It has been three months since I arrived in my company to improve their processes. To be honest, most of the people don't really understand what I am doing, and neither did I when I started, but I guess that's the whole point.

At the end of the week I am supposed to present the improved process, so I sent the deck by e-mail and the procedure on how to deal with this new process to each coworker from my department who is going to be affected by this improvement.

Today, I received an e-mail from one of them who was laughing about the lengths of my presentation saying it was very long and complex for what the process is supposed to be about. However, my presentation was asked for and reviewed by my manager, who then approved it.

I answered him it was not very professional to make that kind of comment, but he made one again.

How do I deal with this situation in a professional way?

  • I don't follow. You sent them the deck for feedback or because they needed to add to it? – Myles Oct 19 '16 at 15:29
  • @Myles Because they needed to have the proper preparation before the meeting – MopMop Oct 19 '16 at 15:31
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    Ok thank you for all the little comments, I think this is going a little bit far. I might close the question if that helps making the situation better. I had an issue, I got the answer that I wanted. Although thank you for the good english :) – MopMop Oct 19 '16 at 15:55
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    Comments removed. Remember to be nice and keep The Workplace professional. – Monica Cellio Oct 20 '16 at 1:02
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    @MopMop Just so I understand: You requested this co-worker do some preparations for your presentation. They came back with a complaint that doing the preparations using the provided materials was much more difficult than expected. You interpret this complaint as malicious in some way. Do I have that correct? – Myles Oct 20 '16 at 18:13
up vote 65 down vote accepted

This is going to be difficult, but I would suggest doing something your coworker would not expect. Turn it around. Meet with your coworker in person and with your best professional smile, tell him that you've been giving it some thought and considered that perhaps an opposing view was warranted.

Then you look him in the eye and ask him for suggestions. Ask for where to improve. Ask how he would do things different.

Be humble (or at least act humble). It sounds to me like the guy is rather insecure and wants to make you react. In other words, a bully. They do exist in the workplace too. Since the bully is a coworker, you can use this as an opportunity to co-opt him into helping you.

This basically puts him on the spot. He either assists you and gives you advice (which you aren't obligated to take anyway) and tries to at least appear to assist you or he refuses and/or continues to ridicule which you will also take note of in case you need it at a later date.

Yes, you want to destroy him and who wouldn't? But in his own asshole way, he may actually have a point or two on some things. Regardless, he won't be expecting you to ask for help, but since he offered criticism he's pretty much volunteered.

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    This is great advice in general as well. Turn adversity into an advantage or learn from it whenever possible. – user30031 Oct 19 '16 at 22:23
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    See Ben Franklin Effect (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Franklin_effect) – prototype Oct 20 '16 at 3:28
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    This Answer is so wise. Quite by accident I experienced this myself (in a meeting with the bosses), challenging a bully to justify their criticisms with constructive suggestions. In their own blustering clumsy way the person did indeed stumble on a helpful suggestion, so helpful that it transformed my work on that job to be dramatically easier to manage and much more efficient and more pleasant. This advice seems so ironic or unlikely, but it is powerful not only in that it keeps you calm and in the driver’s seat but also just might yield fruitful benefits. – Basil Bourque Oct 20 '16 at 5:49
  • Kill them with kindness. He won't know how to react, and it may change his perspective of your work, to see you more as a contributor, and not an adversary to be opposed. – StockB Oct 20 '16 at 16:54
  • This advice goes all the way back to Solomon. when he said do not repay evil with evil and If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For in doing so you will heap coals of fire on his head, If the person is basically good, he'll change his ways, if bad, it will annoy him to no end – Richard U Oct 20 '16 at 20:19

I answered him it was not very professional to make that kind of comment, however he started again... How to deal with this situation in a professional way ?

Ignore the jerks, focus on your boss instead.

People in general don't like change. And there will always be someone (or several someones) who will fight change any way they can. They aren't worth your time at this early stage.

Next time, don't bother to comment that someone's email was unprofessional - that just brings you down to their level and encourages tit for tat bickering.

Instead, concentrate on the fact that your presentation was approved by your manager. In the end, that's by far the most important aspect.

Prepare for your presentation. Make sure for yourself that the length fits within the parameters of the amount of time you have to present. Then go give a great presentation and knock them dead.

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    I'm willing to bet the jerk in question had some experience in the area and wanted to be acknowledged. It's like if you know a lot about fixing computers and someone else in the office goes to your coworker for help that doesn't seem to know as much as you. In this case the "jerk" handled it in an immature way. He should have thanked you for your effort and opened a dialogue for improvements. Either way I think OP can either ignore the immature response or respond with "Thanks for your feedback, I'm open to suggestions on how to improve it." – The Muffin Man Oct 19 '16 at 17:32
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    In my experience, some people specifically hold back information that would help the presentation so they can attack you with it when you present. These jerks are a lot more interested in showing how important they are than in actually make things better for everyone. The fact that you might change something they have nice and kushy is a factor too (maybe you find that a process they spend 4 easy hours on could be automated, for example). Joe is absolutely right that, focus on the job you were given and do it well. Be prepared for sharp criticism and don't let them sandbag you! – corsiKa Oct 19 '16 at 18:16
  • This advice is good but would only work if the boss didn't throw him under the bus if the team expresses dissatisfaction – user13655 Oct 21 '16 at 4:04

It's unclear how this person was "laughing" in your description. Did they write "ha ha" in the email or use emoticons or something? Did you hear them laugh about it is some other context? My experience is that a lot of people cannot handle critical feedback about their work and interpret it as a personal affront. One of the big problems with email (and other written communication, such as this one) is they lack the visual and auditory cues that add a lot of context to a message. Our imagination will often fill in those gaps for us without us realizing it.

If you are basing all of this on an email conversation, you should probably take a deep breath and reassess the entire situation. Consider that if this person is giving honest critical feedback, responding in the way you did is extremely unprofessional. If this person carries clout in the organization, this could have some severe negative repercussions for you in that organization.

I once had a subordinate who would regularly accuse other people of being unprofessional and 'attacking him'. It became clear that this was all in his head and really these were completely normal and acceptable critiques, advice, and clarifications. Once this was realized, he was let go with very little ceremony as he was being disruptive and creating a hostile environment for his co-workers.

You might want to read this post and consider if you might be perceived in the highly negative way the subject is viewed.

If you really want to get on top of this, you should meet with the person face-to-face or on on a phone call if that is not possible. The subject of the conversation should be "I understand you have some concerns about my presentation. I would like to discuss your concerns and how you think I could address them." If the person is sincere, then you can listen and determine whether you agree. Perhaps even if you don't you can make a concession or two in order to placate this person. If this person is really trying to insult you, this will allow you to firmly assert that you are not intimidated and in control of the situation. At no point should you engage in an argument. Listen to the what he or she has to say, get any clarification you need and say something like "thank you, I will take your feedback into consideration".

At the end of the day, whether or not you like this person, it's better to have them as a friend or at least a neutral relationship than to have an enemy. There's really no upside to being hostile to people in your organization. If this person is a jerk and you take the high-road, people will look at the other person and say "what's his/her problem?" If you get dragged into a fight or a war, then they will see you as part of the problem.

As always, there are several options

  1. Privately shut them down. Explain that you did as asked, if they have a problem to take it up with your boss, and that as this affects them they should proably pay attention to it.
  2. Address the issues they raised as part of your presentation. Build an FAQ section into your presentation. Include no names, but answer each question you've had back in a calm an professional manner. This will reduce the number of questions that you get asked at the end.
  3. Destroy them. When you give your presentation, lay into them about how they might not understand it. Highlight that they said it was "complex" and offer to get the local schoolkids come in to help them grasp the concepts.

Do not do number 3 (ever), but it's ok to want to do it.

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    4. Ignore the comments and don't address them unless they persist. – David K Oct 19 '16 at 16:01
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    It is natural to want to do 3, but not okay. Even outside of a moral framework, if you don't put that desire aside, it will manifest as an action you will regret. – jpmc26 Oct 19 '16 at 22:39

First you state this:

It has been three months now I arrived in my company to improve their processes.

Then you state this:

I answered him it was not very professional to make that kind of comment, however he started again… How to deal with this situation in a professional way?

Your co-worker might be a part of the “process” that needs to be “improved.”

If you have been hired to improve processes at a company and your boss is aware of this and encourages you to create a presentation that will improve processes and a co-worker (meaning someone who is not your boss is complaining; no matter how valid their “complaint” might be) is complaining about it, maybe you need to remember what your job is: Improve processes. And perhaps this co-worker will soon be a former co-worker when they either leave, are demoted or dismissed.

At the end of the day a company is a workplace and a workplace is a job and most sane/rational people will accept anything that makes work easier for them. If your co-worker finds “ease” in fostering bad practices that make everyone work harder to deal with, that is their problem… Not yours.

Keep on pushing forward in your efforts.

And if at the end of the day processes don’t change and co-workers still deride and demean your efforts? It might be a sign that your company’s management knows there is a problem but are ineffective at changing the issue so you might then decided you did your best and should move onto another role elsewhere.

Improving a process does not mean it should be lengthy and someone wrote just because the boss approves it does not make your process is right (been there done that). If you have not heard of lean, you might want to investigate it and also at the same time perform value stream mapping. When you send out information, you need to be prepared for criticism no matter how much it hurts. If you cannot take this then maybe this is not the right job for you.

It is not fair when one puts hours of work into something and have someone else start picking it apart. You have to be mature enough to accept that maybe just maybe the way you are defining this new process could use some help. Sounds like you are getting your feelings hurt when you should be learning and incorporating your peers opinions who have been there a lot longer than you.

  • Ah ah no worries I have heard about Lean and 6 sigma, and for my process I VSM the current process. I am very much open for criticism when it is constructive. The problem is that automatizing their tasks is not something that they want, and the way it is getting automatized is for the management to add up more tasks they have to take care of. That do not please them. – MopMop Oct 20 '16 at 14:39

I would bet this co-worker is known for making 'funny comments' and that people don't put a lot of weight on his words. Ignore him.

If you feel the presentation informs at the proper pace, don't worry about it. If you're speaking and presenting, then start skipping bits if you sense the audience is keeping up.

You will undo yourself if you skip fundamental points in an effort to limit the presentation to an arbitrary length.

  • I would like to but he's the kind of guy that have already told me that if I have mispelt sometihng on my presentation he would say that it is because I am blonde. Very misogynist. – MopMop Oct 20 '16 at 12:32
  • @MopMop The world is full of jackasses. Don't grant him power over you. And if the sexist comments become too hard to ignore, then talk to your HR staff. But that card can't be picked up once it is played, so consider carefully. – Tony Ennis Oct 20 '16 at 22:23

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