A reader writes:
I am coming up to my two-year anniversary as an apprentice and am struggling with a monthly task my manager has allocated me. As I am learning teapot administration, my manager thought it fit to offer my services to a monthly strategic teapot meeting so that I could have some experience of minute-taking and providing executive support. There are six people who attend the meeting, and five of them I am fine with as they show me respect and don’t treat me as a subordinate. One person, however, really gets my back up with how she treats me. She seems naturally snobbish in nature and has a lot to say. It’s safe to say she is definitely not someone I would choose as a friend.
Cutting to the chase, my main issue with her is that she has known me for two years and still calls me by the wrong name. I am not encouraged to speak in meetings as I am not a “delegate” per se, so it can be difficult for me to correct her and also embarrassing when she does it in front of a room full of people. I had hoped that one of her “equals” would speak up and correct her, but this hasn’t happened as yet. She is not the chair of this particular meeting but seems to take over a lot, and she constantly instructs me of what is to be minuted and what is not. I am there to take minutes and am experienced enough to use my discretion when something is not to be recorded, and it totally angers me that she continues telling me what to do throughout the meeting.
She is dismissive and obviously sees me as beneath her. It has gotten to the point that I dread the meetings and hate being there because she embarrasses me in how she speaks to me. I am close to asking my manager if I can stop providing support at the meetings as they are seriously getting me down. Would this be reasonable or should I just deal with it? How can I tackle this?
Don’t do that; it wouldn’t reflect well on you to ask to stop attending a meeting simply because one of the people there annoys you.
If she’s a blowhard, other people at the meeting will see that and it will reflect on her, not on you — and the more you can remain calm and not let her get under your skin, the better you’ll look.
If you’re at the meetings to take minutes, I’d try to totally disconnect yourself from caring that she talks a lot and takes over (not really yours to be aggravated by since it’s not your meeting), and even that she gives you direction about the minutes. Your manager sent you there to give you minutes-taking experience, so presumably this coworker has some reason to think that some direction might be helpful — but even if not, she’s hardly out of line in wanting some input into the content of the minutes for a meeting that it sounds like she plays a big role in.
But you absolutely have standing to address the name thing. It doesn’t have to be a big, fraught thing; just approach her after a meeting and say, “I noticed you keep referring to me as Cordelia, but I’m actually Jane.”
Beyond that, though, you’re going to deal with annoying and even snotty people throughout your career. Your best bet is to see their demeanor as being about them, not you.