Recently, I had a few disagreements with two of my peers, regarding various work issues. The two are quite close and obviously discuss things privately. One is male, one female.

Last week, I had a private conversation with the male colleague and cleared the air a bit and settled some of our differences, but during our conversation he mentioned some things that the female colleague did not like that I was doing, and told me to change. My suspicion is that the woman asked the guy to have a talk with me and clear her issues as well.

Should I confront the woman and tell her that if she has any problem with me, she should speak to me personally and try to resolve the issues, as otherwise I cannot know what to fix? Or should I just ignore the matter and just carry on, making any necessary changes to the way I do my work?

  • 2
    I notice you're picking up downvotes and close votes on the grounds that this question was too localised. Personally, I thought the core question was pretty general, but there was a lot of angry feeling around it, so I've tried to edit that out a bit for you, in the hope of saving the question. If you feel I've removed fundamental information or changed the sense of the question, please feel free to revert the change. – pdr Apr 22 '13 at 11:23
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    Can't agree with the removal of genders from this question. It is relevant, plus it has now broken my answer. I also can't understand how this question is too localised. – pdr Apr 22 '13 at 13:02
  • My gut reaction is to essentially try to clear the air with them, but make it clear that talking o person A will not change anything. – acolyte Apr 22 '13 at 13:13
  • @pdr I don't understand how the genders are relevant; I did carefully look through the question before suggesting that edit. I still can't see anything now. – AakashM Apr 23 '13 at 7:53
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    @AakashM: The asker's original text was riddled with phrases like "the/this/that girl" which not only indicates gender, but a certain attitude towards her gender. – pdr Apr 23 '13 at 13:25

I've run into this kind of situation enough that, when one person starts referring to problems another person has with me, I would have immediately responded with "stick to your issues with me, if she wants to talk to me separately then she can. You can be there, if you want, but I'm not taking second-hand criticism."

But I say this only so you know in future. The situation you have created is one where they think the air has been cleared but you're still not happy.

I think you have to talk to her, but be very careful how. There is a reason that she didn't approach you personally. It may something about you personally, or it may simply be a response to male privilege (whether that be perceived or valid). Or it may be that he's using her name to soften the blow for things he wants to bring up. Any way you look at it, "confronting" her is only going to make matters worse.

I suggest that the three of you meet, in an informal environment, and thrash out everything that's causing a problem. If she has issues, she may be more inclined to present them if you put yourself in a weaker position. If she doesn't have issues, it's going to become very clear that this guy is using her to make a point. (Resist the urge to point it out.)

Don't be a passive participant in the conversation, but avoid being aggressive. Be assertive where you think you're in the right and keep in mind the possibility that you are not.

Barring any malicious intent (which is much rarer than we all imagine), I've never had one of these conversations make a situation worse.

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