This week, Danny M. Lavery and Alicia Harris discuss a Prudie letter about a co-worker’s email habits.
Alicia Harris: my thought is that, if she’s concerned about a lack of clarity w/r/t this person’s requests, she can simply respond and ask if the message is intended for her
Daniel Lavery: but it also seems like just not answering those questions has gone over fine
Alicia Harris: this person could be frustrated about intake processes or she may just have a different way of writing emails
it’s impossible to know!
Daniel Lavery: and that the office manager in question isn’t like, writing anonymized questions but expecting the OP to answer
she’s just asking general questions in a group chat and then when the OP doesn’t answer them, it seems like things continue smoothly
so I don’t really understand why she’s assuming it’s rudeness and targeted directly at her
especially over a line like “She announced loudly and aggressively in a meeting that “they” (meaning their clinic and front office staff) do not need “INTAKE” (a reference to me, I believe)”
if I really tilt my head and squint I can sort of make out how that would be a little frustrating to hear
but I have to really tilt my head
Alicia Harris: right. i don’t think it’s necessary to do anything, but if this is bothering her so much that she’s writing in to an advice column, she should just ask for clarification if needed. if it’s more about the (perceived) rudeness, there’s
not really anything she can do
it’s a workplace - people have different modes of communication, and not everyone gets along
Daniel Lavery: yeah my concern here is that the manager in question might be rude or abrasive, but mostly seems unconcerned with the letter writer
and the letter writer seems really determined to read every interaction as deliberate and hostile
and I think they should let some of that go
like, if your goal is to not waste energy on her, and she’s not really doing anything that affects you, just…don’t waste your energy on her
continue to not answer her questions if she doesn’t ask them of you directly
and live your life!
Alicia Harris: agreed. if there’s something the LW needs this person to do something differently in order for her to do her job, she can ask. otherwise, it doesn’t seem like the person is doing anything that’s clearly disrespectful or inappropriate
Daniel Lavery: yeah to me the big clarifiers are “I’m not sure if she is doing this on purpose” and “I don’t know her well”
and that’s not to necessarily discredit the LW’s read, you may very well get a general undercurrent of irritation of low-grade dislike from her that’s absolutely real and present
but if you’re not sure, and you’re not in a position where you have to answer her questions, and you don’t interact often — take any opportunity you can to not get into a fight at work that you don’t have to get into!
Alicia Harris: also, i think it’s unfair to expect someone to adhere to your expectations about what a “typical person” does
people are different!
Daniel Lavery: yeah I want to leave room for an unspoken dynamic that the LW may be picking up on that we just don’t have access to in this letter
and of course, it’s reasonable to want to be treated with a baseline level of respect at work, and for your colleagues to use your name and title
but I do get shades here of a certain VIBE I associate with some dysfunctional non-profit/public health organizations
Alicia Harris: it’s very possible that this person is upset with her or dislikes her.
Daniel Lavery: which is very…“You haven’t TECHNICALLY done anything wrong, but I don’t feel like you like me, and one of your recent statements of fact ‘felt hostile,’ and that’s a problem”
Alicia Harris: yep!
Daniel Lavery: absent a real, concrete issue you can point to, I think affect-monitoring is often a waste of time and energy
Alicia Harris: the piece around “bucking the norm” and not following examples of “better behavior” gives me pause
Daniel Lavery: say more!!
i wish to draw upon your wealth of experience in similar fields
obviously all of YOUR coworkers are models of courtly behavior
Alicia Harris: without reading too much into this, it just reminds me of *culture fit* concerns
Daniel Lavery: but, you know….a friend of a friend….thirty years ago…at another school….
Alicia Harris: of course!
i just wonder if the LW is unfairly judging this person’s behavior based on an unspoken understanding of “how we do things here”
Daniel Lavery: Same here — without discounting the very real possibility that this person is kind of annoying and truly doesn’t like the LW
Alicia Harris: sorry, whisking pancake batter
Daniel Lavery: I just think the LW is over-focused on trying to dredge out emotional information they just do not need from this person
Alicia Harris: it’s very possible! but they don’t work together that much!
Daniel Lavery: at most, if you’re confused about the way she words questions, reply asking for clarification
but basically just be polite and look for opportunities to keep your distance
if she makes a statement in a meeting that MIGHT be about you but that doesn’t actually make your job harder in any way, and it’s also true….let it go
Alicia Harris: i also think that it would be best not to address this with other colleagues
especially if she’s assuming ill intentions related to intake processes
Daniel Lavery: right
if the bit about “what I hear about her is not great” is an allusion to “my coworkers and I talk shit about her a lot”
definitely seems wise to let it go
Alicia Harris: exactly
Daniel Lavery: also in general I am not a fan of attempting to get someone to change their behavior by pointedly doing something *at* them instead of asking
Alicia Harris: yes!
Daniel Lavery: and I’m not a fan of it because, you know, I’ve TRIED it and it never gets me what I want
Alicia Harris: if it’s not worth mentioning, let it go
Daniel Lavery: it just makes me more irritable and eventually the person I’m trying to “coach” is frustrated I didn’t just say so outright
Alicia Harris: i think it’s helpful to ask yourself if you’re trying to change someone’s behavior or just express frustration about something that you don’t like. you can’t change someone’s behavior - the most you can do is communicate. if you’re not willing to do that, what’s the aim?
Daniel Lavery: Right — and there may be a real question that your company needs to address about who’s responsible for coordinating what information with her clinic
if it’s not intake
but unless she’s flouting known policy or getting mad at you for not answering a question she asked the group and without using your name
I don’t think you should assume that she’s doing it to annoy or hurt you
Alicia Harris: the LW said that she didn’t want to waste her energy and it sounds like the best way to do that is to… let it go!
Daniel Lavery: this is a nice change of pace! I hear from so many people with astonishingly badly-behaved coworkers who make their own work nearly impossible
so I’m glad to be able to say to someone, “You can just kind of dislike this person and avoid them unless you have to interact”
Alicia Harris: it’s great!
it’s a pretty simple solution