Confronted a Coworker on his Behavior - I'm Now Angry at Myself

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BrokenDollMagnet

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I have an amazingly great workplace. It's a laid-back environment with pleasant and kind professional coworkers. For the most part, I love my colleagues and love my work.

But there are a few people who really rub me wrong. I am the lead on a case, and a new coworker has been assigned to assist me. His work isn't bad, and he's usually a nice person to be around. But wow do I wish I could dump him from this case. His behavior was an instant trigger.

I have put in over 500 hours into this case and have been working on it for over a year. I have all the case precedents printed out and ready for the person who will review our work before it goes out the door. My work is very thorough. I am going over the case with our reviewer, and the reviewer suggests that we should summon my assistant so that the assistant can 'get up to speed' on the suggested approach. That's a great idea to me. My assistant has had only three or four hours exposure to the case. His role is to observe and learn. He is also supposed to help with simple record keeping. The reviewer summoned the assistant and the reviewer and I started updating the assistant.

And "John," as I will call him here, my assistant, started interrupting both the reviewer and me. John is throwing out 'facts' and 'case precedent' on cases he admitted he has never read and has only heard about second hand from our direct supervisor and the prior reviewer. The reviewer calmly listened to the assertions and would then explain how the courts have handled his cases that he has worked over his last 35 years of experience. And John just laughed and said, things like, "Yeah, well maybe, that one case I heard about it pretty persuasive. I guess we'll have to do more research." To which I reached over to my stack of printed cases, handed him the exact case he is incorrectly citing, and pointed out the highlight section that supports exactly what the reviewer just said.

But my assistant, John, just kept going. He reached over my lap and grabbed my laptop and starts going through the spreadsheets I have created and immediately started making on-the-spot determinations on how 'We' will approach each issue. When I tried to speak up, he would retort and counter on issues in which he is completely ignorant. He would argue points of law and accounting to us that are so far off base that it's clear he doesn't understand basic concepts. Two hours later, and the reviewer was still trying to explain basic law and case precedent to my assistant. Every time I would try to steer the conversation back to the minutia that I still wanted input from the learned expert reviewer, my assistant would insert his opinion and point out that he didn't agree with the approach. 

To add to it, during those few hours he did spend on the case was spent looking at my work and analysis. And here at the review, he was spouting off my observations and research with "from my observation... obviously the research shows... it's clear that..." As though he had done the work or had made any contribution! Arguing law is not his role here. He is supposed to be doing simple grunt work, and there he sat, claiming credit for my work.

Now, that kind of behavior alone is galling and offensive on a personal level. On a professional level, I was just flabberghasted. I could not fathom how he felt qualified to scoff at my work, the reviewers experience, and the case precedents that were printed out and sitting right in front of him. The assistant has a two-year associates degree in business. I have a doctorate, two Master's equivalent degrees that allow me to be licensed as a person with a Masters, and three undergraduate degrees in business. The reviewer has 35 years of experience and several advanced degrees. I have six years of experience on this issue and in the firm.

I love to learn. Even if someone has less education or experience than I do on any issue, I know that person can teach me something new. They may have heard something that I didn't or can share a different perspective. And if I don't agree with a person's analysis, then that's the topic I will research next. I want to understand why there is a difference in perspective. If I can't understand all sides to an argument, I can't effectively argue only one position. In a review of my work, I try to understand why a change was suggested so that I can emulate that approach in the future as needed. I love mutually respectful discussion on cases and topics with any person who listens and speaks well. I am very quick to point out a person's hard work, to acknowledge their experiences and perspectives, and to listen raptly while they share their views.

And wow did John hit every single nerve repeatedly like a clown in a doctor suit with a rubber mallet. His communication skills were just terrible. What bothered me more is that John's approach is effective. He can get people to debate him on topics he admittedly knows nothing about, and he had the reviewer talking to him as though I wasn't in the room. I was physically sitting between them, and they were talking over my head while John monopolized the conversation and kept inching my laptop in his direction. I felt violated and insulted at a core level.

So I waited until the reviewer left the room and asked to speak to my assistant privately and said:

"Please stop talking down to both the reviewer and myself. You were interrupting us to insert your opinions on topics you have never worked, claiming credit for work you didn't do, and passing judgment on this case when that is clearly not your job. You were arguing points on cases that you admitted you have never read and do not have the education or experience to debate. Very little was accomplished today because you monopolized the reviewer's time by spouting off research and facts you heard expressed by other people who have actually put work and research into this topic and this case. Our reviewer just spent two hours trying to teach you the basics on a topic you should have researched on your own, as you are required to do in your job description. And you talked down to him and argued points you heard second-hand as though his decades of experience and research were nothing more than conjecture. Your behavior was offensive and insulting to both the reviewer and myself. Please stop."

The assistant nodded.

We only get to see the reviewer once or twice a year. I was so upset by the end of the meeting that I was shaking. I had to go home, take my anti-anxiety medication and beta blockers and try to calm down. I slept a little, but I kept waking up from the nightmare of being back in that situation.

I sure know what I'm going to talk about with my therapist in my next appointment.

I am so incredibly upset at myself for getting upset. I should have spoken to him in a calmer tone after I had some time to cool off. I'm glad I didn't curse or resort to terms like 'jerk' or 'shit-spewing spineless sponge.' At the same time, I have only an hour or less to spend with the reviewer on all my other cases, and my assistant will be there. I had to say something, but I have no idea if he is even capable of stopping this behavior.

I emailed my supervisor about what I had said and admitted that I should have handled it in a better way.

At the moment, I am drawing a blank. How else should I have dealt with this situation other than by trying to avoid working with him and just keeping quiet? From what I've seen in the forums, people who make a habit of this kind of behavior are not going to magically change just because they get called on it. For that matter, their methods may become more passive-aggressive and covert.

I am so stressed out and angry at him and myself.

Has anyone found a tactic that works? Is it best to try to work around these kinds of people? Any suggestions?

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thebutcher

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Re: Confronted a Coworker on his Behavior - I'm Now Angry at Myself
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2016, 11:23:04 AM »
Quote
I emailed my supervisor about what I had said and admitted that I should have handled it in a better way.

I'm not an expert by any definition, but if what you wrote here is what you said to your assistant, I think you handled it very professionally.  It sounds like his behavior was over the line and it was good of you to privately explain to him why it was inappropriate.  It was also good to report the incident to your supervisor, so if your assistant tries to commandeer another review--or any other situation where he is out of his league and unqualified--you'll have a record.

I'm sorry you're still feeling the residual anger and stress, I would feel the same way after that confrontation.

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FinallyPeace

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Re: Confronted a Coworker on his Behavior - I'm Now Angry at Myself
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2016, 11:38:51 AM »
I agree with Butcher.

Everything you said was professional, clear and I don't think you should have any regret.

Kudos to you!! :applause:
"Behind the smile, a hidden knife!"
― Ancient Chinese saying describing passive-aggressive behavior
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"Red flags aren't party favors.  Don't collect them."
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alonenow

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Re: Confronted a Coworker on his Behavior - I'm Now Angry at Myself
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2016, 12:14:44 PM »
Good for you!!!
yes it is probably feeling uncomfortable but from the sounds of it sorely needed. I wish others in many working positions would be direct and deal with this type. So many just avoid the person if possible and keep quiet. I have been in similar situations and while it is uncomfortable and over can go badly I used to get so angry  that when once I spoke up many others wanted to chime in saying X did this to me too ect.  Seems to me if companies could save a lot of money and time by nipping this type of behavior in the bud instead of everyone just passing this person off to the next  person he is suppose to assist. Hopefully this person gets the clue his ACT was apparent and not worth trying again.   

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biggerfish

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Re: Confronted a Coworker on his Behavior - I'm Now Angry at Myself
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2016, 12:23:24 PM »
In my anxiety group they say we're not responsible for the initial working up, but only for working it back down once we realize we're worked up.

You got worked up, yet you still handled it pretty well, and it would have been okay if you hadn't. If you review it now, you're only "reviewing and previewing" which is not as productive as you might think. Now you're worked back down, a little calmer, seeing the total view a little better, and that's what matters.

Let the past go, because what's more important is what you do next. Everyone has their moments, including yourself and the other party, and you can't predict what this guy will do next. So...curtail your imagination on fire, stay rational, and in the present, and go forth with your self-respect as your highest goal.

We're all cheering you on.  :bouncing:

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Bloomie

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Re: Confronted a Coworker on his Behavior - I'm Now Angry at Myself
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2016, 01:24:12 PM »
BrokenDollMagnet - I could feel the tension rising just reading through this account. From where I sit it sounds like you handled this well. If your assistant is a wise person, truly wanting to learn, that got carried away in the moment, he will change his behavior based on your feedback and limit setting with him. If he does not adjust and manage himself better next time, you may have to take further action with him. This sounds like highly aggressive and disruptive behavior that had to be stopped.

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Karelu

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Re: Confronted a Coworker on his Behavior - I'm Now Angry at Myself
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2016, 10:32:08 PM »
BrokenDollMagnet -- I second what Bloomie and others have said.  It really does sound like you handled the situation well given how distressed his behavior made you feel.  As uncomfortable as it was, a conversation with him needed to be had, particularly if further action is required.  Hopefully, he'll consider it his first warning.

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SpringLight

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Re: Confronted a Coworker on his Behavior - I'm Now Angry at Myself
« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2016, 08:37:20 PM »
Hi, BrokenDollMagnet:

I, like Bloomie  could feel the tension rising as I read your account.  Obviously, your account of pushed some of MY buttons too.

Intentionally or not, John was trying to undermine you, most likely only to make himself look/feel better-- about himself. "John" sounds extremely insecure.  AND  it may be that he is highly intimidated by you, your experience and your credentials.  Which says a lot more about HIM and his inability to handle his own personal insecurities than it does you.  (Is he also YOUNGER than you?)

In my opinion, it's NOT THAT HE FELT "QUALIFIED" to scoff at your work, the reviewers experience, and the case precedents. But, rather, I would guess he felt UNQUALIFIED, and uncomfortable, in his "lesser" role.  Could he have felt INFERIOR and even fairly UNIMPORTANT in that moment? I'd bet "John" has a history of steamrolling over others  to make himself feel better, more valuable.

You wrote:

"I love to learn. Even if someone has less education or experience than I do on any issue, I know that person can teach me something new. They may have heard something that I didn't or can share a different perspective. And if I don't agree with a person's analysis, then that's the topic I will research next. I want to understand why there is a difference in perspective. If I can't understand all sides to an argument, I can't effectively argue only one position. In a review of my work, I try to understand why a change was suggested so that I can emulate that approach in the future as needed. I love mutually respectful discussion on cases and topics with any person who listens and speaks well. I am very quick to point out a person's hard work, to acknowledge their experiences and perspectives, and to listen raptly while they share their views."

I am that way, too. It's a quality I like about myself. And I also so appreciate that attribute when I find it in others--especially those in the workplace. 

Are there other ways of handling this, with "this type people?"  I think you handled it quite well! :applause: WHY exactly are you angry at yourself?  Because you dared showed some emotion?

Does he have a pattern of behavior like this, or was this something that came out of the blue? Any precedents you can recall for him showing this type of obnoxious behavior? Or do you suspect it might be a one-time thing?

Is HUMOR an option with this guy?  If only to interrupt the interruptions and have him refocus his attention on his behavior?  Nothing too heavy or forced comedic.  I mean...something along the lines of... "Sorry for talking while you were interrupting,"

What do you think?

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openskyblue

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Re: Confronted a Coworker on his Behavior - I'm Now Angry at Myself
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2016, 09:53:15 PM »
he reached over and grabbed your laptop and started going through your research??!! Just that was so disrespectful that he deserved to be told he was off the case and would be sent back to HR.

He is not only failing to act professionally (and to take direction from his superiors), he's wasting perfectly good billable hours with his need to sound important, and well as the time and expense of the reviewer.

Can you imagine how his behavior would go off in a courtroom with a judge and co-counsel? Not well at all. He sounds like a blowhard. If I were you, I'd assign him the most boring work possible, like going down to the courthouse or taking documents across town or researching the most mundane case law imaginable. If he behaves himself, he can advance to the copy room. 

I think you handled him and the situation well. In the future, you may want to simply dismiss from meetings where he is sticking his nose where it doesn't belong. "Thank you for your input, John. Now could you get us some coffee?"

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SpringLight

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Re: Confronted a Coworker on his Behavior - I'm Now Angry at Myself
« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2016, 11:14:57 PM »
Openskyblue:

Great response!

I especially enjoyed this:

"Thank you for your input, John. Now could you get us some coffee?" :applause:

Although, strictly speaking,  I don't believe we should THANK people for being disrespectful, inappropriate and rude.
So even a perfunctory "thank you" for his "input" would be insincere. 

How about this version?

"We've all heard your input, John.  Now could you get us some coffee? " (I was tempted to add: "Oh, and...no rush, John! Take as long as you'd like.")


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openskyblue

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Re: Confronted a Coworker on his Behavior - I'm Now Angry at Myself
« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2016, 10:22:38 AM »
 :yeahthat:

Oh, I think your version of the script is perfect!

Also: You could simply not tell him about meetings. There's nothing like walking past a conference room and seeing a meeting going on with the team (that you were not told about) to let a person know they haven't gotten on the inside yet -- and need to work their way into their job, not just talk their way in.

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Karelu

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Re: Confronted a Coworker on his Behavior - I'm Now Angry at Myself
« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2016, 10:55:35 AM »
he reached over and grabbed your laptop and started going through your research??!! Just that was so disrespectful that he deserved to be told he was off the case and would be sent back to HR.

He is not only failing to act professionally (and to take direction from his superiors), he's wasting perfectly good billable hours with his need to sound important, and well as the time and expense of the reviewer.

Can you imagine how his behavior would go off in a courtroom with a judge and co-counsel? Not well at all. He sounds like a blowhard. If I were you, I'd assign him the most boring work possible, like going down to the courthouse or taking documents across town or researching the most mundane case law imaginable. If he behaves himself, he can advance to the copy room. 

I think you handled him and the situation well. In the future, you may want to simply dismiss from meetings where he is sticking his nose where it doesn't belong. "Thank you for your input, John. Now could you get us some coffee?"

openskyblue, you so fierce!  After spending WAY too many years with your stbx's STUFF, you seem to be wasting no time whatsoever showing these difficult types the door to coffee-run hell.  The one where the lines seem to never move, A/C crashes on a 100 degree day, grinder stalls ... coffee maker coughs up one drip and one drip only on the hour...   Loving this side of you! 

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openskyblue

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Re: Confronted a Coworker on his Behavior - I'm Now Angry at Myself
« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2016, 11:28:58 AM »
 :yourock:

Hah, Karelu, you made my day!

I loved your description of coffee run hell. Wasn't that a scene in the movie "Brazil"?

 :Monsta: :Monsta: :Monsta:

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Karelu

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Re: Confronted a Coworker on his Behavior - I'm Now Angry at Myself
« Reply #13 on: May 29, 2016, 04:09:59 PM »
 ;D

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arynne

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Re: Confronted a Coworker on his Behavior - I'm Now Angry at Myself
« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2016, 11:35:17 PM »
I think you did very well delivering an appropriate verbal warning.

Consider going the extra step of filing a confidential report with HR. If you end up having to fire him (which sounds like a distinct possibility), HR will be glad to have a paper trail of incidents.