Q. Ever since my position was upgraded, one of my co-workers has become belligerent and rude. “Carrie” refuses to say good morning or goodbye and she no longer responds to my emails about client issues. When I transfer calls, she answers her phone with an irritated “Yeah?” Most of the time, she barely acknowledges my existence.
Because this office only has three employees, Carrie’s negativity makes the environment very unpleasant. Our boss is a nonconfrontational type, so talking to him hasn’t helped. However, he said he would get involved if her attitude begins to affect the business. Now I dread going to work every day. What should I do?
A. Let’s start by considering what your “nonconfrontational” boss should have done. Since managers are responsible for controlling disruptive employees, dismissing your complaint was a gutless move. Instead, he should have called Carrie in for a serious chat and put an end to her sulky little tantrum.
Fortunately, however, his cowardly delaying tactic does provide an opening for you to revisit the issue. Because Carrie’s conduct creates obvious business problems, you can legitimately request your manager’s intervention.
For example: “I’m afraid the problem with Carrie has only gotten worse. Since she won’t answer my emails, I am unable to resolve certain client issues. Her rude response to transferred calls makes a bad impression on customers. Carrie doesn’t have to like me, but we do have to work together. Could you talk to her about this?”
Let’s hope your boss will finally grow a spine. But in any event, you need to understand that Carrie’s only objective is to get a reaction from you. Because passive-aggressive people are afraid to express feelings directly, they convey their resentment through childish pouting. So if this appears to upset you, Carrie will be delighted.
To eliminate this reward, you must ignore Carrie’s juvenile antics and act completely normal. Smile, be pleasant and always say good morning. When you transfer a call, disregard her surly greeting and simply state, “I have Mr. Smith on the line for you.”
Should Carrie fail to answer important emails, send them again and copy your manager. If there is still no reply, ask your boss to get the information from her. He will eventually tire of this game and tell her to cut it out. As long as you insure that Carrie’s cranky attitude never produces the desired result, odds are that she will gradually let it go.
Q. I am applying for a promotion that will be determined by an interview panel. Even though this position reports to my supervisor, she has no say in the decision. Unfortunately, she has already made it clear that she doesn’t think I’m a good fit for the job. Should I ask why she feels this way?
A. Regardless of whether you get promoted, requesting an honest assessment from your boss is an excellent idea. Schedule a time to discuss her view of your career potential and then develop a plan for addressing any concerns. She will undoubtedly appreciate your non-defensive approach. And if she makes some valid points, her feedback could help you be more successful.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”