Decipher the message a grumpy co-worker is sending you

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in Your Office Coach

Q: "I have a co-worker who is very moody. Whenever I ask about one of her projects or suggest a way to do things more efficiently, 'Andrea' gets snippy and starts muttering under her breath. If I ask what’s wrong, she replies, 'Nothing,' then has a bad attitude for at least an hour.

"When Andrea joined the company a few years ago, I was the one who trained her, and we got along well. We still interact normally most of the time, but about once a day she pulls this attitude on me. Now I’m always fretting about what she may do. 

"I haven’t complained to management, because they might think I’m being difficult. I’ve considered looking for another job, but I don’t want to let Andrea drive me out. How can I confront her about her attitude problem?"  Aggravated Co-worker

A: Since you and Andrea usually get along, forget about confronting her and try to figure out what triggers her sulky behavior. I actually think you’ve provided a pretty good clue. 

As her former trainer, you still feel comfortable telling Andrea how to “do things more efficiently.” But now that she’s an experienced employee, your helpful comments may sound like intrusive criticism. Since telling you to butt out would seem inappropriate, Andrea is expressing her displeasure nonverbally. In short, she’s trying to send you a message.

You can easily test this theory by changing your own behavior. Since you’re not Andrea’s boss, there’s no need for you to monitor her performance, so stop making suggestions and questioning her methods. If her moodiness disappears, then you’ve solved the problem.

Do co-workers sometimes seem irritated with you? Perhaps this will tell you why: Quick Quiz-Do You Annoy Your Co-workers?

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