Q: "My co-worker, ‘Angie,’ sent me a seething email saying that I talk about, but don’t act like a team player. This was a completely unexpected slam against me. I told our manager, and he spoke to Angie about it, but nothing else was done.
“Now, whenever I encounter Angie anywhere in the building, she immediately turns around and walks the other way. This blatant disrespect bothers me, because I don’t deserve that kind of treatment.
“My boss says, ‘That’s just the way she is,’ but Angie doesn't seem to act like this with anyone else. She doesn’t have to like me, but we do have to work together, so I can’t take much more of this.” Ignored
A: Before I address Angie’s childish behavior, let me point out two missed opportunities in this scenario. First, after receiving the nasty email, you could have talked with Angie directly instead of going to your boss. Her gutless electronic attack may have started this grudge match, but your own cowardice only exacerbated the problem.
A direct conversation might have started like this: “Angie, I was very disturbed by your email and would really like to discuss whatever I have done to upset you. I do want to be a team player, so if I have unintentionally offended you or created a problem, I want to know about it.”
The second opportunity was missed by your manager, who should have brought the two of you together to resolve the underlying issue. Instead, he also took the coward’s way out.
Angie’s juvenile, passive-aggressive response is just perpetuating this pattern of avoidance. If she continues to sulk, ask your boss to facilitate a problem-solving discussion, because face-to-face communication is the only way to end this stalemate.
Do you have a conflict you need to resolve? Here are some suggestions: How to Talk about Tough Topics