9

I am in the unfortunate situation where a colleague who literally sits at my bank of desks constantly triggers my anxiety.

This has progressed over time and can be anything from: commenting negatively on emails sent, passive aggressive responses to reasonable questions, and trying to micromanage the team - which sets my anxiety off.

At this point I should mention that this colleague isn't a manager and doesn't have any greater experience than anyone else in the team.

After speaking with a few others there appears to be a common theme arising, everyone feels the same.

I have raised this with my line manager but nothing has come from this, in fact I feel this has made things worse. Paraphrasing him, he said "I'll have a word with him [the colleague] but at the end of the day unfortunately you just need to deal with it; please push back to me if you start to feel stressed again". I've not mentioned it again. My line manager (who is based in the office) is retiring in 6 days (and counting). This is going to leave the team with a remote manager in the interim until a replacement is hired.

Hopefully there is some course of action I haven't thought of that I can deploy here.

I really enjoy my role, but if this continues I feel I'll need to start looking for a new role, for the sake of my mental health.

  • Could you please provide more details behind this sentence "I have raised this with my line manager but nothing has come from this, in fact I feel this has made things worse."? What was your manager's response? How or why is it worse now? – Charmander Oct 22 at 10:43
  • @iLuvLogix Thanks. I am nervous about the HR route. I have thought about this but it make the situation so much worse in my head. – Karm Oct 22 at 10:46
  • @Charmander Yes. Paraphrasing here but "ill have a word with him but at the end of the day unfortunately you just need to deal with it, but please push back to me if you start to feel stressed again" I've not mentioned it again. – Karm Oct 22 at 10:46
  • @Karm mention it again. If you consider leaving over it you have not much to lose – user180146 Oct 22 at 10:52
  • 4
    I really appreciate all the responses to this question so far, thank you all. I have readdressed this issue with my manager and we have a team meeting at 1400 to discuss in an open forum. I am in a total panic about it but hopefully It will result in some action. I have also contacted the company mental health first aider – Karm Oct 22 at 12:34
16

The unfortunate fact is behavioral issues are best dealt with by the people in the room at the time. That means being assertive and making comments like the following in the moment:

  • "Let's please avoid negative comments."
  • "There's no need for passive aggressiveness. It was a reasonable question."
  • "We have a good plan here and I think everyone knows their tasks. No need to belabor the details."

Often, people are aware of how they are received in general, but have trouble recognizing specific instances in the moment that are problematic. These sorts of comments are often enough to gradually change the behavior for the better. Also, you having a plan to do something specific can help with your anxiety about the situation.

Also, sometimes this sort of behavior is a result of not having a more productive venue to provide feedback. If there is a more productive process, point it out to him. "Why don't you add that frequently asked question to the documentation, so it won't come up as often?" "That criticism would have been more appropriate in the design review." "Could we wait to talk about that until the retrospective?" If there isn't a more appropriate venue, push to create one.

When is it helpful to involve a manager, and how can you make that intervention more fruitful? When you have tried things like the above and can bring specific examples of ongoing push back you are receiving. "Bob is insisting on this change even though it was discussed and dismissed in the design review which he skipped." "Bob keeps responding angrily when I point out his passive aggressive comments."

  • Nice answer, and I'd only add that it might also be good for OP to tell the other team members of their intention. Not so they can all gang up on this person, but so they feel comfortable when it happens when they're around and so they feel comfortable doing it when they're not all together. – user70848 Oct 22 at 18:51
  • "Often, people are aware of how they are received in general, but have trouble recognizing specific instances in the moment that are problematic." this is a life lesson for more than just this case. A programmer that spins his wheels when stuck instead of asking for help. Someone in a customer facing role who has trouble keeping their cool. A very intelligent person who doesn't realize they're making others feel dumb. Catching it in the moment is the only way to make things happen. – corsiKa Oct 22 at 19:49
6

The most important thing: you should check this with a professional. Mental health is important and conditions can be treated. My answer below will focus on your approach at work, since I'm not a mental health professional.

Based on the details you provided in your question, there are two fundamental problems here:

1) It seems it's not just you, and the behaviour of your colleague is impacting other people.

2) Your manager thinks that at the end of the day, you just "need to deal with it".

Your manager here needs to understand the first problem above. I don't know if you communicated that already, but if you haven't, you should, because it's a vital piece of information, and you should highlight it. That, in a way, will invalidate the response you were given.

You don't "need to deal with it". Your manager will have to deal with it, especially because it's not just you. It's the manager's responsibility to ensure the team works as a team, and that everyone feels comfortable. One rotten apple can spoil the whole barrel.

Your manager told you to talk re-raise it if you start feeling stressed again. Talk to your manager and highlight more people are impacted by this.

If your manager doesn't act and try to solve the problem, you can escalate it one level, but that's a conversation that might bring you undesired results. In the end, your mental health is more important than anything else, so if you are not getting the support you need from your manager, finding a company that will support you is most likely the best option.

Edit after your last comment:

The fact that your manager is retiring in 6 days is not trivial. I'd still re-raise the problem with your manager. But if there are no actions, you can try with the interim remote manager or the replacement, when this person is hired. Hopefully, the interim or new manager will be able to properly tackle the issue.

2

It sounds like a member of your department has been commenting negatively on emails sent, making passive aggressive responses to reasonable questions, and trying to micromanage the team. These are behavioural issues, and are just the kind of thing a manager would want - and would be able - to address.

What might have confused the issue here, based on the way the question was phrased, is that the manager could be responding to the idea that this is about 1) you and/or 2) your colleague.

If you were to frame the question as being about behaviour, your manager would have a clearer path to establish professional norms in their department. It's easy for a manager to see something as an interpersonal problem between staff when there are a lot of pronouns flying about - to the extent that they could miss a behavioural issue that needed addressing.

Meanwhile, look after yourself. If things have got as far as it seems, talking to a medical professional would be a useful thing to do.

0

Speak to a higher manager along with the rest of the team

Considering that your manager is retiring in 6 days and that they are unwilling (or unable) to help with this problem, your best option may be to speak to the person one level above your manager.

Perhaps the best way to do this would be to arrange a meeting with this person along with all of the other members of the team who feel the same way as you do. They can back you up on this individual's behaviour.

This should prompt a gentle warning to the person causing problems, and disciplinary action if they persist.

If this doesn't work, I'd recommend you take your skills elsewhere. It sounds like a toxic culture in this case, which no one needs.

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