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(Cinders McLeod/The Globe and Mail)
(Cinders McLeod/The Globe and Mail)

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How do I deal with my angry co-worker? Add to ...

THE QUESTION:

I work in a high-pressure environment. A colleague of mine has been having meltdowns due to the pressure of the business. She targets her anger at me and I feel it’s unwarranted. I’ve tried to talk to her on two occasions, but there is a constant tension between us. I really don’t want to deal with her inability to function under pressure, and I’m wondering if I should go to our boss, and if so, how do I raise the problem?

THE FIRST ANSWER:

Heather Faire

Human resources executive, Atlanta

I am not sure what this meltdown looks like, but if your co-worker is huddled in the corner in fetal position and screaming at you, I suggest you call 911 or at the very least, call the company nurse.

If the meltdowns are simply venting sessions that turn on you, then it sounds like you are dealing with selfish, inappropriate behaviour. People will continue to behave inappropriately if they get away with it. Letting things go in the name of “going along to get along” only works if it goes both ways.

Next time your co-worker decides to “let loose” on you, don’t engage, or try to reason with her. You have already tried that. Simply state you no longer wish to talk to her until she can treat you with civility and respect, then walk away or ask her to leave immediately (if she came to you). Be calm, firm and consistent every time.

If the behaviour continues, tell your boss what is going on and explain that the situation is becoming a barrier to your productivity. Tell your boss you have done all you can to constructively deal with the situation on your own, and now you need management support. Let your manager take it from there and keep him or her updated if there are any other incidences.

THE SECOND ANSWER:

Jamie Sale

Olympic gold medalist pairs figure skater

This is definitely an unfair and unfortunate situation to be in as she’s a colleague of yours, and you obviously need to be able to work together to accomplish what has to get done. She apparently feels like she can take her anger out on you and, based on how you’ve listened to her and keep allowing it or taking it on, that appears to be OK.

You’ve said you’ve tried talking to her on a couple of occasions but how have you brought it up? Usually we get defensive by nature when we’re being confronted about something we’re doing wrong. I would try to do it outside of work, if possible, take a different approach and ask her how you can help her avoid a meltdown or how you can help her manage her anger in other ways.

You definitely need to tell her, though, how it makes you feel when she targets you in her anger. Just a simple “it hurts me when you take your anger out on me, I don’t feel I deserve that” might fix the issue.

It’s fair to explain how it’s affecting you as long as it is just about how it makes you feel and doesn’t turn into a blame game.

She will – or should – be compassionate about that and if she isn’t, then I would say it’s time to go talk to the boss and ask for guidance. You need to be in a positive work environment and feel like everyone is there to help and support you in some way and not feel anxious about someone’s own stresses being put on you. Good luck and stay positive!

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine to Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com.

 

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