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There is this one coworker at work who is responsible for the end stage of a certain process. In other words if you have questions that documentation does not answer, you have to go to her to get the answer.

At the same time, said coworker and I end up causing friction with one another. She used to be my manager and I moved to another team in large part because her team shrunk the moment I joined it and she treated questions as "focus on your work" as opposed to "hey he hit the edge of his knowledge, maybe he needs my help". So I took the full brunt of the team work as the new guy coming in barely learning something with a manager who saw ramping me up to the team as an obstruction. Regardless, here is the scenario.

I once had to follow a certain process on the wiki. There were subtle details that I screwed up that the wiki was not explicitly clear on. So I ask her a question about said ambiguity (note: In the question I didn't originally state whether I read her wiki or not, didn't think it was needed).

She then responds with "Did you read the wiki?".

I, upon further realization saw what the difference was and corrected it in the wiki, in addition to another detail that I knew was wrong. I responded to her stating as much.

She then responds with

Mr. Last name

Please do not touch the WIKI. Our team controls the PROCESS. Follow the other email sent by teammate.

The email sent by teammate was sent after I already did said action that teammate proposed. Luckily I had a two week PTO vacation the next day, so a teammate took on the task of finishing up the process while I was out. But I will likely have to ask said person a question again since she is responsible for this process. I really, really want to avoid interaction with her because I feel like I will get needless hostility, but it may be necessary should I stumble upon an ambiguity again.

Question

How do I interact with a coworker that is necessary to talk to, yet responds with hostility.

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Be polite. Be respectful. Be professional. Make sure you read the Wiki or whatever other documentation you're expected to use and read. Then explain "I read the Wiki but it seems ambiguous on this point." or "I read the Wiki but it doesn't address this point." or whatever the case may be.

Your career is going to be full of talking to and dealing with people you don't necessarily care for or get along with. Get used to it and find your method for talking to and dealing with those people in a polite, respectful, and professional manner.

Regardless of what some people may say, and regardless of how this person treats you, nothing positive has ever been gained by being a jerk.

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    Yes, do not let other peoples actions dictate yours or impact on your professionalism – Kilisi Jun 25 '20 at 9:14
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said coworker and I end up causing friction with one another.

This happens usually when things are not explicitly clarified and not properly solved.

How do I interact with a coworker that is necessary to talk to, yet responds with hostility.

First of all, what you perceive as hostility might be only imperfect human nature. Maybe bad health. Or nay other reason.


The solution

During years of experience, I found out that the best way to deal with these kinds of issues is to invite the person to a face-2-face meeting, and openly discuss what is gong on.

Remember that at all times you need to be respectful and non-aggressive. Also control the tone of your voice. Remember to breath deeply and remain calm, no-matter what.

Express your thoughts and your feelings ABOUT THE SITUATION. Do NOT make statements about the other person.

E.g., instead of:

You are always hostile to me

use:

I think that our communication is not OK, since we cannot easily reach agreements.

Let her present her point of view. Ask questions for clarifications. Assume that everything she says is true - because from her point of view is most like true. When your opinions do not match, explain your point of view, and ask how you two can find a common understanding.

In time, you will learn to understand each other more, and to trust each other more, and you may end up liking to work with that person.


She then responds with "Did you read the wiki?".

And you should calmly answer something like:

Yes I did. It gave me this info and this info, but it does not explain these details and these details. Are they explained somewhere else? Is is possible to have these details added to the Wiki, so other colleagues in the future do not have the same problem? Is there anything I can do to help?

BTW, "Did you read the Wiki?" does not sound aggressive at all. To be aggressive, it should have been asked like "Why did you not read the f&^$ Wiki before coming to me?".


From a scientific point of view, you need to study and train more in the following fields:

  • giving and receiving feedback;
  • conflict avoidance;
  • conflict management;
  • conflict resolution;
  • communication.
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  • Oh, without doubt, using the tone of voice in English can easily make "Did you read the wiki" aggressive. – Solar Mike Jun 25 '20 at 9:01
  • @SolarMike: One one hand, you are right. But I recently has the unfortunate opportunity to understand that manifestation of anger might not be qual to aggressiveness. One can be angry without being aggressive - IMHO. Then it is also true that the manifestation of anger itself should be controlled as much as possible, but that it is another discussion. – virolino Jun 25 '20 at 9:27
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You will surely meet a lot of people like this and by no choice you will be interacting with them.

Even how much unprofessional they will treat you, don't follow the same trend. Be professional. If you need to converse with them, still be polite and respectful. If these kind of people will see you treating them the same as before(not being rude) not matter how much they were rude to you, they probably will come to see you in another light. Since I believe that bad impressions doesn't last long. Although I quit the company when it first happened to me but I learned my lesson well.

Points:

  • Interacting with them with polite way doesn't mean you want to be friends with them but rather you want to make the work flow smooth. It works most of the case.
  • Saying sorry although you are not wrong, doesn't mean you are below, it means you are sensible enough not to make it as major issue (and choose the right time when to say it)
  • Hold your grounds when it comes on what you believe but also try understand on they believe in to. Try to meet halfway, as much as you can.

If everything fails, at least you can say to yourself you have done what you can so you won't have those kind of heavy feelings when you move forward.

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Also: "this is what Upper-Level Management™ is for!"

Anytime that you perceive that you are having any sort of "conflict" with any other co-worker, and/or that such co-worker is having a "conflict" with you, then there is one "HR approved" way to handle it: "escalate it."

Present the issue upward, as level-handedly as you can manage. And then, expect a resolution to thereafter be handed "downward," which (both of) you must be prepared to "professionally accept." Both of you must be fully prepared to be judged to be "in the wrong." ("Suck it up, buttercup." Or, maybe not ... Anyway, life goes on.)

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  • I'm pretty sure that the last thing upper management wants is to get involved in a spat between coworkers. Much better if you can work it out without involving management. – Richter65 Jun 29 '20 at 23:08

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