I'm working as a docent at a University and have a good communication with my collegues. Recently a new person was employed as a jurist in the Uni, and from the beginning she has been unlikely arrogant, showing a sort of power and putting down the collegues (I learnt she came as a protegee of the rector, maybe an explanation of the attitude), at the same time sucking up to superiors. What I notice as a response from other collegues, is fear and wonder, so they mostly suck up to her.

I do not have a lot of everyday contact with juristic department, but from time to time I do. And I meet this person every day, many times, on a corridor, in the Uni cafe, at the meetings, etc. At the very beginning she once rudely put me down and I kindly put her on ''her place''. So from that time she either turns her head away or waits that I greet and then doesn't respond, or just somehow superiorly nods her head. I am still persistant in saying ''hello'' because it should be the basics of being nice to any collegue, but it's at the same time creepy to get an arrogant reaction. It is getting very unpleasant to bump into her, because all other employees always greet each other, and I'm trying to figure out which attitude would be correct from my side, not to fall on her level and at the same time to maintain some minimum of politeness.

I would appreciate any advice. Thank you very much!

  • I had to look up docent as it's not used in the same manner in the US. A docent is a professor at a university, similar to an assistant or associate professor (depending on the country) in the US. I assume the jurist mistook the OP as having a lower ranking and the OP corrected her mistake. – mkennedy Sep 14 '15 at 16:58

While this may be a tough task; I would really suggest you continue to treat her with the same respect and attitude you treat all your collegues with.

If other collegues ask you about problems in your relationship with her, just state that you personally don't have any problem with her. If other collegues want to call your attention on her behaving this way towards you, just state that you didn't thought about it that way and that you don't think there is any problem at all.

As soon as you start treating her different then your other collegues or you admit there is a problem in your relationship towards her, you will only worsen the situation. Your first reaction about not falling to her level is exactly right here.

The elegance in this solution is, that while she clearly wants to express her cheapness towards you, you just act like you don't realize / bother at all.

YMMW: This is a strategy that has worked for me in the past in cases where people where behaving unprofessionally rude towards me, but I would not like to or could not "take up the fight".

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  • 1
    This is a great approach. The only thing I'd add is my own personal little "trick:" When they are overtly hostile or short, especially in front of others, close the conversation with, "I hope your day gets better." It acknowledges that they must be upset, but that you don't know what it is, so you're assuming it was something that happened earlier. It will "plant the seed" that the issue is with her, and not with you. It also leaves her "free" to drop her attitude and join the group without having to account for her earlier actions. – Wesley Long Sep 14 '15 at 19:26

"Dealing with arrogant people takes a lot of patience and a great deal of self-control. Learning to identify the people who have this trait and avoiding them as much as possible will protect your own reputation, whereas confronting the arrogant person may only make you look worse." (Investopedia).

What works for me is I skip the small talk with such people, treat them with respect, remain calm and keep my conversations brief and to the point with them.

Below are some tips and pointers that might help you.

How to Deal With an Arrogant Co-worker Who Drives You Up the Wall:

1) Look Within Yourself

First, let’s talk about you. It’s one thing to be occasionally annoyed or aggravated by an arrogant co-worker. As long as it’s not frequent and isn’t disrupting your life, you don’t need to be too concerned.

It’s another thing, though, to become increasingly agitated or absolutely consumed with frustration and anger. If you have trouble concentrating, lose sleep, or find yourself complaining frequently and vehemently about the offending co-worker, you have to figure out how to overcome your feelings before they wreck your career...

If you feel completely at peace with who you are, then another person’s quirks should simply be amusing or, at worst, a bit aggravating—not maddening, and certainly not consuming. So be honest with yourself about why Braggy Obnoxious bothers you. You don’t have to tell anyone else about it, but you need to understand it. Your awareness is your secret weapon, which leads to my next recommendation.

1) Don’t Hand Over Your Power

Reacting poorly to a person’s arrogance won’t change anything about it. In fact, if your arrogant colleague—or any problematic colleague, for that matter—figures out how to push your buttons, you’ve handed over some of your power. If that person is both arrogant and evil, he just might use that knowledge to antagonize you and then sit back and watch you combust. Then you end up looking like the jerk, while your colleague continues being as arrogant as ever.

Instead of reacting, strive to understand why a person gets to you so much, which can help you regain control and refocus your energy.

3) Minimize Your Time Together and Keep Things Focused

Even when you have the inner peace of Po the Kung-fu Panda, you’ll probably still feel some annoyance with certain personality types. You are human, after all, and you aren’t likely to click with everyone.

Working on a project with that person? Set meetings with strict start and end times. Do your best to butt those meetings up against other meetings so you must leave at the pre-determined end time.

Remember, you can only control yourself. You cannot control other people—no matter how much you may want to—but you can allow them to control you if you hand your energy and attention over to them. Focus on yourself, and minimize your time with problematic colleagues. You will be calmer, and it will show in the quality of your work.

(Source of above points)

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Many of us have had to learn this the hard way at some point. I suggest saying a cheery good morning and not expecting a response. Just pretend they mustn't have heard you.

The most important thing of all, as you say, is never to sink to their level. Such people will not be above recording conversations and selectively playing them back to their management or, perhaps worse, to other colleagues. We can all do this with mobile phones now. (It's an old ploy that has been used in politics in general since the invention of recording equipment.)

The answer is always have your objectives clear for any interaction. If you know precisely your purpose for whatever you happen to be doing then you can say, for example:

I'd like to talk but I have an appointment.

I really want to discuss the matter without getting sidetracked - it's important to the business.

I always try not to get into personal discussions at work.

I'm sorry you feel that way. I did not intend to offend.

I'll certainly give some thought to your ideas.


This keeps your conscience and reputation clean.

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