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I am not sure how to handle frequent, repeated episodes of passive aggressive behaviour or low-profile abuse from a colleague.

E.g.: one of my colleagues was my peer, but wanted me to report to her. She invested a lot of time in back-handed compliments with management, and she also made snarky comments about my clothes, my voice, my appearance, in front of customers and partners. On top of this, there are other irregularities, e.g. blatant lies and misinformation which I can see on the field, but which is taken at face value by remote management.

Each of these episodes is too small for HR: "today this person made a joke about my voice with a customer!". If I go to HR every fortnight they will start see me as a whiner.

The alternative is to build a case, showing repeated negative behaviour. However, I am afraid this might be perceived as being a resentful, childish employee who is "not management material" and "not a team player".

So, the question is: for smaller, but regular incidents, what is the professional way of handling it? Building a case? How can I avoid to have the fact of building a case be used against me?

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    No. I got a new job: I love it, and they doubled my previous salary. No complaints there... However, as I was given a fresh opportunity to be successful, I want to make sure I can handle such people in the best possible way, as I am sure I will meet them again, in this and future jobs. – Monoandale Mar 2 at 1:05
  • Yes, you are correct. But looking at other questions about "nagging" behaviour, it's more generally applicable. – Monoandale Mar 2 at 1:07
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    I think your comment could become a useful answer for many other users. I appreciate your help. – Monoandale Mar 2 at 1:10
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for smaller, but regular incidents, what is the professional way of handling it? Building a case? How can I avoid to have the fact of building a case be used against me?

You counter foolishness on the part of others by having a terrific professional reputation.

Stupid people who make snarky comments about someone held in high regard accomplish nothing but making asses of themselves.

Be above all that. Make sure petty responses are beneath you.

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she also made snarky comments about my clothes, my voice, my appearance, in front of customers and partners. On top of this, there are other irregularities, e.g. blatant lies and misinformation which I can see on the field

There's two different things you need to take note of here - your immediate responses, and the way you submit this higher up the food chain.

Your immediate responses need to be polite, firm, factual and above reproach. So with any snarky comments, you should respond with something like:

I really don't appreciate that sort of remark.

And if it continues:

Kate, I've spoken to you about this many times before. Please stop making those negative comments.

As for involving HR - if you run to HR about every comment like this then yes, they'll see you as a waste of time. If you build up a comprehensive case over a couple of months with exact dates, times and comments, then submit that to them, they'd be mad to ignore it.

So every time she makes a comment like this, you note down exact details - time, place, and whether anyone else was present. For example:

Passed Kate in the southern corridor around 1015 as I was leaving meeting room B3. Without any provocation, she looked at me and remarked "What's with that hairstyle? Lawnmower run you over or something?" Tim Smith was passing at the same time and may have heard this remark.

And:

Had a product demo with the CEO of Heinz. Present from our company were myself, Kate, Tim Smith, and Bob Jones. Half way through the demo Kate interrupted and said "If you can't hear him clearly enough just ask me to act as translator, we call him mumbles around here for a reason!"

If you build up a few dozen of these over the course of a month, then take it to HR, and there's witnesses involved for many of the events, no reasonable person would toss it out. If it's you, rather than her, that comes off with a bad reputation after all that, then it's a toxic environment and you'd want out in any case.

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