Magazine article Work & Family Life

When It's Time to Talk to a Catty Colleague

Magazine article Work & Family Life

When It's Time to Talk to a Catty Colleague

Article excerpt

Q I work with someone who is very critical generally and I seem to be the current main target of his remarks-or so I've been told. I hate confrontations but, at some point, unkind gossip and snippy remarks can feel like backstabbing. Any suggestions for addressing this without making matters worse?

-A.B., Philadelphia, PA

A When critical comments become systematic and are directed at someone in particular, this jeopardizes a work relationship. It sounds like the time has come for you to speak to your critical coworker.

Do it privately and without an accusatory tone. You might start by asking how things are going and whether there are any problems you should know about. If the person doesn't "bite," be more direct. Say something like, "I understand from others that you are unhappy with me and I'd like for us to discuss that." Be as specific as you can be about what you heard, but do not divulge the name of anyone who passed along the comments.

If your coworker denies having said anything critical, you might say, "Well I'm glad to hear this was a misunderstanding. If anything comes up in the future, please talk to me directly."

Your goal is not to get an admission from your coworker but to put him on notice. …

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