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We just had our company lunch and we bought some donuts packed into small little boxes from our excess team fund. As most of us were too full, they told me to bring some of it back or they will go bad. There were about a dozen boxes so I took one. Some of my friends took some and it was quickly given out to everyone who wants to take them back. One of our admins felt that the donuts should have been distributed more evenly. She made quite a scene around the office demanding we return the donuts and would not let the matter go even after my trying to ignore the problem for a few hours.

She waited for me as she wanted me to return some donuts and followed me all the way to my meeting. So I tried explaining we shouldn't be rigid and dictate what anyone should do in the office but she kept saying she was right and she was being fair and everyone should stick to her rules. I lost my temper when she refused to listen to my explanation so I answered back and you could say we had an argument. Luckily there wasn't anyone in the room yet.

After my meeting I am surprised to find a sarcastic email from her. A few names was dragged into the email loop as well as I may have brought it up during the argument.

I have to apologize to those people who was in the email loop in the morning as they did nothing wrong except took some extra donuts home. I told my manager as soon as I could to explain the situation. Luckily, she was kind enough to understand the situation and told me not to worry.

I am relatively new compared to her and some expenses claims in the office is handled by her. I fear that she would make things difficult for me when I need to make any expense claim or she would just use "Company Policies" to scrutinize and threaten me every time I am over or bordering the line. Other people I work with have claimed she has done this before. I just do not want this to erupt into an office war between her.

I fear that she is going to escalate this issue potentially dragging higher management and/or HR into this which could be bad for me. How can I defuse this situation before that happens?

  • @Chad Thanks for the edit. I was actually asleep after I replied to you. Now I have to face the reality of what happened yesterday. – Cryssie Apr 24 '14 at 22:19
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    Just give her your donuts. Is it worth all that? – Amy Blankenship Apr 25 '14 at 0:48
  • Can you clarify: Did you take some donuts home? Did she make the scene the next day? – geekrunner May 1 '14 at 23:45
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This answer was a response to an earlier version of this question.

I would recommend that you not initiate any contact, but if she confronts you, you should try to maintain as "grown-up" an attitude as possible. Try to anticipate what she might say to you, and craft a mature, professional response to it. Don't rely on your ability to improvise, because it is too easy for emotions to fly out of control. And have a get out of jail free card to play if you feel that things are slipping out of control.

Some examples:

(said with as much calm sympathy as you can muster) "[Name], I understand that you are upset about this and you just can't seem to let it go, and if you feel that there is a real issue that needs to be addressed you should bring it up with [your boss, her boss, HR, whoever is appropriate]. I'd be glad to comply with whatever he/they recommend."

That puts the burden of "proof" for the "rightness" she claims on her. If she is in the right, management will back her up, right?

Slide the responsibility for dealing with this woman's emotional instability (and it sounds like she's got some mental problems) onto someone with the authority to deal with her. If you simply behave in a professional manner and refuse to engage her you will be doing yourself a big favor. If she is the problem that you have described, the only power that she has is the power to upset people. If you can deny her that power, then she has none.

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    Hi Francine. This question was put on hold and then edited to make it more suitable for the site. The focus has changed some, which affects your answer. Please take a look. (We try not to invalidate existing answers when improving questions, but in this case there didn't seem to be much hope for that. Sorry.) – Monica Cellio Apr 24 '14 at 18:38
  • I'm not sure I would change anything in my answer. Since you are not this woman's supervisor, it isn't your responsibility to bear the burden of placating her. If she does start to harass you, just make sure you are in the right (ie no fudging on your expense reports) and that your boss knows what is going on. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Apr 28 '14 at 17:40
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    She sounds a bit of a bully. Definitely has control issues. Is she targeting you alone, or does she do this to everyone? If the former, you might ask "I know this isn't about a few packs of donuts worth maybe five dollars, do you have a problem with me personally?" If it is simply a case of personal dislike because of something, this could clear the air. And if she is targeting everyone, eventually someone with pull is going to get fed up with her. Just keep your head down and be generically apologetic "I'm sorry this upsets you, maybe you need to talk to someone" – Francine DeGrood Taylor Apr 28 '14 at 17:47

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