Ask Kari: How should I handle a disrespectful colleague?

Dear Kari,

I have a colleague at work that is rude to me. She is passive-aggressive whenever we encounter each other and makes facial gestures that are directed my way. Recently, in a meeting she appeared disinterested when I would talk and purposely looked away from me in a manner that I found disrespectful. It upsets me that she does this to me. Now, I even feel that she is purposely rolling her eyes the moment I open my mouth. How would you handle this?

Fed Up Colleague

Dear Fed Up Colleague,

Wow, this sounds like a very uncomfortable work atmosphere. I always suggest that when engaging with passive-aggressive people that you maintain your steadiness as much as possible and call them out on their behavior. Typically the passive-aggressive person will deny the behavior and project it back to you. This is where your steadiness in manner is most important. Calmly state to the offending party that you are very clear about their behavior towards you and that you will no longer tolerate it, as it is both unprofessional and unkind. Maintain steady eye contact as you make your statement. Passive-aggressive offenders are caught off guard when confronted in a calm manner. They will continue to claim innocence as they stab others with their words and actions. Calling them out and maintaining your cool puts you back in control of a bad dynamic. Good luck.


As published in the March 2015 issue of Connections.


About Kari:

Kari O’Neill, MSW, LICSW, is a licensed independent clinical social worker and a resident of Issaquah Highlands.

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