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I am working with a senior in my team. Recently, during a meeting, I was asking her a question that I doubt the methodology she proposed is necessary, and would like to make some suggestions. My question was expressed in a calm tone: "I am wondering if XXX is necessary. Maybe we can ... (I put ellipsis here since my part is over from this point on)".

From the first words came back from her, things are going south. She raised her voice immediately, and was talking like she wants to quarrel rather than to discuss. Her attitude was so rude and ferocious, even I smiled to her and suggested we can find another time to discuss this, she just kept talking in high key and blames me.

She even let me to do this job alone, according to my own idea (which I was not be able to talk about so far). This sounds like she's okay with my proposal, but you can imagine how ugly it looked like under that situation. And all these happened in front of my and her leaders and other colleagues. At last, my boss had to smooth things over and stopped her.

I would call this is workplace violence. I feel so offended though she didn't use any bad language. I also feel I was not respected. Person usually don't talk to others who he/she respect like that. This "communication" made me feel that a junior like me has no rights to question her. Even I never think of challenging her. All a junior could do is "Shut up and do your work as told!"

In order to give a better historical background of this senior, you can refer to my previous questions here and here.

I mean nothing personal to her. She is a proud person, thus not very easy to go along with. I sent her gift after new year to ease the relationship. Seems it was received as a sign of weakness.

There are at least three projects that I have to work with her. Now, how can I deal with her in the future?

marked as duplicate by CMW, jcmeloni, Telastyn, Jim G., Ross Drew Jan 11 '14 at 0:37

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    @CMW Thanks for the tips. I've looked into the link. It is woman-on-woman issue, and is different from my situation since I am a male. Also, the answers seem not fitting my problem. But thanks anyway. :) – DiveDiveDive Jan 10 '14 at 20:52
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    I see. I suggested this duplicate because my answer to you would have basically been the fourth paragraph of Meredith' answer here: Demonstrate you are no threat but want her and the whole team to look better, do better work and be better. – CMW Jan 10 '14 at 21:00
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    What country are you in? Some countries have a much higher cultural "requirement" for respecting authority and questioning a senior in the middle of a meeting with lots of management may not be a good cultural strategy. In some cultures, you would have been extremely rude in publicly questioning her. In others, there is no such thing. It's not possible to answer this question effectively without knowing cultural context. – enderland Jan 10 '14 at 21:09
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    @DiveDiveDive To be blunt (and apologies in advance if you are offended): You have to start taking ownership of the situation. I just re-read your other questions and on both you accepted answers whose bottom line is: Don't get pushed around by her but learn to work with her. Now it's your turn to act on the advice. You can't come back every time and ask how to deal with this person that nobody else here knows. We can only give you this general piece of advice: Don't get pushed around by her, but don't go against her. Work with her. Own the situation instead of buying into the blame game. – CMW Jan 10 '14 at 21:18
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    @DiveDiveDive To me this is an issue of relative, or perceived, position one to another. You can change this relative position, by moving her relative to you (revolting, punching her weak point, thus attacking her) or by moving yourself relative to her (being more assertive, actually moving to a different department or even moving towards her by actually making an effort to help her plans, all without attacking). Either will change the situation. – CMW Jan 10 '14 at 21:30
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You can't change someone else's basic personality. She is pushy and rude and likes to yell. Everyone around her takes her behavior with a grain of salt and they don't think less of you because she is a jerk. They will think more of you if you remain calm.

So the only thing under your control is how you behave around her. This is particularly true since you are positionally junior to her. Your goal should be to behave as professionally as possible, so that people respect you and think she is an idiot. The more calm you are, the worse she looks.

I tend to chalk such behavior up to stress and ignore it. It helps sometimes to realize that the stress may be nothing related to work. Would you feel better if you knew she was shouting because she was getting a divorce from an abusive person or if it was because her mother was dying? Sometimes just realizing that it may have nothing whatsoever to do with you can help you respond more calmly and let it go. I am not going to waste my energy on worrying about how to deal with someone like that or in being insulted. I tend to get assigned to work for the shouter (a very senior manager) in my workplace often; he likes my work and he knows I can deal with his outbursts. I don't object because he is also the person who tends to manage the most challenging and interesting projects. This is also a person that I have learned alot from and respect from a technical (if not personality) perspective and that would not have happened if I had objected strongly to the behavior. I've also gotten alot of monetary awards because the projects this person manages tend to go well.

If you don't want to do that the options are:

  • Tell her yourself directly that you don't appreciate the behavior. Do it calmly and above all privately.
  • Tell your boss that she is upsetting you with her bahavior and be prepared to give specific details of time and place and exactly what was said. (do the first step first.)
  • Complain to HR (this will generally get you regarded badly in your organization if others find out unless she is a danger to you and you have done the first two steps first.)
  • Find another job (but be aware there will usually be someone else hard to get along with in most organizations).

The ones who behave badly all the time tend to be allowed this behavior. (But boy if you are normally quiet and get pushed beyond endurance and scream at someone, watch out!) I don't like that, but it is the way the work world tends to work. This is especially true of the person is someone who continually delivers the work, on time, on budget and correct. And you don't know, she may have been counseled to learn to handle her anger better.

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    Sometimes just realizing that it may have nothing whatsoever to do with you can help you respond more calmly and let it go These words will make interacting with other people much easier in ALL contexts, whether work, family, or even going to the store and dealing with crappy customer service. – enderland Jan 10 '14 at 21:51
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    @enderland, I didn't realize it until my boyfriend died and I was continually apologizing for my behavior (behavior many people didn't thing was terrible but was way out of character for me) how much personal stress can affect you. Now I try to give others the benefit of the doubt. – HLGEM Jan 10 '14 at 22:06
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    @HLGEM Thanks for your answer and sharing your personal experience. That is really helpful. I feel peace and Inclusiveness from your words. I'll try to deal with it calmly and not to think about it obsessively. Thanks a lot! :) – DiveDiveDive Jan 10 '14 at 22:36
  • "They will think more of you if you remain calm." - No. They will probably not care about OP's behaviour at all, until it impacts them. – PKG Oct 25 '16 at 17:33

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