Office bully is driving me nuts.
December 10, 2007 12:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm afraid of someone at work.

I have a problem with a guy at work who bullies me when he's training me on a certain computer system. The first time I had to use the system, I screwed something up. This guy -- I'll call him Dick -- started yelling, "You just can't stop hitting that yellow button too early, can you? You just can't stop doing that!"

This rankled for weeks with me, but I didn't say anything to management. Last week I screwed something else up again. In my own defense, I work two jobs and I've been super tired, but it was an easy thing that I probably should have noticed and corrected. So while at job number one the other day, I got a nastygram email from Dick again: WHAT HAPPENED?

I flipped out and started crying hysterically, which I never do, and sent an email to Dick saying, Sorry, I'll do better next time. When I got to job #2 I asked to speak to our manager. This guy hired me and he likes me, and the first thing he said was, "I'm not blaming you too much for any of this. We're aware that none of you guys have had training on our system."

I told him I was at the end of my rope, that I felt targeted and scapegoated by Dick, and that I hadn't received effective training from him -- he flustered me so much during our sessions that I ended up not getting whatever it was I was supposed to have learned. I hastened to add that I didn't have a personal problem with Dick (not true, actually, but I didn't want to ruffle any feathers), and that it was just that I really needed some decent training.

My manager said that he had already paid for comapny training, but that the engineeers had been delaying setting it up for us. He said he was now going to do something about it.

I thanked him and then immediately felt bad. I've essentially bad-mouthed a co-worker to my manger, and now I'm worried. I have to work with Dick all the time. Today I have to go in there and listen to his loud voice. I keep trying to do my thing without running into him, but it's impossible the way our jobs are structured. So I'm dreading it. I just emailed him letting him know when I'm going to be in, and that he should make the studio available for me. No response. I'm terrified that the gloves are off -- that he's finally in full retaliation mode, after doing his best not to blow up at me (he may have been talked to before about a similar issue when I mentioned it to my manager's boss).

So in a nutshell: How do I handle this guy? He's always thought of me as a dumb blonde, and now I'm sure he thinks I'm a vindictive bitch on top of it. I'm so wound up -- I really feel like if he says one negative word to me today, I'm going to walk out of the job. I have a chance at a full time job at this place, and management likes me. This is the best place I've ever worked, except for Dick and his engineering co-horts -- they're the only dark cloud. I just don't know what to do, because this is one of those chance-in-a-lifetime situations. If I can stick it out here, I may be rewarded...but it may not be for months.

Why should I even be afraid of this guy? I should just go in and non-emotionally do my job and get through the day. I shouldn't be obsessing over whether people like me or not. But I can't stop worrying about it. You could say I'm actually afraid of this guy, Dick.

What attitude and behaviors around this would be the most helpful for me to have? Did I make a mistake going to my manager? I'd be grateful for any other thoughts you might have regarding this.
posted by frosty_hut to Work & Money (39 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Really, you should be looking for another job because guys like that NEVER change, and if your bosses haven't done anything about this now (you think you're the first one to suffer because of him? No way.) then they never will. You may think it's a great job but there are HUNDREDS more like them out there. But to answer your immediate problem, try and find some humour in this situation. Laugh at him. When he shouts at you imagine him in a ridiculous situation, something that'll make you smile. He's loving the way he's affecting you right now, so to act like he's a joke would be something he couldn't handle.

Barring that, just lose it. Scream at him. Shout until everyone's looking. It'll force your hand, because your bosses are NOT going to do anything about him unless they have to, and if you carry on being a mouse then they're going to be ok about that.
posted by gatchaman at 12:16 PM on December 10, 2007

I used to work with someone exactly like this. He was horrible to me, and he would make me so angry that I'd have to leave for a minute to collect myself. It turns out that he was afraid I was there to take his job. He was also a little paranoid anyway and was pretty sure I'd screw up EVERYTHING if my mouse pointer so much as strayed close to the wrong thing. He even lectured me about my "attitude" once and reminded me of his seniority. I had no "attitude" to speak of... I was the epitome of "nice" (and a little timid, too). He was just exerting his perceived authority because it made him feel powerful.

I tried talking to him about it, but I couldn't at the time. I was too flustered. So I had to go to management. I felt bad about it, but I had to. I later learned that management checked with coworkers to see if what I was saying was true, and they vouched for me. But management didn't really do anything about it, and I almost quit after that.

Since I was ready to quit anyway, I decided I had nothing to lose and started speaking my mind to the jerk. I wasn't out-of-bounds - I kept it professional. But when he was a dick to me, I'd stop him and say, "Does treating me like this really get the results you want? Because it's not helping me that much, to be honest." Once, I even told him that I refused to be spoken to that way. Another time I got up and told him I'd return when he was calmer. It pissed him off, and I know he complained, but management already knew HE was the problem. His complaints only added validity to mine.

After a while, he backed down considerably.

...and then I took his job (well, he got moved on to another department, but still.)

The point of this story is... you've reported him to management. They know he's a problem. If he retaliates, he's just digging a deeper hole for himself. Now's the time to start standing up for yourself. No one's going to fire you for demanding respect. No one worth working for, anyway.
posted by katillathehun at 12:16 PM on December 10, 2007 [5 favorites]

It sounds like you are worried about what Dick thinks. Stop that. You don't read minds, therefore you don't know what Dick thinks. Additionally, you putting yourself under a lot of needless pressure by thinking of this job as a one-in-a-lifetime. Maybe it is but more likely, it's not.

Focus on what you are good at, focus on what skills you are bringing to the table that compelled your boss to hire you into the company in the first place. Do your work, and if you aren't getting your work done, then analyze what you need to get your work done and get those needed things. That's your core, here.

As for how Dick treats you, train him to not treat you that way. Stand your ground and tell him to knock it off. If he persists in a way where he is materially blocking your access to needed things, then discuss with your boss.
posted by jamaro at 12:19 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

I realize this requires you to be assertive with someone that intimidates you, but honestly, part of his personality likely doesn't acknowledge the consequences of his actions. Id try something like this:

"Dick, can I give you some feedback?

When you are loud and you are very quick to chide me for minor mistakes while I'm learning the system, I feel bullied, I lose respect for you, and I begin to feel that I'll have to escalate the issue to get you to treat me professionally. What can you do differently?"

Deliver it with a smile if you can. Your goal should be to professionally inform Dick that his behavior is unacceptable. Set a model for him. If Dick behaves, reinforce the good behavior:

"Hey, Dick, can I give you some feedback?

When you are patient with me learning the system, I really appreciate your professionalism and knowledge of the subject. Thanks a lot!"

Reinforcing good behaviors will drive out the bad behaviors. Give a listen to the manager tools podcasts on feedback.

Finally, you realize that ratting your coworker out to your boss was probably inappropriate. If Dick calls you on it, smooth it over -- "Yes, I should have spoken directly to you prior to escalating the issue. I apologize."

If this is your dream position, you're going to end up working with Dick. Start building a professional relationship. You don't have to like each other; you just have to lay the groundwork to respect each other.
posted by bfranklin at 12:20 PM on December 10, 2007 [3 favorites]

I think you need to calm down. It sounds like this guy made one unfriendly comment about you hitting a button too early that really got to you, and then compunded it (in your mind) by sending you what seems to me to have been a pretty innocuous email in caps (some people don't realize that caps = yelling - does he always type in caps?). Feeling ready to walk out on the job over these things and fearing Dick seem like a bit of an over-reaction. Try to stop obsessing and relax a little.
posted by amro at 12:21 PM on December 10, 2007 [5 favorites]

Life is too short to work for Dicks. Go to his supervisor and ask if that's the kind of behavior he expects from his/her employees. If Dick starts to yell at you, WALK AWAY if you don't want to yell back. Do it every time. Tell him that you respect yourself even if he doesn't, then act like it. Meanwhile, look for another job. No amount of pay is worth being abused.
posted by The Deej at 12:22 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

At the risk of going against the grain here, I'd like to point out that you've described two minor instances in which Dick was difficult to work with. While he shouldn't have chided you so strongly, at least from the information we have, it would seem that it may be possible that you're overstating his difficulty. Certainly given your description, nothing that he has done even approaches a reasonable definition of bullying behavior.

You might consider that you're overreacting, by which I mean, even if Dick is doing something that he should not be doing (scolding you too forcefully for not understanding his directions) you may need to adjust your sensitivity such that you're able to address that failure on Dick's part without deciding that this may be the end of either his employment or yours. There may well be other instances and examples that you haven't shared with us, but I'm not sure that your current choice of how to look at this, "bullying" "end of my rope" "walk out on the job" etc, is the best way to go about finding a way to work with this clown.
posted by OmieWise at 12:28 PM on December 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

Or, on non-preview, what amro said.
posted by OmieWise at 12:29 PM on December 10, 2007

+1 katillathehun. If the guy tears into you, breathe deeply and respond "is it your job to train me or demean me?"
posted by adamrice at 12:33 PM on December 10, 2007

What OmieWise and Amro said.

Unless you're leaving out a lot of stuff Dick did or said, I just don't see how this amounts to him "bullying" you.

It sounds more like he's a loud, boisterous, confrontational guy, and you're quieter and more gentle in how you communicate. I know exactly what that's like! But I've realized over time that quite often, when I thought someone was being A Jerk to me, they were just treating me Like One Of The Guys.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 12:37 PM on December 10, 2007

If you were to quit, who's to say that there wouldn't be a Dick training you at the next place? I wouldn't let anyone stand in the way of me and a great opportunity. You don't report directly to this guy, so in that sense there is no reason to be afraid of him. It is your manager's responsibility to make sure that you are properly trained for your job. If you maintain a calm, composed demeaner, both with Dick in the training session (a la adamrice: is it your job to train me or demean me?") and with your manager when you explain why you're not getting it / don't feel well trained, you should be fine.

For the record, I disagree with bfranklin's comments above. Being too nice to a bully only makes them think that what they are doing is working, and it will escalate (I don't mean physically, but in the amount of disrespect and contempt you are treated with). The bottom line is we aren't always going to get along with everyone in life, and we have no control over that. Maybe you look like an ex-girlfriend and an ex-boss or whoever that he can't stand, and so that is reflected in his attitude towards you. Maybe it's fear for his job. Maybe he just thinks anyone in the world who isn't an engineer, including your boss, is an idiot. You just never know what a person's motivation is. But you can reasonably be sure that it isn't about you.
posted by vignettist at 12:46 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

from what you typed, what dick did sounds annoying, but not abusive. if there's more that you didn't mention, so be it, but going strictly from the facts you stated, it sounds like he's abrasive, and you're sensitive. your reaction does not sound proportionate to the two dick-actions that you explicitly listed above (yellow button comment, which may have been intended to sound teasing on his behalf, and all-caps brief email, which may have been just a straight question on his behalf). if you do decide to go to management about this, you need to document what he did more fully, and i'd get a second opinion from a coolheaded, uninvolved, non-management person in the office who can tell you if you actually have a case.

if i were you, next time i had to deal with dick, i'd start by saying, with a little self-effacing "i just want to say i've had a rough week- some personal problems- and i'm feeling a little fragile, so go easy on me, okay?" the reason i'd do this is to explicitly say, "i feel fragile and need to be treated kindly, and you can help". when you say this, if a person doesn't immediately take care of you in some small way- "oh sure, no problem, sorry to hear that, if i can help let me know", or smiling at you in the hall and asking how you're doing, or whatever- then you've ID'd that person as insensitive. not necessarily mean, just insensitive. which it sounds like dick is.

if he says something explicitly mean like "well keep your problems at home!" or "that's not my problem!", then you've ID'd dick as a dick. you can't complain to management that someone's a dick, but you can avoid him, and recinsider your plans with the organization in light of the knowledge that your coworker is a dick.

but to be honest, from what you typed, it sounds like he's just abrasive. that doesn't make him less annoying, but hopefully it gives you some reassurance that he doesn't mean to hurt your feelings, he's just a little clueless.

ps, sounds like you could use an early night in bed with a DVD of amelie and a glass of red wine. that's my strategy to cure a rough week, works like a charm. good luck!
posted by twistofrhyme at 12:46 PM on December 10, 2007

posted by arnold at 1:02 PM on December 10, 2007

"dick, a brief word in private with you?

dick, we're gonna have a little perestroika in our relationship, starting right now. you've been demeaning me, trying to bully me, acting unprofessionally and generally behaving like a stone asshole now for months, and i'm not tolerating it for another minute. i've already alerted management. bottom line, if you keep up like this, one of us is going to lose our jobs, and since i'm a personable, popular team player with advanced skills and you're a marginal, socially retarded schmuck, it looks like mene, mene, tekel, upharsin for you. this is your first and last warning on the subject, i'm going to get some coffee now, over and out."
posted by bruce at 1:07 PM on December 10, 2007 [3 favorites]

Don't walk out!

I don't have a terribly loud voice so I tend not to bother yelling very often but you'd be surprised how effective a low hiss can be once they shut the hell up for two seconds.

Next time he's yelling at you - close your eyes. Put a finger over your lips in that shoosh gesture or a hand up in that will you stop/shoosh gesture until he does.
If you're feeling brave look him in the eyes and put earphones in. (I recommend this, it shows more balls). Again do this until he shuts up

Then in a low voice (if he storms off wait til he's calmed and then speak) explain he can jam his yelling and abuse. You are not paid to be his punching bag. If he wants to speak to you. By all means speak. If he needs to teach you something it would be advisable that he speaks to you as you're not paid to be abused. If has a problem with that, perhaps he should speak to the boss about it!

And two jobs doesn't really excuse it but if you're incompetent it's not his place to scream at you about it. He should just speak to the boss. (Which is why it's funny to tell him to do that when you're telling him to get fucked.)
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 1:19 PM on December 10, 2007

I've essentially bad-mouthed a co-worker to my manger, and now I'm worried.

You don't work for Dick. You work for Manager. You explained to Manager why you're not learning this system effectively. It sounds like you made every effort to NOT badmouth Dick (i.e. you backpedaled from going into "personal issue" territory.)

Dick probably doesn't care about you personally enough to be plotting a revenge scheme. As frustrating as he is, you need to get your head on straight and not take this so personally. Be indignant, be pissed off, but stop letting this guy upset you. Remember, you don't work for Dick. He doesn't have that much power over you.

You can work out with your manager whether they want to have a word with Dick or whether whether they think that it would be most appropriately handled by you. If that latter, you just tell him to please stop yelling so that you can get the training done. If he starts in again, just stop, don't argue, calmly tell him again to stop yelling. If he persists, go to HR. There's no good reason why he can't be civil.
posted by desuetude at 1:25 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you really feel like you're not over-reacting and hyper-sensitized from stress and exhaustion of having two jobs, then you should go talk to Richard (I'm not going to call him my the emotionally loaded name you gave him), and say something like, "Richard, the following things bothered me." and calmly list the things. It sounds like you never spoke to Richard, never got his take on things, and are attributing to him a maliciousness that might not exist.

He legitimately, for example, may have just been asking "What happened", wanting to know what caused the problem, not realizing that his caps lock key was going to cause you stress. It happens a lot, you know. Email lacks the body language, facial cues and inflection that we've evolved to interpret without even thinking about.

I'm not saying your wrong here. I'm just saying that without talking to Richard in a non-confrontational, non accusatory way, you might be tilting at windmills.
posted by grumpy at 1:31 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

You know, I find people who sit me down and have serious discussions with me about how I'm lacking as a person generally lose points with me as a whole. There are ways to circumvent serious sit-down talks.

Humor tends to work wonders for tense situations. It simultaneously shows that 1) he doesn't scare you, and 2) he doesn't anger you, and 3) you've actually got a sense of humor. Instead of removing yourself from the "terrified hamster" pool the hard way through serious discussion and expecting him to respect your words, you can respond with something mildly self-deprecating and tongue-in-cheek.

He talks about the yellow button, just say, "No sir, ever since I was a kid, I've been attracted to yellow buttons. True Story." He types in all caps, respond in a tiny font. He asks you if you talked to management, you can tell him that "Yeah, you see, I was totally terrified of you at first, but since then it's simmered to a mild anxiety. We're good." And as someone mentioned upthread, deliver it all with a grin if you can. Last thing you want is for him to actually take you at your word here.
posted by reebear at 1:34 PM on December 10, 2007 [4 favorites]

Dick isn't a professional trainer. He's a user.

So, if dick is upset, you should tell him (and tell your boss), something along the lines of:
"Dick, you're really trying, and I can see I'm trying your patience a bit. Not everyone deals well with instructions that are angry and yelling. You may not be aware that you're doing this. I'm sorry you're put in this position, since it's clearly not your job; you're missing some of the skills to train people, but it's not your fault.

I'd repeat this to your boss, and ask that someone else gives you instructions (since dick has instructed other people.)

Next time he yells, say "stop. I see you're trying to teach me, but all I hear is the yelling. I'm not sure how you'd like to be taught, but I'm sure it doesn't work for me."

Last, a word to you, frosty. Dick is making you feel stupid, and possibly (or not) a parent or someone else in an authority position behaved this way (hence the tears.) Keep in mind that bad teaching makes you feel bad about yourself.. It's not dick's fault he's incompetent. Having some level of sympathy may help you from feeling flustered. I bet he was yelled at quite a bit as a kid.
posted by filmgeek at 1:58 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Jesus, I feel like desuetude is the only person in this thread with her head screwed on straight.

Yes, it does sound off-hand like you're being a bit oversensitive, but regardless-

You don't work for Dick.

Both you and Dick have managers, part of whose responsibility it is to defuse these kind of situations. It sounds like you've taken this up with your boss, but have you talked to his boss? One of his employees is delivering lousy service.

You know, I find people who sit me down and have serious discussions with me about how I'm lacking as a person generally lose points with me as a whole.

Agreed. This is an office, not high school.
posted by mkultra at 2:04 PM on December 10, 2007

tell him not to be a dick.

besides that, "I flipped out and started crying hysterically" means that your problems may very well have little to do with a random asshole at work -- stress? insecurities? mild depression? you're being paranoid about something -- someone -- that's not worth it.

I mean, that's not a reaction one should have

having said that, if you have a union, talk to them. if you don't, talk to a lawyer, maybe there's grounds for something. there often is, even against reason
posted by matteo at 2:11 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

You seem to be taking a lot of very hypothetical situations and diving straight for the worst case scenario with each of them. Your boss is probably smart enough to not "implicate" you if he feels he needs to address Dick about it, or he may skip that part completely as he's identified an independent problem (the delay in formal training) and seems focused on addressing that. Dick may be less of a menace than you suppose. The actions you describe make hims sound like, well, a dick, but then again statements like you having to "listen to his loud voice" suggest that this guy intrinsically rubs you the wrong way and statements like "he's always thought of me as a dumb blonde," obviously you know that's a projection. It could be true, sure but you don't know that.

One (or both) of two things is going on. Either you're just working with a big jerk or this two job thing has pushed you past your limit and is making it impossible for you to deal with just an average sized jerk (a more common and usually not intractable problem). I've had more hostile things done to me not just by coworkers but superiors for less justified complaints and not even considered doing anything other than rising above it and making a mental note to brush up that resume. I've also been overworked to the point of neurosis and projected insanely hostile thoughts into the minds of bosses and coworkers and been convinced I knew how they really felt. And as I say these two scenarios are not mutually exclusive.

If Dick is really intolerable to work with you have to either get separated from him or get a different job or suffer through, hoping he gets himself fired or moved. If you've bitten off more than you can chew work-wise, you're going to have to change one or both of your jobs and find something that makes the nut without warping your mind. Nothing more complicated than sustained sleep deprivation can temporarily take your coping mechanisms apart. I want to stress I don't doubt this guy's an asshole (although I accept the possibility that he's just a really bad communicator), but there isn't much you can do about that. You say you're not a crybaby type so it seems to me that the crying breakdown reaction suggests some deeper personal stress than some dink with a "shouty" email. You'll probably have to wait and see how things develop with his behavior.

Meanwhile, try to get as much rest as possible, try to keep all interactions at work as calm and undramatic as you can manage, and try to keep things in perspective: jobs can be changed easier than dwellings, romantic partners, nationalities or marital statuses. As problems go the worst one you are likely to have is "need a new job" and that's a pretty normal problem.
posted by nanojath at 2:25 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Don't take it personally. Dick might be making as much money as you and yet, he has to train you. Maybe it's rubbing him the wrong way. He was maybe thrown into it and management has no clue that he's not "trainer material". Dick maybe knows that about himself and that could be why he's bullying you--not saying it's right, but...
posted by wafaa at 2:36 PM on December 10, 2007

Point of clarification: is this the same "knuckle-dragging, hot-dog eating dufus ... Caveman ... Neanderthal" you asked about previously? Which of the advice did you try?

My favorite suggestion from that thread was to describe his behavior in a deadpan tone of voice ("you're really yelling loudly") like theora55 recommended here, then ask for what you want. You could even pretend it's your personal problem, "I have these very sensitive ears. Would you mind speaking more softly?" It might sound like you're taking a position of weakness, but it's actually reverse psychology, "I'm so mature and confident that I'm not even going to point out that you're the one at fault."

I nth the idea that you should just try to relax. Remind yourself that you can't control him, but your job is to respond professionally to everyone. Mentally rehearse bad situations and practice responding calmly. You won't change him. Just let people notice "wow, frosty_hut is cool as a cucumber even when Dick yells at her."
posted by salvia at 2:46 PM on December 10, 2007

I can't assess how you should handle the situation overall, but you can stop the yelling and rudeness. Everyone understands that yelling or blatant rudeness is not acceptable in most office situations, so you can easily get away with slapping him down as soon as he starts acting up.

As soon as he raises his voice, just raise your hand and jump in with, "Whoa, shut up. You're yelling at me. Try to say that again quietly." Then thank him after he settles down.
posted by ignignokt at 2:56 PM on December 10, 2007

You know, I find people who sit me down and have serious discussions with me about how I'm lacking as a person generally lose points with me as a whole. There are ways to circumvent serious sit-down talks.

Reebear --- She is not interested in whether she "loses points with" Dick. She wants him to stop being a bullying asshole. So, your desire for someone not to have a sit-down talk with you or Dick about your bullying is neither here nor there; the bully doesn't really get to set the terms of the confrontation. The idea that the bully gets to "withhold points" from someone because of how they confronted him, is just more bullying, and for frosty_hut to care about whether she loses points with Dick, is just to buy into the bully's arrogant delusion of power over frosty_hut.
posted by jayder at 3:19 PM on December 10, 2007

The idea that the bully gets to "withhold points" from someone because of how they confronted him, is just more bullying, and for frosty_hut to care about whether she loses points with Dick, is just to buy into the bully's arrogant delusion of power over frosty_hut.

I get what you're saying, but I think the point was that a dehumanizing, condescending "talking to" might be too strong a response for the current situation, and won't necessarily address the problem. If frosty wants this to stop, there are better ways to go about it than a "here's how it's gonna be!" conversation that immediately puts the bully on the defensive. I'd say that kind of conversation should only be used in cases of blatant abuse, where other tactics have failed. If you jump to "stern sit-down talk" every time you don't get along with someone, you're not going to be taken seriously.
posted by almostmanda at 4:37 PM on December 10, 2007

It sucks that you're going to have to work with this guy. It sounds like he has a dreaded disease that effects most engineers: poor socialization.

First, realize that he is broken and you can't fix him. He's got the 'I know everything' attitude and overly aggressive reactions of a teenager. People like this, especially adults, deserve your pity. He missed out on learning the give and take that most adult interactions have. Poor, poor socially dyslexic Dick; he never learned better.

Now that you see him as the pathetic creature that he is, every time he yells at you or sends you a scream mail you can see is as a symptom of his disease. "Poor Dick. He can't help it. If only there was a cure he might get a date."

It easier to shrug off his bad attitude when you see that he is powerless against his own jerkdom syndrome. It gets him in trouble at work and keeps him from getting along well with others. Just don't take it personally and try to help him ride out his attacks.
posted by Alison at 4:55 PM on December 10, 2007

She wants him to stop being a bullying asshole.

Except what she described doesn't rise to the level of "bullying asshole". It sounds like he is a boisterous kind of guy who might not realize how he is coming across but that frosty_hut is being worked to the edge of wits and possibly beyond.

frosty_hut: I think you should take the advice of people advising you to step back, take a deep breath, and chill. Maybe a vacation? Because what you described doesn't come close to being something that should cause you to lose it and break down unless something else is going on.
posted by Justinian at 5:02 PM on December 10, 2007

Uh, if salvia is correct and this is the same guy as in your previous question, I retract what I suggested and instead strongly urge you to both go to your boss or HR in a more direct fashion and possibly seek help with being more assertive.
posted by Justinian at 5:04 PM on December 10, 2007

Here's a thought: quit screwing up. Dick might quickly convert to being your biggest fan.

Your whole post is apologizing for yourself, but also passively-aggressively making Dick your scapegoat. In college and my early career, I worked a number of keypunch jobs where you had 4 hours to hit "4 9s," (99.99 % input accuracy) at money speed. The understanding was that it was a job a monkey could do, if it showed up on time, and paid attention. But not everyone was as capable as your average monkey. Those that were better than monkeys got paid pretty well, for as long as they wanted to keep coming in, but anybody who stuck understood it shouldn't take a full 8 hours to prove you could keypunch. And when somebody really screwed up, an experienced puncher would have to open the batch edit file, and fix the mess, if it went far enough in work flow that killing the batch and re-keying the job wasn't practical. We hated that. And we hated the people who BS'd their way in the door, even more.

Just because you think you'd like the job's pay, benefits or working conditions, doesn't mean you'll actually be any good at it. You've admitted you're working two jobs, and going in tired, and unfocused. You're not even giving this "dream job" your best, so it's hard to believe you're that thrilled with it. If you are going to be good at it, quit worrying about Dick, and be an ace today.

I think you owe Dick a short personal apology, and a promise to not say a word beyond that. Apologies don't stack wood. Promises only mean something to nuns. Tears just rust the hardware.

Just quit screwing up, and do the job.

Just do the damn job.
posted by paulsc at 5:56 PM on December 10, 2007

paulsc, she's asking for help about a specific issue in her workplace, not blaming Dick for all the problems in the world. Oh, is this a "tough love/something to grow on" tactic? Yuck.
posted by desuetude at 8:00 PM on December 10, 2007

Find a new job. Dick will never change. Dudes like him stay that way. Mentally ill and unable to be helped.
posted by onepapertiger at 8:09 PM on December 10, 2007

Thanks for everyone for these responses. Every single one was valuable. Lots to consider here.

Thanks again! :)
posted by frosty_hut at 8:31 PM on December 10, 2007

Interestingly enough I just heard something from Lillian Grass today (a communication expert) about this topic of office bullying and co-worker disrespect. Regardless of what you may have done wrong, his attitude isn't something you need to deal with. The suggestion I heard (that despite never having been in your situation, I agree with) was to confront him and say that you don't tolerate that tone, and that you're trying to learn from him the best you can.

Be honest with the guy - he's there to instruct you, not bully you around. Don't let yourself be bullied. I'd say something like "I don't tolerate that tone from you, or anybody for that matter" and you'll see he'll drop the asshole attitude. People who are assholes like this guy like their superiority - if you confront that, you'll defuse their behavior.
posted by fredoliveira at 8:43 PM on December 10, 2007

Just quit screwing up, and do the job.

Just do the damn job.
posted by paulsc at 5:56 PM on December 10 [mark as best answer] [+] [!]

paulsc, she's asking for help about a specific issue in her workplace, not blaming Dick for all the problems in the world. Oh, is this a "tough love/something to grow on" tactic? Yuck.
posted by desuetude at 8:00 PM on December 10 [mark as best answer] [+] [!]

Well I think paulsc is mainly saying I should concentrate on the job -- which I definitely need to do. We're learning a new system, so screw-ups are inevitable (others are doing it too, but I've imagined that I'm being scapegoated. Paranoid? Possibly). But I definitely shouldn't be jumped on constantly for mistakes I'm making while learning a new and fairly complex procedure. (Plus, they've admitted the software is a giant kluge.)

To those who remember Hot Dog Boy -- yeah, this is the same guy. I didn't want to stack the deck against him as much this time, and certain mefite hot dog lovers took offence to my nickname for him -- [shrug]. Honestly, I don't think the problem is all him. I know I could work better around this guy than I do. I probably am having a mini-breakdown, and I'm interested in seeing a therapist -- just might pursue that.

He's still inappropriate, and I do still need to work on my assertiveness skills. Some detachment would help, too. Ah, the human comedy -- isn't it amusing? Ha ha ha...

Thanks again, you guys always make me feel better. I WUV you! Mwah! :)
posted by frosty_hut at 9:22 PM on December 10, 2007

This guy -- I'll call him Dick -- started yelling, "You just can't stop hitting that yellow button too early, can you? You just can't stop doing that!"

This rankled for weeks with me, but I didn't say anything to management.

Step back: Was he kind of a jerk? Yes. Did you do anything wrong? No. Why would you let such a thing rankle you for weeks? Sometimes people are jerks in this world. Don't give them power. He should be the one criticizing his own performance. Give yourself a gold star, give him a mental F-, and move on.

Reading your previous post, you said that other people say he doesn't mean anything, and you felt they were making excuses for him because he had seniority. Maybe that's the case, and if so, that sucks.

But consider this: maybe they are right, and the guy just doesn't interact with people in the normal way. Once again, step back and rejudge his actions. Maybe he's not being rude out of a malicious intent, that's just the way he is: he has broken social skills. Maybe he was yelled at a lot as a child and doesn't know how to instruct without yelling. Maybe he has Asperger's. Maybe a lot of things. If you start looking at him as a person with obvious flaws, perhaps you'll feel less pressure from him. (Hell, maybe you should feel sorry for him.)

Like I said, I don't know. Maybe the guy really is inexcusably trying to be an ass and a bully. Just remember even that's a character flaw on his part, not yours.

And go watch Nick Burns, the company computer guy.
posted by IvyMike at 11:16 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

This may or may not be a help to you, frosty_Hut, but based on reading this and the caveman thread, it sounds to me like you're inadvertently pushing this guy's hot buttons, by taking longer than *he* thinks is necessary to learn the job. You've been there six months, but still make the occasional mistake, and it clearly bugs the hell out of him. But for whatever reason, he's not articulating this to you. All he seems to be able to communicate is his frustration that the work isn't being done to his spec. This says more about Dick than about you, really. He sounds terrified that any kind of mistake will come back to bite him, and for all you or we know, that may very well have happened in the past. Maybe he has ambitions for the manager's chair, and this is his way of trying to prove himself. Who knows?

You've demonstrated that you're committed to learning the job by taking notes. You've spoken to management about the fact that you're having difficulty learning the system, and asked that they take steps to rectify this. Your manager has indicated to you that the engineers have been dragging their feet in getting the proper training set up.

Bottom line? Dick is in for a reprimand from the boss, for not doing something he was supposed to do, which is set up training for you and your peers. Instead, he's been trying to browbeat you into doing the job properly, which is causing a headache for you and management, and probably for your coworkers as well.

Ride this one out, and don't let your emotions get to you. Dicky will soon be a subdued little Dicky, and you'll have the training you need.
posted by LN at 6:05 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

I second watching all of the Nick Burns stuff.

One thing software _should_ be doing is everything it can, if at all programmatically possible, to keep you from screwing things up. So maybe he's either frustrated at his own inability to do so or that he isn't given the tools and/or time.

Given most situations, data validation with warning pop-up windows, etc. etc. can (should) remedy these "user errors."
posted by prodevel at 9:59 AM on December 11, 2007

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