What's the proper way to deal with an unpleasant coworker who's older than you and has worked there longer?
October 22, 2011 3:21 PM Subscribe
What's the best way to handle a situation where you feel a coworker isn't treating you as well as they should?
posted by Pericardium to work & money (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The coworker in question is frequently condescending, corrects me on things I already know how to do, corrects me on things I don't in a rude manner, and gives unsolicited advice, also in a rude manner. Ex she'll say, "You need to be more organized," or "You need to get it together." She isn't my manager/boss in any way.
She's apologized once a few weeks ago and said "I don't mean to seem mean, I'm just trying to help," so she's at least partially aware of how she comes off. I basically said, "Thanks for staying to help me out," she responded with a snarky comment and when I didn't respond she apologized. She's buddy-buddy with everyone else and generally doesn't point it out (or jokes about them with it) when they make mistakes. But I'm a special case because
1) I'm the newest person there, I've only been there a few months and everyone else has been there 4+ years.
2) I'm also the youngest person there 95% of the time. The person in question is at least 35 years older than I am, and the youngest person I work with regularly is 7 years older than me. (I'm 21, in case it's relevant.)
I can't say if that has anything to do with her attitude toward me, but because of those factors I don't feel comfortable directly pointing out that I feel she could be nicer to me. I usually respond by saying, "Okay," whenever she gives the unsolicited advice or gets on me about something when I already know what I'm doing. I still try to treat her the same way as everyone else; saying hello, goodbye, asking her questions (though I've started avoided doing that last one.)
I don't want to stir up any feathers or come across as unable to handle unpleasant situations. But I also don't want to come across as a doormat. I was hoping the "kill her with kindness" approach would work, which I tried by acting like she was right that I was about to do such and such thing the wrong way even when I wasn't. But I'm worried that by doing that I might be shooting myself in the foot down the road because for all I know she could be telling people, "Pericardium still doesn't know how to do this," and that could jeopardize my job. I've thought about just saying, "You don't have to be so mean about it," or just defending myself and going, "Yeah, I was about to do that," or "Give me a chance to do this before you correct me, please," but I don't want to be seen as an obstinate person.
This person's behavior towards me effects me so much that I've felt like crying a few times while I was working with her. I feel 10x more stressed and I find myself taking unnecessary/slower methods to do things just so she doesn't gripe. For example, I'll have already done the prerequisite to Y ten minutes ago. She doesn't realize I have and when I start to do Z says, "You can't do that, you have to wait ten minutes after you do Y." I'll wait the ten minutes all over again just so I don't have to hear about it. Another example from a month ago is, person X trained me that only some parts of Task H are necessary and that you can eyeball it. So I only do some of it, and Unpleasant Coworker complains that I have to do -all- of it. So now I do -all- of it no matter what when Unpleasant Coworker is around. But when person X does it their way Unpleasant Coworker doesn't say a word. And it isn't a matter of coworker X slacking, it's actually a waste of time to complete parts of task H if you look at it and see it doesn't need to be done.
It would be fine if she was just correcting me in a nice way; I work with other people and they've shown me how to do things I already know how to do but I never have problems with it because they're always pleasant about it. Even if she was occasionally grar about something it would be fine, it can be frustrating when you feel like someone isn't doing things right. But every time she talks to me it's something negative and I usually get it from her all night in that same condescending manner.
I'm not only interested in advice on what to do in this particular situation, but also what to do in this type of environment in general. I'm completely new to the workforce and I know everyone's probably experienced something like this. I also know this probably isn't going to be the first time I'm the new, inexperienced person wondering if it's OK to stand up to someone who's been there a lot longer.
Sorry for all the "Task H" wording, I'd be terrified if someone from work stumbled across this and knew it was me.