I’ve found that a relatively new addition to our team is being needlessly aggressive and I’m not sure if I should speak to them or our mutual manager about this face to face, or try some other technique while working to reduce her aggression as it is affecting my concentration.

When she first started she came in all guns blazing - she criticised my work to my face on several occasions, pointing to errors that didn’t exist (or were by someone else). I calmly pointed out where she was mistaken, but this did rattle me as she’d come with a glowing report and it would look bad on me as a long term employee of the company if I really had made so many errors. Even if I hadn’t the fact that people would see her ‘pulling me up’ would also look bad. I hoped she was just settling in.

She did seem to calm down and become more friendly though I admit I was always inwardly tense when speaking to her (though I tried to exude friendly professionalism throughout). Recently however one of my colleagues told me that she informed them that I have something against her (I don’t know what this is specifically referring to). And yesterday she went from 0 to 100 about an issue: swearing, raised voice, very intimidating. I stayed outwardly calm but inside I wasn’t sure if I was boiling or quaking. A few minutes later the issue (a simple one) was resolved and she started chatting to me like we were best friends. The change was so abrupt I was quite caught out.

I don’t know her well but I sense she has a form of OCD from some things she’s mentioned about herself and I don’t know if she’s agitated whenever she perceives something isn’t right? I also think it may be ‘normal’ for her to kick off when it suits her. However this isn’t something I’m comfortable with. I feel that we should always convey info in a calm way to each other.

Anyway, I am still striving to maintain the professional exterior but I am now extra tense whenever she speaks to me incase it blows into confrontation that I have to diffuse. I feel that I don’t trust her as a team member. What should I do to try to create a better atmosphere for me at work? I know she’s had run ins with other staff but for some reason I seem to be getting it the most.

Of note she has been making a lot of mistakes herself and I’ve been pointing them out in the most gentle way I can, taking extra care not to appear vindictive or pleased in her eyes.

Edit: Just want to say thank you all! It’s really helped me get my head straight on what the most sensible approach is.

  • 15
    Are you a senior to her? Same grade? Manager? May 22, 2019 at 13:55
  • 16
    I get paid more and am supposed to oversee the team in a general sense but we have the same manager.
    – Aceiter
    May 22, 2019 at 14:08
  • 16
    I suspect the "glowing report" came from somebody who was desperate to get rid of her. Did she come from another team in your company, or is she a new hire? May 23, 2019 at 19:21
  • 6
    The "glowing recommendation" happens all the time.
    – Paul
    May 23, 2019 at 19:21
  • "The change was so abrupt I was quite caught out." - this is a red flag. Avoid talking to this person unless you really, really must. Always have witnesses. Feb 19, 2022 at 20:48

5 Answers 5


The worst thing you can do is keep it to yourself as she's already started badmouthing you to colleagues. Bring her behaviour to the attention of your manager.

This may be paranoid, but it might be a good idea to start writing up your interactions with her, either in hardcopy or emails. Perhaps even avoid being alone with her in order to avoid a literal he-said she-said type situation. If you do have to interact with her, try doing so where another colleague is present.

  • 3
    What happened to talking to each other? As I understand it, it’s not some kind of quarrel which needs resolving (where a third party might help if other options are already exhausted). Maybe the coworker simply gets agitated easily. Maybe the solution is as simple as having code reviews in written form?
    – Michael
    May 24, 2019 at 7:45
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    @Michael I would normally agree with talking to the other person, but in this scneario I don't think it's appropriate to do so. The other person starts yelling when they see something they dislike, makes accusations and then badmouths the OP behind their back. Talking to them about their behaviour is more likely to lead to HR complaints against the OP. May 24, 2019 at 8:58
  • 1
    @Michael talking to them with someone there (say the manager) to mediate isn't unreasonable
    – UKMonkey
    May 24, 2019 at 16:15
  • @UKMonkey Having a manager (or other coworker) to mediate might not go as well as one would hope. It depends on how grounded and savvy the mediator is. It could very well be that the mediator holds a mental bias for this person (ie maybe the one who gave the glowing report) in which case things could go further south. I've been in a similar situation before, and it's hard to resolve. Eventually you can weather this behavior, but it takes time and a lot of damage can be done, both to your company culture and your standing in it. It only takes one a**hole to ruin a team.
    – ldog
    May 24, 2019 at 18:46

We learn not to yell at other people at our mothers' knees. This is not acceptable behavior anywhere in public, let alone in a professional setting, and she's probably well aware of it. Anyone older than 6 or so should be.

Your coworker seems to be accustomed to getting a pass on this behavior (for various reasons not worth discussing here), and speaking to her about her shortcomings is probably not going to go well for you, especially in a one-on-one setting.

What you should do - and fast - is contact your manager, and request a sit down.

Prepare a list of instances when she has yelled at or otherwise been aggressive with you (or other team members in your presence). List dates, times, the people present, and the context of the encounter if possible (if you can't remember these instances, start keeping track now).

When you speak to your manager, outline that this new employee is making erroneous claims as to the quality of your work, is being rude and verbally abusive, and that working with her makes you uncomfortable, as you never know when the next confrontation is going to erupt. Then pass him the list of documented events.

Express a desire to work calmly alongside your colleagues, and that if someone finds and error in your code you'd be more than happy to address it in a friendly manner, but that her attitude is unacceptable, and disruptive to the team.

Most likely there are others in the office who have taken notice of her terrible behavior (or more likely been targets), and this will not have been the first time your manager's had someone mention it to him. Hopefully having a concrete list of events will spur him into action.

If your manager asks you why, in your somewhat supervisory capacity, you haven't addressed this with her already, tell him that you fear an escalation on her part, as she has proven to be quite volatile in the past, and that you're requesting his involvement.

Maybe offer to sit in on any meetings between management and this employee, but don't face her alone. She already has a propensity to spread rumors, who knows what she'd say transpired in a one-on-one meeting?

Be a little paranoid. It'll serve you well in this situation.

  • 53
    Just to emphasize: when talking with the manager (and frankly others too), stick to facts. "Needlessly aggressive" has a significant subjective component, "yells" much less so. This doesn't mean you can't include subjective facts, but the only subjective facts you have are about your own state. It's completely fine to say, "it makes me uncomfortable". Speculating about her mental state and whether she has OCD is far less fact based. May 23, 2019 at 7:40
  • 9
    I would specifically say to the manager: "I have no interest in working at a place where I am screamed at."
    – B. Goddard
    May 23, 2019 at 11:28
  • 16
    We learn not to yell at other people at our mother's knees. This is not acceptable behavior anywhere in public, let alone in a professional setting, and she's probably well aware of it. Anyone older than 6 or so should be. Not all of us were fortunate enough to grow up in such a setting; unlearning such bad behaviors instilled in my childhood has been a lifelong challenge. I feel like this answer is generally great advice but could benefit from taking a more empathetic stance towards the problem individual. May 23, 2019 at 16:13
  • @kittoes0124 - When someone is being abusive they don't deserve all that much empathy. Rather, the victim does.
    – AndreiROM
    May 24, 2019 at 13:04
  • 1
    @AndreiROM Only while under the assumption that there is a universally accepted definition of abusive amongst all parties; it is entirely possible, if not likely, that this person doesn't truly understand how their behavior is perceived by "normal" people. Maybe they just don't care but almost everyone deserves to be given a chance to change. Note that I'm not just playing devil's advocate, but am speaking from personal experience, I would be a much more insufferable human being if certain individuals hadn't led by example and/or the took time to explicitly teach me. May 24, 2019 at 16:45

You can use this situation as a starter of discussion:

And yesterday she went from 0 to 100 about an issue: swearing, raised voice, very intimidating. [...] A few minutes later ... she started chatting to me like we were best friends.

Even if this person has personality issues, or uncontrolled bursts of anger, they owe you an apology and maybe even an explanation. You have every right to bring this up, starting with the fact that you don't understand what prompted anger, and that you don't understand what prompted change in attitude.

In that situation you should stay close to home base, and only talk about how you feel, not about how she is unprofessional. After all, there is a chance you are making a mistake (this is not gas-lighting, but this is a subjective situation).

  • 8
    @GeorgeM Please don't call my writing "silly". Also, I am not OP's manager and can't judge what is and what is not professional around OP May 22, 2019 at 23:58
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    -1 > In that situation you should stay close to home base, and only talk about how you feel, not about how she is unprofessional - It's a workplace. A gathering of individuals for a purpose, done in a professional manner. Stick to professionalism instead of feelings. Someone being unprofessional hurts a workplace more than someones feelings, as you cannot account for everyone being content all of the time. Sooner or later, a simple "no" to a simple request will hurt feelings. So, stay professional about it.
    – rkeet
    May 23, 2019 at 9:16
  • 9
    @rkeet: How people feel impacts their performance, a lot. Yelling at somebody doesn't make them unhappy because it's unprofessional; it's unprofessional because it makes them unhappy. A workplace runs on many things, including feelings, and it is better to make that explicit than to make that taboo. (And there is also everybody's intrinsic value as an individual, and the right to be treated with respect, neither of which disappear when you enter a workplace.)
    – Esteis
    May 23, 2019 at 13:14
  • 4
    I disagree that the asker should only talk about how they themselves feel – that very easily comes across as just one employee whining to the manager about others. It creates the narrative that Aceiter’s feelings are the issue, rather than the behaviour that is causing them. Best case, the manager will be able to see through it and will talk to the colleague; worst case, the manager doesn’t see through it and consequently ends up seeing Aceiter as the problem. May 23, 2019 at 15:12
  • 2
    @rkeet my answer is about one point: how to confront the colleague. My experience (and what my much smarter partner told me) is that it's a bad idea to accuse people of unprofessional behavior, it will lead nowhere. It is too ambiguous. Also, it is incorrect to call addressing specific problem (I feel you were aggressive and yelly) "whining about your feelings" May 23, 2019 at 19:01

We are reading a one-sided report, but if what you say is accurate, then it sounds like your coworker has some mental issues and at a minimum anger management issues.

And yesterday she went from 0 to 100 about an issue: swearing, raised voice, very intimidating.

Regardless of anything else in your post, this type of behavior is completely unprofessional and should not be tolerated in any work environment. Personally, I would escalate the issue to include HR as having a toxic and abusive unprofessional situation must be reigned in and documented. I wouldn't tolerate it for a second.

You need to communicate your concerns with your manager, who must manage the problem his employees are having. Not being able to maintain healthy working relationships and a professional demeanor is failing to perform job duties in a satisfactory manner.

Normally, you could talk to your peer about your concerns to come to an understanding, but this behavior crosses professional lines. It's time to escalate.

Being aggressive, berating, and swearing creates a toxic and abusive environment that nobody has to tolerate.


I belive if you are thinking of making atmosphere more comfortable, you are on half on right way. But there is one not obvious thing. Contacting to people like that, it is very important that she see you peacefully speaking to all your colleague. You should not just sitting in the corner or you will be her victim.

That type of people are aggressive liers. But more important, that they ... paranoid. When they lies dirtly, they affraid of the same. For that reason, if you will speak to every of your colleague frendly from time to time, peacefully, she will be affraid that you are speaking about her and that will protect you. It will also improve atmosphere.

Do not give her many of your attension. Do not think of her at all. Improve your social proof and she will be just not able to attack you.

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