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I've been at my job for 2 1/2 years now. We have a small team (5 people), that all works remotely. The co-worker in question started about a year before me.

This co-worker is consistently rude and demeaning. I've had two other people (one of whom has left) independently describe similar conflicts with this person unprompted by me.

At this point, I'm highly sensitized to the situation. For example, today, we had 1:1 interviews scheduled with a new job candidate. The interviews were all taking place via a common video conference "room". We were instructed to coordinate hand-off of the candidate, so as not to disrupt each other. At precisely my scheduled time, I messaged my coworker to ask to let me know when I could join the call. The first response was to ask "what interview". Baffled at how this person could not know what I was talking about, and concerned the candidate had been left hanging, I forwarded the meeting invitation right away.

The response in chat was to quote the schedule, followed by this response:

already met him earlier
so it's just you and started 3 mins ago

In a more agreeable working relationship, this would have been fine. The level of anger it invoked in me tells me I need to do something about this.

My perception from having tried to address this in that past is that things will only escalate if I try to talk to this person directly. Our current manager has indicated they are aware there's a problem. They haven't indicated what's being done to solve it, and I don't believe it's appropriate to tell me. However, I'm not seeing any change.

This is the sort of situation I'd like to be able to take in to a job interview and say I was able to manage, but I'm at a loss. I've been warned that this person has complained to HR in the past, and given the recommendation that I should do so first. (Obviously, having put up with this for 2 1/2 years, I haven't followed this advice.)

The basic question is, should I continue to try to handle this, or just go to HR? Add on parts: What suggestions are there besides going to HR? If I do go to HR, how should I pose the complaint?

  • anonymous, I voted to reject your edit because defacing and deleting a question is not the way to go about things. I flagged for a moderator to have the question disassociated from your account instead. I have no idea why the unregistered account picked up your photo from somewhere, and seems like something that shouldn't happen. It might be worth asking about on Meta. – David K Nov 20 '18 at 20:08
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    It's a "gravatar" which is linked to your email address (right-click, view source). Stack Exchange (and many other sites) pick up on that. You can even figure out the email address from the image with some effort. Next time use a different email address (e.g. many email systems allow adding +anything to the local part, e.g. martin+something@example.com will be delivered to martin@example.com. This will work with gmail, among many other systems. – Martin Tournoij Nov 21 '18 at 2:27
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    If you wish this account to be anonymised, please take a look at this help article, specifically the part about disassociation. – Snow Nov 21 '18 at 7:14
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    What did your boss say, when you talked to them? – Mawg Nov 21 '18 at 7:55
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I recommend scheduling a 1:1 with your manager. Assuming you have a reasonably good relationship, ask your manager for advice about how to deal with this coworker. Your manager may be able to create some more distance between the two of you. Or they may know that disciplinary action is already being taken and advise you to just bear it for a little longer. Or they may tell you it's a good idea to go to HR about it.

Ultimately, consult the person at the company who you feel most comfortable with and has the most knowledge/power to help.

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Should you decide to pursue the HR route about this issue, you'll want to prepare by gathering the necessary concrete details to back up your claim. Emails, chat history, etc. Hope things turn out for the better!

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First, be aware that HR IS NOT YOUR FRIEND

From the linked article:

The moment you bring a grievance or concern to HR, it's documented on your employment record. You're marked as having an issue. And, that means you're someone who has the immediate potential to disrupt the workplace harmony HR is trying to keep in check.

This is first and foremost why going to HR should be a last resort.

The BEST thing you can do is settle it between yourself and the coworker.

Failing that, take it up with a manager. The last thing you want to do is to take up a squabble with HR.

IF it comes to that point, be ready to move on to another company.

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You can choose to take this challenge on yourself. If so, there's a good formula to follow to speak to this person.

  1. If you're annoyed, cool off first.
  2. Find a venue to have the conversation where you can't be overheard by anybody. Perhaps a private video "room" will do.
  3. Ask the person to listen what you have to say without interrupting.
  4. Describe the unwanted behavior, specifically: "Yesterday in the team conference call you said my work on the XYZ project was incompetent." Try to give a an exact, or close to exact, quote. Don't generalize: don't say things like "you always complain about my work."
  5. Describe the effect of the behavior on you. Speak for yourself only. "When you said I did bad work you surprised me and undermined me in front of our co-workers."
  6. Ask for a change. "Please, when you have problems with my work take it up with me privately."
  7. Thank him for listening.
  8. Don't expect him to immediately promise to change his ways and admit his faults. People don't work that way.

Notice that the things you say in this formula should be factual. They describe things that happened, and their effect on you.

If he still argues and interrupts you, well, hey, you tried. Your next move is to stop letting this person annoy you, if possible. His mean habits are about him, not you.

If your HR department is super-competent, they will suggest an intervention like this one to you. Or, if the problem is long-standing, they may do it for you. But, beware, most HR departments aren't that good at this stuff, so asking them to intervene may backfire. (That's a long way of saying "HR is not your friend.")

Good luck.

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