my coworker calls me rude when I’m simply being direct

A reader writes:

About a month ago, I wrote to you about a coworker of mine who would ask me questions and then turn around and ask another colleague the same exact question. After I wrote you, this coworker stopped with that weird habit, but now she’s rubbing me the wrong way for a different reason.

Like you, I’m a straightforward person and am very direct with people when necessary. For instance, when coworkers aren’t pulling their weight, I politely let them know that I could use their help completing X. I don’t make a big deal of it and I never say it in an unprofessional manner. Another time, I approached a manager in a different department after that manager berated me for a minor mistake that had no major implications. After letting some time pass to cool down, I calmly apologized for the mistake and let her know that I don’t respond well to people yelling at me and would appreciate it if she didn’t talk to me like that in the future.

Because of seeing things like this, this coworker thinks I’m the meanest person in the world, and she tells me this multiple times per day. Even if I’m asked to give an opinion about a new restaurant and give it a bad review, she’ll yell, “You’re so rude!” For some reason, this coworker associates directness and not sugarcoating things with being mean and rude.

I’m in no way mean or rude to anyone I encounter and she’s the only person who has ever said this to me. Since you seem to be pretty direct, have you ever encountered anything like this? I feel like if I were a man, she wouldn’t blink twice.

Wow. She sounds like the rude one. And I’d actually suggest a response along those lines, which I’ll get to in a minute.

But honestly, her behavior is bizarre. There are certainly plenty of people whose style is not to be so direct, and who do experience it as a little jarring or abrasive. But these people tend not to do things like yell, “You’re so rude!” with such little provocation, if at all. By definition, they tend to find that type of reaction over-the-top and … jarring and abrasive.

So I don’t know what’s up with her, but she doesn’t sound like your typical I-prefer-diplomacy-to-directness type.

In any case … The next time she makes one of these comments to you, reply calmly, “Jane, your telling me unsolicited that you think I’m rude simply because we have different communication styles is what I find rude. Please stop commenting about this sort of thing.”

And if she keeps it up after that, say, “Jane, I’ve asked you clearly to stop calling me mean and rude. Please stop speaking to me that way.” Repeat as necessary.

The key, though, is that you need to say this utterly calmly, not heatedly. You don’t want to get into a pissing match with her about who’s ruder; you just want to tell her to stop the behavior … and you want to do so in a way that’s unimpeachable to anyone who might overhear it. So, calm, polite, and matter of fact.

And from here on out, consider her some sort of odd creature who you may observe with anthropological interest but should not get too close to, as she is bitey.

{ 121 comments… read them below }

  1. Dave*

    Some pronouns are ambiguous. Why did OP approach a manager in a different department? To discuss this coworker’s berating behavior? Why in the world would you discuss a personnel problem with a manager who does not manage either of the people (assuming I’m reading this correctly)?

    TBQH it sounds like this is a passive aggressive, personal snark match between the 2. You don’t like each other. Get over it and keep the relationship professional.

    If you’re straightforward and professional you’ll have no problems limiting a relationship with a coworker to professional issues.

    1. OP*

      I never said that we didn’t get along – we actually work well together. She just has a lot of strange quirks and she seems to associate directness with being mean which results in her ridiculous outbursts. I usually ignore her but wanted to know if AAM ever encountered anything like this.

      1. Mike C.*

        Are there other coworkers within earshot who share a similarly direct communications style that your “pal” finds rude as well?

      2. yen*

        Like Alison said, it doesn’t sound like your co-worker prefers diplomacy to directness, though, not if she can tell you you’re rude multiple times a day. It’s not like she sidled up to you after the restaurant review and murmured that people have different tastes and it’s all subjective, really, isn’t it, and it’s possible you were a wee bit harsh on that restaurant, perhaps?

  2. TL*

    This seems like a perfect situation for the Carolyn Hax “Wow.”

    If you don’t go Alison’s route, the next time she yells “You’re so rude!” just raise your eyebrow(s) slightly and very calmly and neutrally say “Wow.”

    Then just pretend like her comment never happened.

  3. Blinx*

    “…consider her some sort of odd creature who you may observe with anthropological interest but should not get too close to, as she is bitey.”
    Love this!

    1. Jamie*

      I love this, too – so much that I want to stitch it on a sampler and hang it in my office.

      I have a bitey situation myself these days – I’m going to co-opt this advice and see if it works for me.

  4. Rosalita*

    What if you called her out on it by asking her to explain why she thinks you’re rude. For example, you’re asked for your opinion on a restaurant, and you give it a negative review. She says “you’re so rude!” You turn to her and say, in a genuinely curious manner, “Jane, I understand that you might have a different opinion of XYZ Restaurant than I do. I’m having trouble understanding why you perceive my opinion as rude. Could you give me some further explanation?”
    She might say something like, “well, you always have a negative opinion about everything.” You could respond, “if you didn’t like a restaurant, would it be rude of you to say so?”
    Maybe making her explain it will help her see how her behavior isn’t appropriate, or maybe you’ll uncover some information about why this bothers her so much.

    1. Just a Reader*

      I feel like this opens the door to allowing the coworker to think her behavior is justified. Really, OP just wants to shut it down–a dialogue is just going to invite further criticism.

      1. Veronica*

        I feel like Rosalita might be on to something. In my experience, when someone says something with no factual basis, asking them why they feel that way generally leads to them realizing how ridiculous their comment was without being aggressive towards them.

        1. VintageLydia*

          This tactic works really well with inappropriate jokes (racist, sexist, or otherwise.) Make them explain why they think something is funny. Sometimes it annoys the joker. Sometimes it leads to a lightbulb moment. Either way it’s a win-win and they generally stop saying those types of jokes in front of you (even if they don’t understand why they aren’t funny.)

      2. Anonna Miss*

        I agree with Just a Reader – opening a dialogue is just going to indicate that it’s theoretically possible that she has a point that OP is rude. But OP’s manners aren’t the issue. The issue is this anthropoligical specimen commenting and yelling inappropriately.

  5. Liz in the City*

    This always-offended coworker sounds like she’s young or hasn’t worked in an office environment very long. With the manager thing, it sounds like she may view things as “managers tell us what to do and when we go wrong; you don’t talk back to one.”

    1. Anon*

      I have a feeling we are going to get a THIRD update where we discover this hyper-sensitive coworker won’t be there anymore. Mainly because she wasn’t getting her work done, sticking her nose in situations she didn’t belong in, and wasn’t getting along with her coworkers.

  6. Katy*

    I can think of many other things you could say to a coworker like this…none of which would be appropriate. ;)

    I agree with a previous poster, I’d have to just say WOW and walk away. Some people are clueless.

  7. Lizabeth*

    Duct tape has many uses…particularly for the bitey types (sorry, had to do it).

    FWIW I would go with the WOW and leave it at that. Anything else means engaging her and giving her attention that would reward her behavior.

  8. Mark*

    I think the OP may be a rude person.

    1. She said when someone isn’t pulling their weight she tells them “i need your help with project so and so”. Who asks for help when a coworker is slacking. I’m sure she’s most likely saying something condescending.

    2. She indicated she was yelled at for a minor infraction. What she may think is minor had to have been major to the manager (from another dept) for him/her to confront her about the mistake because she said AFTER cooling off she apologized for it and told the manager she didn’t like to be yelled at. If she didn’t admit to her mistake upfront, what was she saying to that manager when she was called out on the mistake?

    3. The OP is doing all this stuff in a public forum because she indicated the person who called her rude said so “after seeing all of this”.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm, I don’t see that at all.

      It’s perfectly reasonable to let coworkers know when you need their help on a project; in fact, I would expect someone to do that in that situation and would wonder why they didn’t otherwise. Certainly someone could say it in a condescending way, but there’s nothing here to indicate that the OP did.

      2. I don’t care if the mistake was major or minor; you don’t yell at employees. It’s not okay, and it’s perfectly appropriate to ask someone not to if they do.

      3. The coworker works in the same department as the OP. It’s not surprising that she has witnessed her interactions with other people.

      1. J.*

        Does #2 change if you’re significantly more junior than the OP seems to be? My peer-level co-workers and I are at the coordinator/assistant level, and we’ve definitely been yelled at for minor infractions. I agree that it’s not productive nor a way anyone should treat anyone they work with. But would it be more detrimental to our careers to speak up to a manager at this point in our careers? Or is it a basic human decency sort of thing?

        Although, it’s probably also important to note that many people have different ideas of what ‘yelling’ entails. I have a co-worker who said that I ‘yelled’ at her one time because I firmly asked her to do something she promised to do days ago. Above, I’m referencing full-blown screaming.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Your last point is true! I’ve been known to tell my mother to stop yelling at me, when it’s really just her tone that was making me feel yelled at.

          Anyway, no, it’s not appropriate to yell at anyone in the workplace, regardless of experience level. (And frankly, it diminishes the authority of the yeller because it makes them look out of control. Yelling is the sign of a bad manager who doesn’t know how to appropriately exercise authority.)

        2. Kou*

          The point about yelling– that was my first thought as well. Are these two people really “yelling” at the OP (raising their voice, sharp tone, etc) or is she using “yelling” to mean “saying something contrary to me,” which is how plenty of peolpe mean it, but the two behaviors are totally distinct.

          1. Anon for this*

            I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week, so the topic is perfect timing for me.

            How common is the yelling in an average workplace? Is this happening at least sometimes in more places than not?

            And for clarity I am talking about real yelling, voices raised people sticking heads out of other offices to see what’s gong on. Belittling and humiliating diatribes where there is one yellee and one yeller.

            Adult temper tantrums.

            I like to think I’m pretty professional but when it comes to this I think I’m touching than other people, because I am infuriated and baffled that it ever happens. As pissed as I’ve been at work from time to time raising my voice and public shaming just isn’t in my repertoire and I can’t handle it in others.

            It’s rare that I’ve experienced it. Even rarer when it’s directed at me and I just can’t handle it when it does. All the apologies in the world from the yeller and from my bosses don’t take the sting away.

            It’s just so very humiliating to deal with something that I would never in a million years tolerate in any other circumstance, just because I need my job.

            And it sucks more that I like my job, and I like the people for whom I work, and rare but recurring incidents by someone with significant anger management issues is disturbing enough to me that I’d walk away if I could.

            I don’t get it. I don’t understand how a dynamic can be good 99% of the time and then explode in your face without warning. It messes with my head.

            Additional info – in family businesses some people have the ultimate in job security and so the extent of the “managing” of this is to apologize and explain that’s unfortunately just how they are.

            More additional info – I can’t name one person, manager level or above who has not been on the receiving end and my boss did immediate damage control with me letting me now this was not my fault and there were zero issues with my performance in general or regarding this incident. It was a tantrum and I was wrong place wrong time…although where the hell else I should be besides the office in the middle of the day who knows.

            Besides looking for something else, which takes time and I’m not in the position to walk without it, how do people learn to deal? I see people shake it off fast and it lingers with me. The shame and embarrassment and public humiliation. It’s been almost a week and I’m still kinda sick just thinking about it.

            How do people develop a thick skin for this kind of thing? I wasn’t hurt and it didn’t effect how I feel about myself – I know the accusations of my massive uselessness, stupidity, and suckage aren’t true – so why is the shame and humiliation so real?

            I have a hard time making eye contact with my coworkers because they heard it, although as they’ve all been on the other end they have been nothing but cool as they consider the source.

            People who yell need to know that this is a really fast short cut to demoralizing staff. Even people who love their jobs and the company – it sours fast. But I think demoralizing is the point.

            Its the only time I think I’m just not cut out for my job – because I can’t shake this off like other people. It’s happened 4x in almost 5 years so sure, not often, but I remember every detail of each incident and its weeks before I feel normal again.

            I can’t yell back – I just can’t. I logically state my ponts but if that escalates and I’m talked over I find my boss and let him deal with it – kinda cowardly – but I don’t have the tools to deal with public scenes. And quite frankly, I don’t think I should need them just to earn a living.

            I told my boss no one should have to check their dignity at the door in order to keep their job and he agreed with me. But that doesn’t change anything.

            And yeah, as big a point of debate as its been, I closed my office door and cried. I was so proud I didn’t cry until the yeller had left and I was if e until my boss asked if I was okay and that I didn’t deserve that…something about the kindness and I welled up. I was so angry and so humiliated and I told my boss it was my only outlet as I couldn’t quit and I refuse to yell back. And then I had the embarrassment of crying at work on top of everything else.

            Thanks for letting me vent – any tips about toughening up would be appreciated, but otherwise I’m sure it will fade.

            I just don’t understand why anyone in any universe thinks this is okay at work. I told my boss I am always open to any work related discussion, I’ve always handled feedback well even if it wasn’t glowing…and he agreed that was true…and if they want to fire me its within their rights, that’s business….but this isn’t business. This is someone making a metaphorical mess on the carpet and expecting us to live with the smell.

            This isn’t how you manage anyone.

            1. fposte*

              That’s an understandably upsetting situation, and I’m sorry you’re stuck in it. It sounds to me like you’re asking two main questions: is this so common it’s not even worth the effort to avoid, and how does somebody get used to it?

              I don’t have an answer, but I do want to assure you that there’s nothing wrong with finding it upsetting to be yelled at. I get that you’d like to be able to shrug it off, but it’s not *wrong* that you can’t, and it’s not a hugely unusual characteristic (remember, you also don’t know what your co-workers feel inside or do in privacy). I don’t think I’ve ever really been yelled at at work or witnessed yelling at work like you suggest, so it doesn’t seem common to me. I do suspect that it’s more common in some fields or kinds of workplaces than others–as you note, family businesses may be more prone to forgive misbehavior of a relative–but I still think it’s not something every workplace puts up with.

              On the other hand, I think work isn’t actually the only place that people are expected to accept being yelled at and not argue back–off the top if my head I can think of it happening to me with music directors and athletic coaches and cops, and I suspect those would be examples a lot of people would share (I’m sure there are others, too). I mention this not to “So what” your concerns but to give some context so maybe it doesn’t feel quite so much like a special job torment and also perhaps give some indication as to why some people do shake it off more quickly–they’ve had experience with yelling, and sometimes in situations they voluntarily stayed with and felt were overall positive.

              That doesn’t mean you have to find a way to become like that, but it does sound like it would be helpful for you to be able to get past it more easily. I actually think that’s a very legitimate and concrete request for a therapist, straight off, but I would also suggest that sometimes getting past it involves finding a way to let it go and to resist the rehashing that makes the event go on for ages. Write this kind of post out on your home computer or on paper at home the day it happens and call it done; then decide that starting the next day every time you try to go over it again in your head that”ll be your cue todo something else, something physical like walk around the building, or stand up and stretch, or get a drink of water, or listen to a song you like–something positive and mood-altering that’s a reward and a change rather than just yelling at yourself to stop worrying about somebody yelling at you.

              And good luck to finding a better place than this.

              1. Anon for this*

                I actually think that’s a very legitimate and concrete request for a therapist

                First – yes – one of my questions if this happens everywhere, because if so the devil you know and all that…

                The part I quoted is something I’ve been thinking about and I’m really interested in knowing more about how that works…because not that I’m unwilling to look at myself but I don’t think I have any deep seated issues – and if I do I think I want to leave them buried – but I was wondering if there are therapists that work on concrete things like this.

                Tools for dealing with certain circumstances – like a guide to coping mechanisms I may be missing.

                I remember when my kids were small they went to occupational therapy to help with fine motor skills. I need a different kind of occupational therapist – one to help me with my actual occupation. :)

                So if I were to look for a therapist – is there a specialty I should be looking for? I don’t want to rehash my entire childhood – if I do this I want someone who specialized in work place stress and issues. Is that a specific category or is it something I’d just need to vet individually?

                To deliberately stop rehashing is really good advice too, and one I started applying when I read this yesterday. Over thinking things and having the scene replay in my head over and over while I look for answers wasn’t helping…just keeps the negative feelings fresh.

                1. fposte*

                  I’m not hugely conversant with therapeutic schools, but cognitive behavioral approaches seem a lot more “how to get through this” than “how do you really feel about your father,” from what I hear. You should also be able to say that you’d like to focus on a specific work problem for a short number of visits and ask if that fits with their protocol.

                2. Laura L*

                  I’d look for someone who does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Particularly, someone who uses it as their main type of therapy. Cognitive therapists generally don’t spend time with you rehashing the past. And it’s outcome focused, so it would be great for something like this!

              2. khilde*

                “On the other hand, I think work isn’t actually the only place that people are expected to accept being yelled at and not argue back–off the top if my head I can think of it happening to me with music directors and athletic coaches and cops, and I suspect those would be examples a lot of people would share (I’m sure there are others, too).”

                Funny you should mention this – as I was reading Anon’s story I was thinking – “boy, that’s like my in-laws.” Though they don’t do the yelling…their speciality is passive agression. But the effect is the same: rehasing over and over, feeling humiliated, wanting to right the wrong, feeling trapped (by a job or by marriage), etc. I don’t have advice Anon, other than to say that you’re not alone in experiencing this. Taking the high road has been my only survival skill so far. I like what you said, “it messes with my head.” I don’t speak passive agressive so I don’t understand how to deal with it either. In my world, I don’t relate that way and if I had friends that acted that way – they’d be out of my life in a heartbeat. Like your job, my in-laws I can’t entirely eliminate from my life. Good luck to you. The situation can’t last forever.

            2. Anonymous*

              I’ve been there, and it sucks. I was not able to quit either; however, I work for a large company, and I was able to transfer. Unfortunately, I have since learned that this kind of behavior is endemic where I work. My company has over 2,000 employees. I’m still stuck here and still looking to get out.

              So yes. It happens a lot of places, and I agree that it is unacceptable.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Yep, everyone seems to have their own definition of “yelling”. To me it is a scolding where I cannot come up for air- I can’t fit a word in edgewise because the other person’s words keep flowing.

          This type of yelling does not have to include cussing or one liners that hit below the belt or a loud voice. It is simply more like “being talked AT” as opposed to “spoken WITH.”

          I have had reprimands of both types. The ones where I can speak, I can let go of much easier. Typically, my problem goes something like I missed Step 8 because no one had told me that the process now included Step 8 and I had no way of deducing that on my own.

          But I think a critical element in any discussion like this is that it be done out of earshot of other people.

    2. Colette*

      If she didn’t admit to her mistake upfront,…

      Taking her story at face value, she was being yelled at for making a mistake. Being yelled at makes many people either get defensive or withdraw – it completely removes the possibility of discussion and is highly unlikely to make someone say “Oh, you’re right, I’m sorry”. IMO, going away, thinking about the issue, and then contacting the manager to apologize for the mistake but ask not to be yelled at is a sign of maturity.

    3. businesslady*

      “Who asks for help when a coworker is slacking”?! who DOESN’T ask for help in that situation?

      I mean, there are more & less charitable ways to do it–you want to save “email to slacker coworker with their boss cc:ed” as an absolute last resort & only when the stakes are sufficiently high–but saying, “hey, I really need that thing you promised to get me” or whatever is just How Things Get Done.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I have worked places where it was pointless to ask the slacker.
        So I can see where some work places might have an environment where you do not ask the slacker to “help.”

      2. Not a slacker*

        I’ve actually had this done to me, where someone sent out an email to the department and cc’ed the boss asking me to do something since I wasn’t busy. I was actually meeting with a coworker about work related issues, and she was close enough to see me sitting in her cube, but not to hear what we were talking about. This was also someone I was about 3x more productive then per our metrics, which she knew. The whole thing ended up with the woman who sent the e-mail leaving the company as a result. It was a pattern of behavior that was inappropriate, mostly doing with trying to be the manager of people she was not.

        My view on this is that you do NOT ask specific peers you assume are slacking to do things. You don’t know what is on other people’s plates if you aren’t their boss, and you don’t know how much they accomplish in a day or if they’re on a 10 minute break when you see them, etc. if someone is not doing things you need done in a timely manner, the person to discuss it with is their manager, not to send passive aggressive e-mails. If their slacking is not impacting your work, it’s none of your business.

        If I do need help on a project, I’ll send an email to my group and ask if anyone is available to help out on so and so, rather than targeting specific people.

        1. scw*

          Well I think it depends on what you mean by slacking. If you just watch them and don’t think they are working hard–that is one thing. But if they are supposed to do something that you need to do your job, and they aren’t–and it is holding up your ability to get your job done, it seems perfectly legit to ask when they are going to get to their part of the project. Most people would rather have you ask them where their part of the project is, than to have you go to the boss and say “I’ve finished X and Y, but I can’t start on Z until I get the schematics from Jane and she is two weeks late. How would you like me to proceed?”

    4. Ellie H.*

      I honestly got this impression too, but I am a bit more sensitive than the average person. I totally agree that “yelling ‘you’re so rude'” and repeating this criticism is a very strange thing to do. But, from the description of her own actions, I do not find it difficult to imagine that a reasonable person might interpret the OP’s communication style as, on occasion, unnecessarily blunt.

  9. Kelly H*

    I have been in a similar situation for about the last 5 months.

    I agree with ANON…because I think that is what is unfolding with this situation….

    This coworker has now moved on to picking on someone else and what their attitude is…and is clearing her desk off and adjusting her hours as if to give the impression that she is going to leave anytime. I can only dare to dream…

    I am glad I am out of her crazy look of sensitivity now!

  10. Laura*

    I had a coworker once — with whom I was friendly, ftr — who more than once told me that if he looked up “bitch” in the dictionary he’d expect to see my picture next to it. He very clearly intended it as a compliment and would say it in a rather admiring tone of voice. I finally asked him to explain what he meant — I’m certainly direct and I don’t suffer fools well, but I wouldn’t call myself a bitch (most of the time) — and he just meant I had a strong personality and didn’t put up with any BS. Which is fair, but I don’t think that makes me a bitch, and told him so. Perhaps “rude” doesn’t mean what the coworker thinks it means? It sounds like OP is quite outspoken…perhaps that’s the word co-worker is looking for?

      1. Chassity*

        Awesome! I love it when The Princess Bride is thrown into random conversations. I think the OP should say this to her coworker. Either that or threaten to feed her to the eels!

    1. Ash*

      That’s juat a common example of how when women are seen as being assertive or direct, they are a “bitch”. There’s no way that a woman could have those qualities without any negative attachments, because women are supposed to be meek and polite. It’s really annoying, regardless of whether or not it’s meant as a compliment.

    2. VintageLydia*

      A lot of women who are direct and assertive are often labeled bitches, even when they’re neither rude nor overly aggressive. Because of this, some people see that word as a compliment. I disagree because it’s comparing a woman to an animal who needs to be controlled.
      But I’ve never heard someone calling someone else (or themselves!) as “rude” to be complimentary. I’m sure it has happened, but not nearly the frequency of “bitch.”

      1. Laura*

        Didn’t mean to imply that she meant “rude” as a compliment, just that it doesn’t mean what she thinks it means. My friend did, to his credit, stop calling me a bitch after that conversation and switched to complimenting me on specific behaviors (e.g., “Wow, you really stood up to that slimy vendor!”) instead, which was much nicer.

  11. SJ*

    Often, people describe themselves as “direct” as a way to cover (or deny) the fact that they’re rude, so I do wonder about the OP’s temperament in this case, especially as she seems not to be a stranger to workplace conflict.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s absolutely true sometimes; some people who brag about being direct are in fact just jerks. But certainly not all people who describe themselves as direct fall in that category. I don’t see any reason to assume that the OP does, especially since the only person who is indicating that is a coworker who thinks appropriate behavior is screaming “you’re so rude” at someone.

    2. Kou*

      Agreed. Without actually seeing any of these exchanges, it’s hard to tell who’s sensitive and who’s not. I speak very bluntly and some people don’t take it well because of their preferences (and, like OP suggests, I’ve always thought fewer would react like that if I was a man). But at the same time, sometimes what I say *is* impolite without me realizing it, because directness/bluntness is not always appropriate and can indeed be unintentionally rude. You can’t just write off every negative reaction with “well that’s just how I am, and they’re just sensitive.” You have to be aware of the fact that your style might not always be best.

      And since the OP seems to be taking issue with a whole lot of the behavior around her (annoying though it may be) I wonder if perhaps she *is* being too confrontational in some situations. OP, I’ve done this by accident many times, and I only ever realized it long after– try to really take a step back here and make sure you’re adjusting your approach appropriately.

      1. SJ*

        Exactly. Judith Martin (Miss Manners) is the best at explaining how “I’m just being honest/blunt/direct” usually means “I’m just being rude.”

      2. just me*

        I am with you on this. The OP has mentioned about the ” co -worker” doing “X” behavior she doesn’t like. And then a manager did ” this thing” the OP didn’t like. Now the same co worker is doing ” this other thing” the OP doesn’t like. And the other co-workers are sometimes slacking off and SHE has to say something.

        Why is it that ALL these situations tick off the OP?

        Just to clarify.. I am not saying the OP doesn’t have some valid points in general….. that stuff might really tick off people but…. like Kou says the OP also can’t just say ” I can say things I want to and tough luck to others…” and that is just the answer to all of it.

        As she tells it, the manager yelled at her for whatever and she got ticked. So why can’t she accept that maybe, just maybe she is doing the same to others.

        I am really struggling with siding with the OP here. As I see it the operative person in these conflicts is the OP.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Hmmm. First, even if the OP hasn’t handled those situations perfectly, there’s absolutely no justification for the coworker’s behavior! So it might be irrelevant. But that said, I don’t know why we’d blame someone for getting yelled at by a manager — that’s unacceptable, no matter what the provocation. So that takes care of that one, leaving only the “incident” of asking a coworker to help with a project. Which I assume many of us have done, and isn’t unusual. So I’m not really seeing the issue here.

          1. just me*

            But why is she stating the co-workers are not pulling their weight? That has nothing to do with her simply asking for help.

            Why did she pull those to issues together? Who’s weight are they not pulling? Why is she getting to decide that? And why should we just say… OK you can determine that?

            I would never go up to a go worker and say.. You are not pulling your weight.. so help me. That is what it sounds like she is saying. Directly or indirectly.

            All she needs to say is… If you have time can you help me? If their work is slacking that is the managers issue not hers. She is not the boss.

            1. Mike C.*

              Why don’t you ask the OP directly and wait for a response? Right now you’re engaging in the fallacy of ignorance and you won’t find any answers there.

              1. on looker*

                Wow….. talk about being direct. Your comment was rude to the poster. Using the word ignorance was demeaning. You apparently lack tact in responding to someone you don’t agree with. A simple I don’t agree and why would have sufficed.

                Perhaps, in some manner this is how the OP responds to people and that is why she got the” you are rude” comment. After all you just proved that can happen.

                1. Omne*

                  Actually it’s an informal fallacy: argumentum ad ignorantiam or “appeal to ignorance”. It is what it is and probably not meant to be demeaning.

                  To be picky it doesn’t really fit this situation since the posters aren’t drawing conclusions based on a lack of evidence, they’re simply filling the fact void with speculation.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              She wrote: “For instance, when coworkers aren’t pulling their weight, I politely let them know that I could use their help completing X.”

              That seems pretty clear that she isn’t telling them they’re not pulling their weight, but is asking for their help.

              It sounds like you’re reading stuff into this letter that isn’t there….?

          2. Kou*

            I’m still not sure “yelling” means the kind of yelling you’re thinking, I think OP is meaning talking at/reprimanding rather than raising your voice and screaming.

            I’m just thinking, it’s not just the number of issues she has, because I don’t see that as unreasonably high, but she’s written in about them, indicating she finds them to be problematic enough to need action. That coupled with that is a lot of justification for her communication style. So the whole package says to me, as someone who’s upset people with similar stuff before, is that the OP is potentially exacerbating her problems with her coworkers by either 1) refusing to adjust her no-BS style to the audience, and/or 2) feeling the need to DO something every time something bothers her. That sounds like it could be the catalyst for little differences turning into out and out disagreements or conflicts.

            1. Cruella DaBoss*

              Maybe it’s a matter of perspective.

              We have someone here in our office that views any loud talking as “yelling/screaming.” This person often tells others that those who speak loudly are “always yelling/screaming” at them.

              I have witnessed several incidents where someone was reported as “yelling/screaming” but that didn’t seem to be the case. It wasn’t anything more than some of our more boisterous employees talking. While I realize that this may distracting to an extent, this person is viewed as “overly sensitive” by the rest of the group.

  12. mel*

    This situation sounds like some kind of internet discussion brought into real life! It’s amazing how many people think that a disagreement is equivalent to bullying, for example.

    Someone once suggested that all of this texting, portable music devices, internet and such is allowing people to avoid dealing with strangers/jerks to the point where we don’t even know how to cope with an uncomfortable social situation anymore…

    Perhaps this odd coworker grew up with nothing but gentle pats on the head? Makes me wonder if she’s like this with everyone or just the op.

    1. Sam*

      Wow, the co-worker sounds awfully kooky. There may not be an easy solution here, but the OP could try altering their conversation style. Know your audience.

      And this comes from a “direct” communicator who freely admits that being direct can come across as being insensitive or rude, especially to expressive (touchy-feely) folks.

  13. Anonymous*

    I don’t know, the OP sounds a bit odd to me, too. “When coworkers aren’t pulling their weight” is just such an odd way to phrase a situation. I would say “when I need help and someone can lend a hand”, but “pulling their weight” almost seems to imply a bunch of slackers at the office.

    1. Just a Reader*

      It sounds like that’s exactly what it was–people who weren’t doing their part when they were supposed to, in a way that affected the OP. Totally reasonable to ask them to step up.

    2. just me*

      I agree……it does sound funny….

      from OP…
      ” For instance, when coworkers aren’t pulling their weight, I politely let them know that I could use their help completing X. I don’t make a big deal of it and I never say it in an unprofessional manner.”

      Her phrasing is odd…
      Who’s weight are they not pulling? Their own workload? Are they not paying attention to her and her need of help?

      If there is a process that involves her and other employees that has gotten out of control the phrasing should be more… ” I am involved with a process with other people and everyone needs to hold their own. That is not happening so I talk to the co-worker regarding the need to do their part so I can do mine…..”
      That is a definition of not pulling your weight. And yes say something. It is a project they all are in.

      But that is not what she says.. she says.. people are not pulling their own weight so I ask them to help me in completing ” X “. Not completing ” our project” but hers is what is sounds like.

      Is ” X ” a project they ALL have been working on and they slacked off. Or is ” X ” her project?

      What exactly are they not doing to pull their weight and how is it effecting her work?

      She did not indicated what they are doing ( or not doing ) is effecting her work, just saying for them to help her.

      And if it is her own project she is doing, why is she monitoring other peoples work?

      OP can you clarify? Specifically what is happening? Thanks..

    3. Cassie*

      The way I read it, the coworkers are not doing their part of a project (or something along those lines). It’s not about asking for help, it’s about each person taking care of their portion so that everything moves forward.

      It’s like if you’re at Subway – if the guy getting the bread doesn’t do his job, the next guy can’t put the cheese and meat onto the bread (and I don’t think the next guy can usurp the bread guy and take over his duties). And the person manning the cashier has to wait for everyone else to do their part before he/she can ring up the order.

      1. just me*

        There is not one bit of wording that says this is a group project.

        When she asks for help she states to help her, not, please do your part in our project.

        You have a great example of a group project. You need the bread baked, the meats & cheeses cut, the cashier. If someone was a slacker on breads are you going to ask them to help you on meats and cheeses? OR ask them to do their job which is making the bread.
        That is what I am saying. She isn’t saying for them to pull their own weight, she is asking them to help her.

        Yes I am being picky. I know.

        1. just me*

          Pull their own weight in their own jobs first is what I am saying. That is what the goal should be . And when the persons job allows, then ask for help from co-workers. What good does it do to see a slacker and go.. ” oh I want the person who isn’t doing their own job to help me in mine”.
          Like they will do a golden job for you?

          1. Cassie*

            I get what you’re saying and I agree with you – if the coworker is not doing their own duties first, there’s no reason to ask them to help with other duties.

            I just read it differently (that the coworkers aren’t doing their own work and that’s why she has to “prod” them).

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          “There is not one bit of wording that says this is a group project.”

          But there’s also not one bit of wording that says it isn’t. It seems like an awfully big assumption to make that the OP is in the wrong here.

  14. KarenT*

    I’m sorry, but unless you are someone’s parent, there is nothing ruder than telling someone they are rude.

    1. KarenT*

      And by this I mean, anything rude (and I do not think the OP was rude at all), but anything rude the OP could say is eclipsed by her co-worker attempting to correct or highlight her so-called rudeness.

      1. Rana*

        Agreed. There is a person I am related to by marriage who pulls this crap on me regularly, usually in situations where my behavior is not, in fact, rude – he just thinks he is.

        But even if I was being a complete jerk and objectively rude? It’s still not his place to manage my behavior.

  15. Ash*

    I personally feel like the world would be a better place if people could just handle be honest with each other and themselves. Being direct isn’t a bad thing, but some people have to have things sugarcoated and dolled up and dumbed down for them because otherwise you’re being a meany pants and they’re going to tell on you! Language doesn’t have to be flowery and protective if people would just stop for a second and think about what they’re being told (or what they’re saying).

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I think a lot of younger people who are this way are coming out of that whole self-esteem movement in parenting, where their folks bent over backward to make sure they avoided any kind of disappointment, conflict, or unpleasantness whatsoever. Unfortunately, this leaves them completely unable to handle life, which, as we know, isn’t perfect.

      1. MA*

        There is a reality with the “direct” approach that sometimes you’ll unintentionally come off as curt. My husband is a very direct guy, but every now and then he offends our friends and family but doesn’t understand why (until I lovingly point out how he could be perceived).

        Case in point, when we were first dating he called my office and got one of my co-wokers on the line (who had a VERY thick skin BTW). I was in the office but unavailable and he wanted to know why. After a few minutes on the phone my co-worker hung up very flustered and said “Some jerk was trying to reach you, I think his name was Jim.”

        I called my hubby back before saying anything to see what happened. My hubby had no idea he offended anyone and didn’t really understand how there could be a conflict. I then had to sheepishly approach my co-worker and let her know that the “jerk” was my significant other. She then got a little embarrassed and, as I suspected, said that he came across as very curt on the phone.

        I don’t mind when people are direct but I also don’t mind when people use other communication styles. No one way is perfect, but whatever form of communication style you choose you have to accept its downside.

      2. Anonymous*

        We have one of these types in my office, though, and she’s got to be in her 40s or 50s (stated by someone in her early 40s.)

    2. Jennifer*

      I agree directness is a positive thing when it’s used correctly. However, there is something for using diplomacy and being tactful in the workplace.

      I worked with a woman who was proud of the fact that she was “direct” and didn’t sugarcoat anything. The problem is her directness resulted in her yelling at coworkers in public and being demanding wanting her projects done first even when others were a higher priority and deadline sensitive. It got to the point where the manager was even afraid to say anything to her because she would talk back. It was so noticeable once that upper management heard the way she spoke to others and she was reprimanded for her attitude.

      I agree people should be direct but not aggressive. When they act over the top, they’re the ones being childish. I’m not saying the OP was like that at all either. I’m just saying that people need to realize there are different communication styles and people respond differently to the way people communicate.

      It would upset me if I were being called rude when I was just being honest. However, I might look at the way I spoke to see if maybe I was being too aggressive or if someone was taking me the wrong way. As others indicated, I would probably say “that was never my intention. I’m sorry you feel that way and I was just being honest.”

      Remember a few years ago when people would say “shut up” when they heard good news? That could definitely be construed as something negative, especially to someone who first language isn’t English.

      The point I’m making is we need to all self check every once in a while to make sure we’re not the problem. If it’s the other person then there must be a way to diplomatically resolve the problem without letting it stew inside and develop into something worse.

      1. Egee*

        Agreed. And I think we also need to look at the fact that the person on the other end of the ” direct approach” has the right to say something back.

        There are repercussions to the thinking of ” I can say what I want because I am a direct person” . The person you say it to can also tell you to stick your comment where the sun doesn’t shine and should be allowed too. Conversation is 2 ways.

        The above posters comment is right on. Many people need to check the comments they make as sometimes that do come off poorly.

        And also just because the OP’s says her co-worker is the only one who has stated she is rude it doesn’t mean others don’t think it. Most people are not willing to say anything. I am not saying others think she is rude I am just saying she really doesn’t know that. People that are frequently out spoken and direct many times intimidate others and they will not say anything.

      2. Mel R*

        Augh! “I’m sorry you feel that way” is a total non-apology. It tells the other person “I don’t think I did anything wrong – the problem is you. You’re too sensitive.”

        Please consider replacing that with “I’m sorry I came across as rude”?

  16. MA*

    I had a boss once who was very direct, and some of our staff had a hard time with this because I live in the Rocky Mounty west where the communication style leans passive to passive aggressive. I personally really appreciated her style of communication.

    However, I do think the reason I liked her communication was that she was direct about both compliments and critical feedback. When she complimented my work I knew she truly meant it, and when she was critical I really took it to heart and felt it was valuable feedback.

    The important lesson I learned from my boss was that no matter what style of communication, good communication at work includes both positives and negatives. Otherwise your communication feels unbalanced and can send the wrong message.

  17. Anonymous*

    The only niggling thought I have is that more times than not when I hear “I’m direct, not rude” (or somesuch) the person really is being rude.

    In this situation I think it might be more of the receptionist question earlier this week. Seeing as you work quite well together, she may feel more comfortable to be herself, and this might be one of those things. I would suggest just shrugging it off – there are some great ideas already listed here!

  18. Not So NewReader*

    I had a parallel situation in my family. A family member would loudly state “EMBARRASSING” when something awkward happened.

    Finally, I said “The only thing embarrassing about this situation is YOU yelling “embarrassing” at the top of your lungs”.
    That was the end of that.

    I find it interesting that the coworker is doing the VERY thing that she claims OP is doing.

    OP, this coworker is saying that she is intimidated by you. She is saying it in different ways but it is the same message. She doesn’t understand your explanations because she is thinking too much about how you intimidate her. So she has to go ask someone else when you get done because she has no idea what you just said.

    Now she has decided that you are a rude person. Sure, then that way it lets her off the hook. She can say to herself “OP is rude, that is why I do not understand her.”

    The only thing I have ever come up with in situations like this is to allow other people to work with her and just back away as often as possible. There is something about pushing coworkers to interact with other coworkers that shifts the whole story.

    Look for opportunities to put some space between you and her.

    1. Erin*

      Haha! Along the lines of your family member story…I teach teenagers, and the widespread tendency among that age group to interject a loud “AWKWARD!” into many situations that were, in fact, not all that awkward (up until that point) is one of my primary pet peeves. Many of them really do seem to think that this is the polite way to release any perceived social tension that comes to the attention of their finely-calibrated sensibilities.

      1. Laura L*

        ooh! I don’t know when that started, but it was definitely a thing among my peers ten or so years ago (when I was a teenager). Glad to hear it’s still around. I actually think it’s kind of hilarious!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Me, too. The awkward expression hits me as very funny. Part of what gets me is the tone of voice – cracks me up.

          Usually a sudden “awkward” is well timed. My family member had bad timing and would drown out what other people were saying that was actually important to the situation. I would have let it go, if I could hear the other conversation around me.

          1. Laura L*

            Right. You don’t saw “awkward” until there’s a break in the conversation, awkward or otherwise. :-)

        2. Erin*

          That’s funny! I’ve been out of high school for about ten years, and I definitely only associate it with people younger than me. That could just be selective memory, though.

          1. Erin*

            I guess I should add that I’m substitute teaching right now, which is a job where you’re always operating at, at least, a mild level of awkwardness (due to having to just walk into a situation where you never have all the information, and immediately take charge of teens you don’t know at all). So I think that’s why the “Awkward!” thing drives me crazy. I just don’t need the reminder. :)

            1. Laura L*

              That makes sense. Is the “awkward” directed at you in some way? I’d also be annoyed if students I was substitute teaching started saying that in response to things I say!

              In terms of age… I think people I knew started using “awkward” by the first year out of college at the latest. So, I was no older than 22. And possibly younger. But I can’t remember now. It all blends together in my “old” age. :-)

  19. Steve G*

    I need more info to make a judgement:-).

    Yes there are many people who enjoy psychoanalyzing everything other people say, and maybe the OP’s problem child is one of them. She probably takes everything the wrong way and then analyzes it to death and comes to the conclusion the other party is rude, not neutral or polite.

    Once I turned 30 I matured in some ways, for example, if someone said something “rude” or outlandish I was finally able to inquire as to why without being rude myself. Turns out, many “rude” comments are made from a place of boredom, misunderstanding, bad communication skills, feeling the need to be entertaining, or speaking to fill a gap them person finds ackward.

  20. G.*

    I am a direct person and I have had to change my communication style. For example, in my office, I could not say things the way AAM has advised in this blog – it would get me fired. It is just the corporate culture I am in and I have to accept that. Even though, inside, I agree with the wording AAM recommends.

    For example, when I am working on something and someone comes to talk to me and I do not have the time to talk to them, I have to take still a minute to make polite conversation and then somehow, in a very soft manner ask them carefully if we could continue the chat in [x] minutes. It drives me mad! All the e-mails are always a mile long as people can never write:”I need X,Y,Z” but need to first make some polite conversation and then through ‘maybe, perhaps, do you think it is a good idea, what about we approached it this way’ bubble to ask something.

    What I wanted to say is that sometimes, in order to keep a good working environment, it might be good to communicate differently if one way does not work and seems to cause problems. Maybe it would be easier for the OP to say: “I am sorry you find me rude. It was not my intention.”. Hitting back with kindness might shut this other person up.

  21. -X-*

    “For example, when I am working on something and someone comes to talk to me and I do not have the time to talk to them, I have to take still a minute to make polite conversation and then somehow, in a very soft manner ask them carefully if we could continue the chat in [x] minutes.”

    People have been fired for not doing this?

    1. G.*

      :) No, not specifically this, but yes, people have been fired for being direct … More often though, it just hurts your opportunities.

  22. fposte*

    How did the co-worker know about the followup discussion with the manager? Either that happened in public, which wasn’t a good idea, or there’s an additional weird dynamic in this workplace.

  23. Darcie*

    “And from here on out, consider her some sort of odd creature who you may observe with anthropological interest but should not get too close to, as she is bitey.”


    I have the same problem. A coworker told me that I am pretty blunt, and it’s fine, but to be aware that some people can’t handle it. This is good advice, because you have to gauge who you think will appreciate honesty and directness, and who won’t.
    I also agree with your comment about if you were a man, this wouldn’t be an issue. The fact that women have all these double standards is so far above our ability to fix.

  24. N.*

    Man oh man, I know I am walking into this one a little late, but here is my two cents: accusing someone publicly, several times a day is a manipulative tactic designed to disorient and confuse, because the employer of such a strategy is insecure and unable to progress to a level of doing real battle (ie. expessing their points in a persuasive manner, gracefully accepting when someone else has won an arguement using merit and not perceiving it as a personal attack). Partly because such people often feel out-gunned and out-classed in a confrontation, they do their best to hide their perceived vulnerability by injecting non-sequiturs such as “you are so mean!” to change the subject.

    This strategy works twofold: it draws attention away from their perceived inadequacies, and redirects the “attack” against someone’s character, which is always subjective and thereby hard to defend against.

    Females are particlarly targeted and often fall victim to this attack, because who wants to be known as “mean,” or worse a “bitch”? Case in point, our direct OP. Directness in women is not always something that is perceived in a good light; socialization of females often runs to the contrary, and when one encounters a direct female, some do not understand this and feel threatened.

    Regardless of say, my personal character or conduct, having the audacity to tell it as I see it, has on more than one occasion resulted in the questioning of my moral fibre rather than offering a valid counterpoint. An attack on one’s character can be a faster and easier for people with a limited arsenal, to get what they want, especially if their perceived antagonist does not recognize what is happening. Example: “the restaurant wasn’t what I thought it would be,” equals: “you are so Mean!” results in: “wha?…”

    My attitude of “I’ll tell you how I see it, even if it isn’t how you would like it to be, because I respect you enough to give you honesty,” has earned me the reputation as a “bitch” and shown me the depth of my misjudgement on more than one occasion. I am always willing to concede my points if a reasonable arguement (or a knowledgeable superceding authority) convinces me to do so, but calling me “mean” because my opinion differs and I dared to express it, isn’t going to make me re-examine my stance for the right reasons.

    In the short term best way to defend against this, is to ignore it, and/or take it as a compliment, it tends to throw people for a loop and sends the message that this strategy doesn’t work on you. Sorry if I misquote or misunderstand the sentiment, but Alison herself I believe she said something about priding herself as a hard-ass recently.

    Rosalita also makes an excellent point above; once the spotlight is redirected and the person is asked to explain (instead of being allowed to drop the bomb and run), they either will, in good faith, explain, and the next steps can be figured out from there, or they will refrain from using this strategy again since the desired effect did not happen. Once identified, manipulation often loses its power.

  25. Anonymous*

    “And from here on out, consider her some sort of odd creature who you may observe with anthropological interest but should not get too close to, as she is bitey.”

    I absolutely love this, and this is how I approach people like that. My ex was like that (it also turns out that my ex had at least one undiagnosed, untreated mental illness–something to think about. This person might be broken.)

    I have this same problem. I’m not a rude person, and I’m not mean or even (once you get to know me) unfriendly. I simply am direct and prefer efficiency in all processes. I don’t like to waste my time with “thises and thats.” I like to get to the point.

    My approach with people who react in a way that is similar to this woman is simply to cut them short. Say what I have to say, finish what I have to say, and move on. I simply don’t give them room to create a fuss. If they choose to, it’s to the empty air, because by that point, I have moved on to my next task.

    I know that my approach makes me seem cold and unfriendly to some people. It’s even come up on my performance evaluations; however, I always take great care to be polite with people, to respond to them, and to greet them in some way, even if I don’t engage in conversation with them. Some people just need a lot of stroking and hand holding. Frankly, I don’t think work is the place for that, but a lot of people don’t agree.

  26. Federal Employee*

    I’ve been reading the responses to this post for a couple of days now and finally, now that I am at home, can respond. I am one of those folks that do not pick up on social cues well. You can beat around the bush for eons and I will never figure out what you are alluding to until you come right out and say it. That being said I am also rather direct in my communication style, I don’t sugarcoat because 1) I never think to do so and 2) what is being said seems open to interpretation when I am not direct. I also have a hard time articulating, I know what I want to say, can see the words in my head, but for the life of me cannot get them past my lips coherently. I do not say things in a mean fashion, nor do I alter my tone of voice to insinuate something, I am honest and as straight forward as I can be. And I am constantly accused of being rude, told that I need to say “no” in a different way, that I should be nicer when I say something, that I should be “professional” and on and on. I have been told several times that I do not react the way the majority of folks react to various different situations and because of that, folks don’t know how to take me.

    I work for the IRS where the laws that I follow are literally black and white; if you don’t do this, then these are the consequences, there is no gray area for interpretation. And yet, I am supposed to come up with a different way of saying “no”. And when I am “professional” I sound like a robot without feelings or empathy and the taxpayers I am speaking with do not understand.

    I have since stopped trying to be what others think I should be, I am not them, I do have have the same experiences they have to draw on. I use the word “folks” a lot, I speak in metaphors so the concepts I am trying to get across are understood. I need those that I am speaking to to understand what I am saying so they are able to alter what they have done in the past and go down a different road. I will take the decisions that management has in reference to my communication style, I am ok with it as long as the folks I am speaking to understand what they need to do to get out of the mess they are in. This is who I am professionally.

    Much of what I have read on this particular post is subjective. Rude to me is 1) talking over me, 2) obliterating common courtesy, 3) yelling (which is raising your voice), 4) using profanity, 5) making threats, 6) turning the conversation into a personal vendetta, etc. To me its a “pick your battle” issue, if you want to become upset and use a tone of voice on me, go for it…it will not change the facts of the case and the answers will still be the same. I am mistaken for a male all the time as well, I do not correct the taxpayers I speak with as it is not germane to the conversation…it doesn’t matter.

    1. Jamie*

      I do appreciate directness and I make an effort not to take offense unless the offense was intended. Intent is a big thing with me.

      But if you are constantly told that you are rude and need to be more professional, and if it’s by more than one person, it’s worth looking at.

      I hate having to go through minutes of small talk to get to the point – but there is something to be said for the nuances of communication.

      In a recent thread someone here (fposte?) referred to it as social lubrication and I just love that phrase – because that’s what it is.

      And I’m not sure what you mean by sugar coating but here’s an example of a little social lubrication:

      Our culture is that we do our own admin tasks for the most part, but our office manager is to help with things like making copies, etc. if we need assistance.

      Direct: I’m very busy – I need you to please make 50 copies of this packet for the meeting tomorrow morning. Leave them on my desk. Thanks.

      (because I am assuming even the most direct still use please and thank you – otherwise it’s not direct just asshatty)

      Lubricated: Hey (name) – would you mind helping me out with these copies? I need them for tomorrow and I’m buried – otherwise I’d do them myself. I’d really appreciate it – thanks!

      Another one would be the huge difference between coming into my office and saying “Jamie, could you please come take a look at my computer – it’s doing (insert stupid thing)” and a direct order from my boss. Either one will get my butt out of my chair and headed to his office but one makes me feel like a person and the other like a nameless cog.

      And because I am full of examples – I did a 4 hour training not long ago and made a couple of little jokes to lighten the mood. Not “so this IT walks into a bar…” but just a couple of little quips about the material. Four out of the five people just stared at me and one chuckled. I was really grateful that he was socially lubricating enough to not leave me hanging there – although had he just stared too it wouldn’t have been a big deal…but it’s just the little niceties that can help get through the day sometimes.

  27. TeacherKelly*

    I t would be interesting to know how old the “you’re so rude” coworker is. I teach high school and college, and a direct, professional tone is often identified as cold or rude because it’s not the bubbly tone of their earlier teachers. It’s not just students who have trouble transitioning from being treated as children to being talked to as adults, it’s their parents, too–I’ve been told to my face that, while a student learned a great deal in the class, my delivery and my adherence to deadlines was cold, rude, and bitchy. (Just for the conversation, I’ve done a lot of self-reflection and asked specifically about this in my evaluations, and I’m none of the three.) So, not to excuse her, but if the coworker is fairly young, went to a small college, or the like, then she may never have run across adults speaking to her like another adult.

    1. N.*

      +1, but they certainly need to get used to it (or not, plenty of $30,000 a year liberal arts school senior -year dropouts playing out of tune guitars for money between the furniture store downtown and their illegally parked BMW, don’t have to) you are the rule not the exception.

      I love it when Poopsie makes it out of the surreal world of academia and tries to bring mommy and daddy to reason with their mean ol’ bossie that insists start time is at 7am not when the hangover cure kicks in. It’s cute when you see them trying to convince the manager of the pizza parlor they work at next (for two days before quitting: “they weren’t willing to accomodate my schedule!”) that they should be allowed to do their weekends-only busperson job from home 3 days a week. And they don’t change because they don’t have to “Mom/mie the boss was so mean to me I had to quit!” “Don’t worry honey bun daddy sent the check yesterday, if it its not there by tomorrow, I will go to western union…” “Oh and can you pay my phone bill? The phone company sent me a letter saying they’re going to shut it off… but it’s only six months overdue!!” “Anything for my little career man/girl, make us proud sweetie!”

      Don’t laugh I know these people.

  28. FederalEmployee*

    Perception seems to be an issue in this post and many of the answers thus far, so… I am curious as to what others think about the following: When someone says something and it is perceived to be rude, unprofessional, argumentative, and immature or any other adjective you can think of, who is responsible for the perception, the one that said it or the one that perceived it?

    These questions were the result of a team building I played a part in at work and what was interesting was that the presenter was completely correct in that how we react or perceive what was said is based on our ages, gender, race, culture, life experience, etc.

    Imagine that you are getting on a bus, but there are only two seats available. One seat is next to a petite, silver-haired, elderly woman, the other seat is next to a burly, grim-faced man. Based on your immediate impression, you sit next to the elderly woman, who unfortunately turns out to be quite skilled at picking pockets. Because of your perception, you immediately judged the woman as harmless and the man as threatening, leading to the loss of your wallet. While perception can be quite useful at times, it can also lead to misjudgments, stereotyping.

    At what point do we take responsibility for how we perceive something to be and stop blaming the person that said it? And yes, I realize this is not black and white and sometimes the person that said it is at fault, but it seems to me in this culture that we are quick to point the finger at the person that said it without ever addressing the perception of the other person.

  29. Jules*

    I would have just said, “There is a difference between being assertive and mean” each time and leave it at that. If she can’t tell the difference, it’s her problem.

    A lot of people thing they are being nice by smiling in your face and talking behind your back. I think that is mean. I’d rather someone tell me to my face what the problem is so I can fix it.

  30. Shane Boudreau*

    I used to work for Target 3 yrs ago and i was engaged to the girl at customer service. I shop there reguarly and everytime i come in she cusses at me and even threatens me. Is there a number i can call to have her fired? i dont feel comfortable shopping in a store ive been coming to for well over 10 yrs.

  31. mchid*

    Some people base their self perception on how they compare to those around them. If your co-worker asks you a question and you give her the answer, it might then make her feel smart to subsequently encounter someone that is wrong or doesn’t know the correct answer. I’ve been around people that will do this every time they learn something new just to see if others already know the same. The fact that she asks asks you the question first could indicate she values the answer she gets from you more than that of others. It may be possible she is using your answer as the benchmark or basis of comparision used to judge the answers she gets from everybody else, similar to a control group. Just for the sake of bieng objective, I would be a little more offended if I was one of the people she asked after you because she already knows the answer. This could say a few things about her true intentions if she’s pretending not to know an answer when she really does. Alternatively, at least she’s not bieng as dishonest with you as she is with everyone else. Also, it has been shown that straight-forwardness and outward confidence often leads people to believe you are more likely to have the right answers, that your oppinions hold more weight, and that you are more likely to have a greater influence on those around you.

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