen or behave badly you tell my boss
  • I don't see her in a 1:1, since she's in another team
  • I can point out that it's important for me that she has a good image of me
  • If she continues I can at least prove that I tried to encourage her to an open talk
  • I'm bad with words when I'm nervous. She is someone who uses her anger to silence people, unfortunately this works on me
  • Several co-workers told me that they asked her (since she does this on all persons) and she didn't care

Why I consider it bad doing it over mail:

  • It could come off as passive-aggressive
  • I could appear weak not talking directly to her

Making things harder for me is that I'm relatively new in that company (less than 1/2 year) and if I do it wrong it could look rude (someone <30 telling someone above 50 how to behave).

That being said its incredibly hard for me to work in an environment where you get trashed as soon there's a possibility without you even knowing. No problem with it if it happens from time to time, but she does it constantly.

(Or, to put it into an example: Some fires are too big to fight(leave the company), some are so small that you just have to wait till they extinguish by themself, but in this case someone with matches is starting fires over and over)

Is a mail (just with her as recipient) appropriate since a normal talk won't work out or should I approach the situation differently?

  • @NigelJ good question and I was thinking about putting it there. Reason is that the whole team except said person and my boss is male and nobody has an issue with each other except with said (female) coworker. – Swizzler Jan 19 '18 at 21:54
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    "your gender doesn't give you any kind of power to threat others that way" - Would that this were true. – Wesley Long Jan 20 '18 at 0:55
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    Do not use mail. Always criticize 1:1 verbally, always praise in public. You also create a paper trail that can be misrepresented or otherwise bite you in the behind some day. Also it is the not coward thing to do, critique by mail is by nature passive aggressive. – Stian Yttervik Jan 20 '18 at 10:11
36

No, you never want to criticize or deliver negative feedback via email.

Unless your boss is completely incompetent this is a conversation you need to have with your boss, first. Period. "Hey boss, coworker seems to badmouth everything. This is really distracting and demoralizing, do you have any suggestions for what I should do?"

Passively aggressively confronting someone like this will end poorly.

  • I have to admit that till now this sounds like the most reasonable way, even when it's against my belive to try solving personal issues first only with said person. – Swizzler Jan 19 '18 at 21:48
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    @Swizzler that makes sense in life, but sometimes in office, it's not worth the hassle. The professional thing is to make your Boss aware, and do not make it about her, but about yourself being distracted and demoralized by it. – Mafii Jan 22 '18 at 10:37
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    Just to update the situation: Had a chat with my boss today, boss is well aware of what is happening and assured me that I'm not the only one. She presented a plan on how she is currently tackling this and asked me to contact her again should the situation not get better in a timeframe thats acceptable for me. – Swizzler Jan 29 '18 at 20:23
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    @Swizzler great to hear! – enderland Jan 29 '18 at 20:41
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You do not want to address this person in mail, the last thing you want to do with a back-biting, double-crossing coworker is to give them a paper trail.

DOCUMENT EVERYTHING

Before you say so much as "boo" to this person, have a log of all the times she has acted out including what was said, to whom it was said, and when. You want to have an established pattern of her behavior before you confront her.

THEN

State plainly and clearly to her that her actions are unacceptable. When it happens again, simply say.

I'm sorry, it is inappropriate for you to speak to me with that tone and that language.

Then, walk away without another word.

If she follows you and persists, stick to the script.

I'm sorry, I will not be addressed in this fashion. Please leave.

Do not engage her beyond that. If she escalates to management, show your documentation at that time. Make sure that your own behavior is above reproach.

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    having a paper trail with what she said is difficult since she never says anything to me – Swizzler Jan 19 '18 at 21:47
  • Good methods, but I think it's more appropriate to take this directly to her boss and stress the fact that her actions can be / are damaging morale & productivity. I doubt anything will be gained by engaging directly with a person like her. – user30031 Sep 15 '18 at 16:12
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I would talk to your manager about it. It does not sound like a face to face conversation will work with her, in which case email most definitely will not. If she is being this way across different groups, perhaps you are not the first to notice or report her unproductive, negative behavior.

4

Is a mail (just with her as recipient) appropriate since a normal talk won't work out or should I approach the situation differently?

First I have to say that I wouldn't recommend too much on this whole idea of confronting her. Some people just happen to be rude and a PITA all day long; I doubt that one can easily change that kind of people.

Secondly, if you decide you still want to do it then perhaps a more polite approach would be to do it in person, rather than by email. If you get nervous or may forget things I suggest you write down your "speech" before doing so.

Furthermore you even say that your coworkers have tried before and she "doesn't care", so I doubt this is going to work out. If you feel this person has a problem I suggest you talk to your superiors and expose your concerns about it. They will then be able to do (or not) something about it.

That being said its incredibly hard for me to work in an environment where you get trashed as soon there's a possibility without you even knowing....

This is a relevant thing you said, and backs up my second suggestion: if you are not comfortable with your work environment there, and that person does not change or seem to ever going to, then perhaps it is time to start looking for jobs elsewhere.

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This sounds like a bad situation and makes the workplace a hostile environment. I would recommend documenting everything and formally reporting her to Human Resources. When doing so, I would specifically point out every real or perceived workplace violation she makes (e.g. yelling at her leadership: insubordination).

You and your co-workers shouldn't have to put up with her and, since management has obviously not acted, I doubt that going to your manager would make any difference (it could even backfire).

Personally, I would be looking for work elsewhere. Life is too short to put up with these kinds of people. Good luck!

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    HR is not your friend! They exist to protect the company. Escalating the situation to HR runs the risk of creating a problem for the OP, either officially (that's not your job so but out) or unofficially (getting the reputation of being a complainer, or running to HR constantly). – GOATNine Sep 13 '18 at 16:58
  • Thanks for your contribution. The problem got solved after I had a quick chat with my boss. In retroperspective this was the best thing to do - if it didn't worked and I went to HR afterwards I could show them that I tried to not let the situation escalate. If it backfires its just another indication that the workplace is not fitting for me. – Swizzler Sep 13 '18 at 20:58
  • @GOATNine in this case, OP's goals very-well might align with the company and HR. Sometimes it's OK to work with people who "aren't your friend" for common goals, but you're right to advise caution. – user30031 Sep 15 '18 at 16:14
  • That being said, Everyone else: this is a fine suggestion & doesn't deserve the downvotes IMO. – user30031 Sep 15 '18 at 16:14
  • @DoritoStyle I don't mean to say that HR is never an option. It just begs reminding people that HR exists for the company, not for you. Many people forget this, including me early in my career. – GOATNine Sep 17 '18 at 10:45

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