How to deal with my coworker?
October 6, 2010 12:00 PM   Subscribe

What to do about a prejudiced coworker?

I've been working at a dry cleaner for a few months now. For the most part, I really enjoy the job. It basically consists in "tagging" customer clothing with instructions that tell our plant how to process them. I also check customers out at a cash register.

We keep logs at one of the locations, and I don't think I've ever heard any complaints about the quality of my work from any of the other shift workers (we all work in 6 hour, 1 person shifts), aside from 1. She's an older lady, who lives not far from the cleaner, and seems to be doing the job out of sheer boredom (she works 2 shifts a week, I work 5 - three at one location, two at another).

Over the course of my three months working here, she's complained about me to the bosses an inordinate number of time. She's also left me a string of shrill memos. Today, coming into work, I dreaded looking at the logbook, and with good reason. She's moved on to a new tactic, which is simply collecting invoices with slight errors, and circling my name in black ink.

Our customers generally find this woman to be endearing, from what I understand. The situation is extremely frustrating because I'm led to wonder if it's related to my race (I'm black). If so, I feel I should make my case to the owners, because I certainly don't want any of our customers to be mistreated by this woman in the same way.

Any thoughts, hivemind?
posted by matkline to Work & Money (44 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is she your supervisor in any way, either officially or unofficially? Other than her "seniority" I mean.

Presumably you know about her complaints about you because the bosses have spoken to you about them. What vibe do you get from the bosses on this? A "Yeah, she's blowing smoke but she's been here for years and she's old, don't worry about it" vibe, or a "We've been informed of these issues and we'd like to see you improve" vibe?
posted by Gator at 12:05 PM on October 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Do you know if this woman has criticized any other employees for the same types of issues? Maybe you should ask around among the other shift workers.

It's hard to tell whether she is racist from what you've written. I wouldn't jump to the conclusion, but if she seems to be specifically targeting you for behaviour that she accepts from other employees, then it's a possibility.
posted by barney_sap at 12:07 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seems to me you only know that she has a problem with you and you are are speculating that it's because of your race. I would say to your boss "Hey, [lady] has really been giving me a hard time a lot lately. If there's an issue with my work I'd love to hear it from you but if not could you ask her to leave me alone?"
posted by ghharr at 12:08 PM on October 6, 2010 [6 favorites]

The situation is extremely frustrating because I'm led to wonder if it's related to my race (I'm black).

Why? Nothing in your question indicates any racial motivation on her part. Regardless, I would suggest talking to your boss and asking if her actions are typical or if there's something you could be doing to improve your accuracy. More than likely your boss will tell you you're doing fine and not to worry about a prickly coworker. It's always best to be proactive.
posted by headnsouth at 12:08 PM on October 6, 2010

She may be prejudiced. She may just be a butthead. Either way, I would ignore her complaints and memos. Be polite and cordial when you have to be with her (if it makes it easier, you can pretend she's a customer), but don't take the bait. The only people who you need to answer to regarding your work are your supervisors/the owners.

And if you're a little more careful filling out the invoices, she can't use that against you.
posted by phunniemee at 12:11 PM on October 6, 2010

Do you have any reason to believe that this could be race related? Other than her work criticism of you, you don't give any information about how she behaves toward you. Does she talk to you? Are you friendly toward each other?

Old ladies (this is very ageist, forgive me) in my experience tend to be detail oriented, especially if they are bored or have been working at one place for a long time. She could be threatened by your younger, energetic presence (as if her job could be at stake). She could just think you are young and lazy for reasons other than your race.
posted by two lights above the sea at 12:11 PM on October 6, 2010

Most people don't need an excuse to be dicks. Talk to the owners about her behavior, and don't dilute your flat statement of the facts with speculation.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:11 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Talk to your boss. Tell her that you're feeling discriminated against. This should raise red flags.

If your boss won't do anything and you're really sold on the discrimination idea, you can file a complaint with your local civil rights office, but what you've described doesn't sound like a case that I'd want to take if I were a plaintiff's lawyer. Sounds like a more generalized HR problem than discrimination or harassment specifically.
posted by valkyryn at 12:12 PM on October 6, 2010

Does she do this with with anyone else? Are you the only black person there? Have you gotten feedback on your work from anyone other than her?

I'm inclined to say, "yeah, she's singling you out because you're black", but you don't give a lot of info. If you want to make an issue about this, start getting your ducks in a row.
posted by mkultra at 12:12 PM on October 6, 2010

To answer some questions:

She is not my supervisor in any way. I have access to the logbooks, and I seem to be the only employee she's targeted in this way. It's hard to say what my bosses think about the situation. I realize that I may have jumped the gun on racial conclusions, but it often happens that when you're black it's impossible to distinguish between people who are just jerks to you for no reason and racists. It could also have to do with my age, I suppose, but I replaced a worker who was the same age as me (23).
posted by matkline at 12:12 PM on October 6, 2010

It could be your race, or it could be partly your race, or it could be something else entirely. I certainly understand assuming that an older white woman singling you out could be racially motivated, but I don't know if this is the best angle to approach it from, strategically.

For whatever reason she's singling you out, and you should talk to your supervisors in a way that makes you look awesome, not in a way that makes her look racist. Something like, "I've been tagging items correctly, [carrying out other duties], and logging relevant info in the logbook, and it seems like Gladys is taking issue with the way I do those things. Can I go over my tasks with you to make sure I'm doing everything correctly?" That way, your supervisor sees with his own eyes that a) you are doing things correctly, and b) you are proactive about seeking feedback. If Gladys escalates to complaining to the bosses, they know you're a good employee and she's just making trouble.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:20 PM on October 6, 2010 [7 favorites]

You don't give any information that would lead us to think that this coworker is prejudiced at all.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:22 PM on October 6, 2010

Talk to your boss. Tell her that you're feeling discriminated against. This should raise red flags.

A flag with "This employee plays the race card" on it. Be very careful if you're seriously considering going down this road.

I still can't tell from what you've written if her attitude is racially motivated, and as you say, it's often hard to tell. She's clearly targeting you for some reason, and the reason ultimately doesn't much matter -- she's trying to undermine you and it's very likely to have an effect on your employment. Like all low-level retail jobs, dry cleaning doesn't tend to pay much and there's high employee turnover.

Since it sounds like you haven't actually talked to the bosses about this at all, and you're just inferring what's going on from the logbooks, I'd say take the bull by the horns and mention to the bosses that "Co-worker has put a lot of issues about my work into the logbook. Is there anything I should be concerned about?" Proceed from there. Hopefully they'll tell you she's old and cranky and not to worry about it. If they say, "Yes, we have some concerns about the quality of your work," start brushing up the resume would be my advice.
posted by Gator at 12:24 PM on October 6, 2010 [8 favorites]

Here's how I would handle it if I were you. Be absolutely perfect for the next few weeks or so. Make sure your work is way beyond reproach and absolutely impeccable. Don't make any errors at all even if they are really slight.

Then, bring it up to your bosses. If your bosses are white, if you lead with the idea that she is prejudiced, they will probably become defensive ("how do you KNOW she's doing it because she is prejudiced," etc.) It will probably become all about the fact that you can't prove that she is prejudiced.

So just talk about her behavior, and the fact that she seems to be going at you all the time, and it makes you very uncomfortable. If I were you I would say that to me, I seem to be the only one she has targeted with this behavior, and I was wondering if they had any ideas as to why.

The other route I might take in this situation, which is a lot less mature and I am not recommending at all, is to become absolutely perfect, and then target HER with the behavior she's using to target you. Pointing out all her stupid errors constantly, etc. She sounds like a bully, and bullies target people who they don't expect to be able to do the same thing back.
posted by Ashley801 at 12:28 PM on October 6, 2010

She could have a problem with you for all kinds of reasons, or for no reason at all. Before bringing it to your bosses, I'd normally suggest trying to straighten it out with her, but it doesn't look like you ever work with her. If you don't make any errors, slight or not, she won't have any plausible reason to be pointing you out, so I would just focus on doing the best job you can, making sure your bosses are happy with you, and not stress about your coworker.
posted by mrs. taters at 12:29 PM on October 6, 2010

Some folks just get off on riding the noob. I would not take it personally or make it necessarily a racial thing, because (when I have seen this phenomenon in other similar workplaces) it's down to some "old hand" exercising what tiny portion of power and authority they have, over the only person on hand who is green enough to put up with it

Still complain to your bosses and insist that they stop her hostile behavior towards you.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 12:30 PM on October 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Sometimes you'll come across people who are set in their ways and expect that everyone around them will automatically realize that their way is the right (or only) way things should be done. You're relatively new and you obviously haven't been doing things the way she likes, whereas the last coworker did. So she passive-aggressively points this out in front of anyone with access to the logbooks.

In other words she's older, has been there long enough to think her way is the best way, and if you don't get that implicitly then you need to be corrected. If all this is possibly the case, then I think Meg_Murry's advice would work best.
posted by tracicle at 12:34 PM on October 6, 2010

Those of you who argue that in the absence of explicit evidence that the mistreatment is racially motivated matkline should assume it isn't might be interested in this law review article on differences in racial perception. (MeFi discussion here) As matkline notes, it's nearly impossible to tell, and minorities tend to assume that it is, while majority members tend to assume that it's not, with contentious results.

It may be, however, that your reaction should be the same either way. Go to your boss, say that you're concerned about the logbook, and ask if there's anything you should do or worry about. see what your boss says and go from there.
posted by decathecting at 12:35 PM on October 6, 2010 [6 favorites]

If you think she is targeting you because of your race, then that is a valid concern - presumably you have more experience with being on the receiving end of prejudice and discrimination than some others in this thread.

However, it would be really hard to prove, right? The best thing you can do is to make sure the invoices are correct. If she still harasses you, approach your employer. Use "I" statements. Indicate that you tried to fix the problem, and that the woman's behaviour makes you feel uncomfortable. See if they can get her to stop.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:35 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Uh, what complaints is she making and what do you mean by "shrill memos?" Your question is very vague and you supply more than a couple foregone conclusions. Couple that with your concern that customers be treated this way (do they get their names in logbooks too or something?) when they "generally find her endearing," there appears to be a lot missing from this story (and I'm not just saying that out of morbid fascination).
posted by rhizome at 12:36 PM on October 6, 2010

I'm not sure why everyone is so quick to dismiss the likelihood of racially-motivated prejudice. It's not like it is a particular stretch to imagine when assessing the possible reasons behind one person being targeted in a way that others in a similar position are not. Given the state of racism in the general populace, I think it is a perfectly reasonable possibility, even if it does not exactly help the OP in making a case to his superiors (since there is no tangible evidence.)
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 12:36 PM on October 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Some clarification:
roomthreeseventeen, I think it's clear that she is prejudiced, although, not necessarily racially prejudiced. Granted, I am in "the South," and wouldn't find it shocking if an elderly person were to hold racist beliefs.

There are only three employees who work at the location. Myself, a middle-aged lady, who I get on wonderfully with, and the old woman in question. In spite of probably seeing more invoices and items tagged by me (because she works 6 shifts a week), the middle-aged lady has never had a complaint about me. Nor have either of the 2 workers at the other location I staff 2 days a week, and who work a total of 11 shifts a week.

I don't think "Gladys" is threatened by me in any way, given how few hours she works. I think she is a retiree, who just does the job to stay active, and lives in the (quite expensive) neighborhood where the dry cleaner is located.
posted by matkline at 12:37 PM on October 6, 2010


BigLankyBastard - she may very well be getting off on riding the noob, but the middle-aged employee who also works here has been here only 1 month more than me.

rhizome - shrill memos are memos that start of with "REMINDER MATT!!!!!," including various highlights, extreme length, etc., also, she's sent a few "letters" to the bosses to be picked up along with customer clothing. 90% or more of our customers are white, so I don't necessarily think 'generally endearing' and potentially racist are opposed.
posted by matkline at 12:46 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Over the course of my three months working here, she's complained about me to the bosses an inordinate number of time.

Questions for you relating to the above:

How do you know she's complained?
Is there any validity to the complaints?
Has anyone said anything to about the complaints from her?
Do the owners have a problem with you?

If so, I feel I should make my case to the owners, because I certainly don't want any of our customers to be mistreated by this woman in the same way.

This part is confusing, as you mentioned the customers find her enduring. So you complaining about her won't endure you to the owners, who is the only person you have to keep happy.

I understand your concerns (I'm black), but based on what you've written, you don't really have a case for her being prejudiced. She dislikes you for some reason. She's just annoying the shit out of your and happens to be an older white woman in the south and you're black, so maybe, MAYBE, you're jumping to conclusions.

Figure out what the owners think of you, as an employee. If they're happy, don't worry about the crappy old lady. She'll just be a minor foot note in the history of your life, even if she is prejudiced.

And quit making the slight errors on invoices. They may be slight, but they are errors. Don't give her ammo to use against you.
posted by nomadicink at 12:55 PM on October 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

If I were in your situation, I would go to my supervisor and ask if they have any concerns with my performance. I would say that the reason I am asking is that Gladys has been leaving a lot of notes and correcting my work, so I just wanted to know what the supervisor was thinking about my performance. Makes you look pro-active, and will open up an opportunity to talk about Gladys' harassment.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:56 PM on October 6, 2010

So I just had a customer come in, and I think what happened really gets to the heart of my problems with "Gladys." The customer had brought in a jacket/sweater thingy that the middle-aged employee ("Sue") didn't know how to classify. So, she just marked it at $0.00, with the expectation that it would be priced at the factory.

Fast-forward to today - the pricing had not been done at the factory, and our computer system wanted to charge $0.00. I made the decision to charge the customer based on the rates for a sweater (approx. $6), and that was that.

If I had done what Sue had, and Gladys had been in my position there would have been a gigantic hullabaloo. If Gladys had checked out this customer, based on the logbook I can only assume she would have ignored Sue's "mistake."
posted by matkline at 1:02 PM on October 6, 2010

Nothing in that anecdote would seem to change any of the above advice.
posted by Gator at 1:05 PM on October 6, 2010

She is probably bored out of her mind, and your tiny errors are something she can latch onto. She may or may not be a racist, but at this point that determination doesn't help you- you can't get someone fired for circling your errors or writing shrill notes. The people whose opinions matter are your bosses', so just say something like: "Hey, I've been working here a while and I would like some feedback, so I know what I can do to improve." If they don't mention the errors, than you know it's not a big deal, or even a little deal, to the people that actually matter.

You're young, and in many cases old people feel like they can lord it over young people. This has happened to me many times in my life, and often what worked best for me when the people had no real power was to just ignore them, and in some cases, be offensively polite and cheerful. That was totally contrary to what they expected, and it wasn't something they could ever complain about. It either made them crabbier, which was not becoming to them and just made them look like bigger cranks to everyone else; or it made them get over themselves and lighten up. Either way, not giving into their petty drama makes you look good in the workplace, and is healthier than worrying about crazy stuff.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:06 PM on October 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


OK, so you're the only employee she's campaigning against, you're also the only black employee. I assume you're not the only employee who makes clerical errors, so to answer your question:

Is this related to your race? Maybe. Probably. There's no way to know, but let's go with yes.

What should you do about it? Because you cannot conclusively demonstrate that it is, proceed as if it's not. Bring it up with your boss that Gladys appears to have an issue with you and you'd like to work with him to resolve it. Essentially, let him (or her) draw the connection if he's inclined to, but deal with it regardless.

Is this weak? A bit. But in the absence of overt evidence, I don't think I know another way to deal with it.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:18 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

She may just not like you.

It may not be a race thing. It may be a you thing.
posted by Rendus at 1:21 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I still can't see a single thing there that indicates she is picking on you specifically because of your race, other than "we're in the South." I think she just doesn't like you, for whatever reason, but there's no way right now that you can prove it's only because of your race. For all I know, she hates your age or your nose or your personality or your jacket from this thread so far. I would concur with everyone else above to NOT play the race card when you bring this up with bosses, because right now there's no way to prove it and things could get uglier.

You haven't said anything about your bosses here. Do you have no idea how they feel about this stuff?
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:35 PM on October 6, 2010

Guys, I think it may very well be her race, but as has been stated above, that's not going to be the way to fix it (unfortunately.)

She's old, she's cranky, she works just two shifts a week and she thinks she's better than the rest of you because she lives in the expensive neighborhood (that last part, I'm guessing.)

I'd ask the friendly middleaged person if crankybutt has always been a crankybutt. If she says yes, just ignore her and keep pursuing excellence. I do think it couldn't hurt to be proactive with your bosses. If you frame it as Eager Young Employee Wants to Excel it will make you look better and make Crankybutt look like who she is.

Just keep your bosses happy. Trust me, they just want the job done and done decently well and they don't want to keep hiring and retraining people. If by now they haven't said anything to you about her complaining I would surmise they won't. In fact if she is a racist they already have sussed that out and will keep that in mind. Trust me.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:48 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

We have a Gladys where I work, who been standoffish and behind-the-scenes-grouchy with many (but not all) new employees for no reason(s) and with no pattern we can figure out. Every one who succeeded followed the path of the best-answers you have marked (approach the boss to seek advice on improving performance to reduce the black marks, be consistently friendly and polite). Our Gladys eventually warmed to them. The others were ill-fit for our workplace from the start and left shortly for non-Gladys reasons.
posted by K.P. at 1:57 PM on October 6, 2010

Bring her cookies. Bring her lunch. Ask her for help with something. Ask her about her family. Send her a Christmas card. People get better once you develop a relationship with them.

She's probably doing the job for money, just like you are. I know a retired lawyer who works at a grocery store two days a week just to make ends meet. She may feel bitter that her retirement didn't turn out the way she wanted it to.

Maybe she's racist, maybe she's not. I wouldn't go to your boss about it unless she's said something specifically offensive.
posted by miyabo at 2:01 PM on October 6, 2010

Whenever I feel I am getting bad treatment for this reason, I never let on that I know. I essentially play dumb because a confrontation about it will yield loads of other BS excuses and you will be branded as overly sensitive (especially by those who have never been in this position).

What I try to do Matt is play a game in my head that I call "fliptronics". Ignore her BS, tighten up your act at work until you are perfect, and be really nice to her. Muster up all of the sincere "niceness" you can and give her a long term dose. Many people who act this way want you to ultimately "deserve" the crap treatment they give you. Deny her of this by deserving respect. Although she is older, you can easily be the better person here. Small gestures will go a long way. IE: if you are making a run to the store.... surprise the heck out of her by asking if she wants anything with a sincere face. I lived in a REALLY backwoods, racist town for some years. Many of the people who reacted to me negatively at first, over time became part of my support system, and I part of theirs. Some were little, old White Ladies.....

It is not your job to teach people...... but it is one way to "win".
posted by StUdIoGeEk at 2:29 PM on October 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

In addition to race, lets also throw in culture and even age as a possibility. There's some fascinating stuff out there about the differences in respectful behavior between racial cultures. As an example, I read once somewhere that when white people are being chewed out, the cultural expectation is to look the person doing the reprimanding in the eye, where as when black people are being chewed out, the respectful thing to do is to look down. Little stuff like that can have huge implications for how people get on, especially when you throw in a generation gap. But nthing trying to get a bead on how the boss feels about your performance. It's easier to hold your head high when you know you're backed by the person who signs your paycheck.
posted by Ys at 2:29 PM on October 6, 2010

I've been the much-younger coworker bullied and nitpicked relentlessly by a much-older coworker who was seemingly also trying to get me fired at a low-level service job. We're both white--it was an age/power-trip thing.
posted by availablelight at 3:05 PM on October 6, 2010

She is an old lady, you are a young man. Depending on her age and various attitudes she holds (yes, including about race,) she may not even see you as an adult. If you worked on the same shift I'd expect you to tell us that she keeps criticizing your outfit and measured your sideburns with a ruler and expects you to turn on the coffee maker when you get to work 20 minutes before your start time because that's what young new people have to do.

She isn't your boss, but I bet your boss likes her. Do your best, be nicer than humanly possible, ask your bosses for feedback (without bringing up the notes) and hunker down - this situation won't change until the middle-aged lady is replaced with a high school student or one of the two of you leaves.
posted by SMPA at 3:23 PM on October 6, 2010

middle-aged southern white guy here... :-)

Unfortunately, there is probably at least some latent racial bias there, but avoid bringing that up, because as a MASWG, I find that older southern ladies, especially those who are somewhat upper-crust or think they are, do tend to lord it over EVERYBODY. They do it to me too. Long story short, but I play in an orchestra and an OSL took over a volunteer position from me and has been making passive-aggressive comments about how much better she's doing the job than I was ever since.

As has been suggested, I would start by trying to improve any areas that you aren't doing just right. Put aside your irritation at the "source" - if you're making mistakes, fix 'em! And yes, this includes the idea that you don't take shortcuts that perhaps they do.

If you get to where you're really doing everything as right as you can and she's still bugging out all the time, I would bring it to your boss's attention, but avoid discussing possible racial motivations.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:49 PM on October 6, 2010

I think there was some great advice offered in a recent thread recommending you try being totally, genuinely nice to the person... They said it better than I could, so take a look yourself.

Also, it's a chance to learn about cognitive dissonance, which I had never heard of and will desperately try to fit into a conversation sometime this week :)
posted by autocol at 4:02 PM on October 6, 2010

There is a lot of disbelief and dismissiveness of the racial element in this thread. While I disagree ( I am a black man who lives in the south) I think that this should be a warning to you that that angle will not go over very well with your bosses. For various reasons, people have blinders that do not allow them to perceive things that do not personally affect them in their daily lives. To people who view the world this way, you will be "playing the race card." You will not be able to prove any sort of racial discrimination or bigotry on "Gladys's" part.

Your best bet is to be vigilant about your own work. Stop making errors (big, small, whatever). Speak to your employer about how you feel uncomfortable, even harassed by "Gladys." This is due to her chronic castigation of you through these notes. Race does not enter into it. This would be IMHO the safest way to approach your employers. Let them know that you want to work out any differences with "Gladys" and that you really want to be a team player and on the same page with her. This puts you in a positive, non-threatening position.
posted by anansi at 4:13 PM on October 6, 2010 [9 favorites]

It's entirely possible the bosses already know she's being a pain about this and they have decided they're not going to ruffle her feathers because she needs the little bit of money and self-esteem the job gives her. She might have been just as critical of the previous young employee.

I think you are not in any danger from her and I think she probably is somewhat racist, although she almost certainly doesn't think she is--you know that. But knowing that won't solve the problem. Please consider this an opportunity to develop an outstanding technique for disarming enemies. Killing them with kindness and winning them over is a technique that will stand you in good stead as you rise in your career.

You could make this your secret mission, to see if you have the power to win over this cranky, unloveable old person who considers herself the watchdog of the dry cleaners guild, destined to protect them from whippersnappers and upstarts. Basically, she is irrelevant and she knows it. You have it in your power to change her mind, whether it is skewed by racism, ageism, classism or a simple fear of old age and irrelevance.

I wish I could remember who said, when asked how she managed to have so many friends, "I love them until they love me back."
posted by Anitanola at 4:14 PM on October 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

You could maybe ask her to do you a favor to engender a little cognitive dissonance with the Ben Franklin effect. He wrote this about a political enemy:
I did not ... aim at gaining his favour by paying any servile respect to him but, after some time, took this other method. Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return'd it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death. This is another instance of the truth of an old maxim I had learned, which says, "He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged."
posted by lauranesson at 9:18 AM on October 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

lauranesson, yes! Especially if this is an age thing, and not necessarily a race thing, it is sometimes good to ask the older employee for help with something, and then show them that you're listening when they show or explain the solution. Act really appreciative.

It gives them a chance to be benevolent and show their skills. In your case, it could mean Gladys could change from trying to show her work superiority in a negative way (passive aggressive memos, calling you out on your mistakes), to a positive way ("I'm going to show you the best way to ring up this invoice, new guy!").
posted by zoetrope at 9:38 AM on October 7, 2010

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