Dealing with a screamer at work

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-22-2002
Dealing with a screamer at work
3
Fri, 04-26-2013 - 5:46am

There's a screamer in my office who regularly personally attacks people for very minor things, such as being a few minutes late for meetings.  While I agree being late is unprofessional, it doesn't justify the amount of screaming and vitriol directed at the other person. She does the same things herself but there's hell to pay if you call her on it (as I discovered recently).  The only time when she isn't screaming is when she wants something, then she'll be your new BFF.  And she rarely contributes to solutions but tears down other people's attempts to fix work problems.

She isn't in my team but we sometimes have to have meetings with her. She's recently started to use meetings to make people look bad in front of others. My coworker asked for feedback on some draft documents.  In the days before the meeting, this woman had only positive feedback and was nice as pie.  But in the meeting, which my coworker believed was to finalise the feedback, she brought in her supervisor (without my coworker's knowledge) and proceeded to accuse my coworker of deliberately stealing her work because my coworker had accidentally referenced her work without including her name.

She justifies her behaviour with comments like "I'm blunt, I say what needs to be said and if people can't handle that, get out" or  "People deserve it and they need to learn from their mistakes".  But she also makes fun of people's medical problems and jokes about suing people for sexual harrassment "if they piss me off".  She also singles out a different person every month to pick fights with.  I only talk to her if there's work reason and keep the conversations short, but I suspect it's only a matter of time before she tries this out on me.

My dilemma is that it's hard to be assertive with these types because that makes them retaliate even more, but if you say nothing you are condoning their behaviour.  Management knows her behaviour but for some reason they have a policy of appeasement with her.  I'd be grateful for any advice people might have for dealing with this person.  Thanks.

Avatar for lizmvr
iVillage Member
Registered: 06-06-2001
Fri, 04-26-2013 - 11:53am

"My dilemma is that it's hard to be assertive with these types because that makes them retaliate even more, but if you say nothing you are condoning their behaviour."

I don't necessarily agree with this. You don't have to fight her with words or stoop to her level to show others that you don't condone her behavior. Ignoring her sends a message to her and to others that you won't tolerate or respond to such ridiculous behavior on her part, too. The way you act and handle work tasks with integrity yourself will send a bigger message to everyone else than screaming back at her will. You're liable to be lumped into the same category as the screamer if you "retaliate" or yell back.

 "Management knows her behaviour but for some reason they have a policy of appeasement with her."

That's the kicker. If management doesn't force her to change her ways, if she's getting goals accomplished and there isn't a large amount of damage done, you really have no power to make her act any differently. Only if her antics are wasting time, causing projects to be delayed or hurt, etc. do you really have a case to bring up with any supervisors. Hurt feelings are not something I would encourage you to relay to your managers. That will make you look weak and unprepared to handle your working environment in my opinion.

Focus on your job, as you've mentioned you do, and continue to ignore her unless it's adversely affecting the actual work. Be grateful you don't have to deal with her more often, and maybe invest in a pair of headphones if you can to help you get through her general ranting.

Liz


Clinical Research Associate


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iVillage Member
Registered: 07-22-2002
Sun, 04-28-2013 - 7:53am

Thanks for a much-need sanity check. This person's behaviour has gotten worse since she started lashing out at managers recently.

The last time she screamed at me was a few weeks ago when I'd organised a meeting and one of the attendees phoned her to ask which meeting room we were in (the details were in email invitation which the attendee forgot to look at). I was already about to leave when she put that person on hold and yelled at me "Where's this meeting? Why doesn't she know where it is? Why didn't you tell her? YOU organised it. YOU sort it out!" I gave her the room number and calmly told her on my way out "I don't appreciate being spoken to like that". As payback she went after me the following day at the staff meeting when I had to present a status report.

I'm not sure what else to do when she starts interrogating. Explaining just gives her more ammunition and she doesn't listen anyway. What bothers me is how she makes out you've done something wrong (even when you haven't), therefore her behaviour is justified.

Avatar for lizmvr
iVillage Member
Registered: 06-06-2001
Sun, 04-28-2013 - 11:46pm

I probably wouldn't have told her that you don't like her speaking to you like that. Actually from the comments she yelled that you shared, I think she was more upset with the caller than she was with you. I would have given just the room number or asked who was asking and said I'd call the person myself. That type of action takes away her power, while I think letting her know that her tone ticked you off gave her power to issue "payback." (Honestly, I am wondering if some of the "payback" might be more of you thinking that she's dishing more out to you than she really is intending to dish out your way. I don't want to dismiss your impression, but I also don't want you or my comments to feed this idea that she's after you--I don't think that helps you at all.)

I didn't really get that she was interrogating you with regard to the comments about the room number, and while I realize I wasn't there to hear it firsthand, I would generally say fix any issues as fast and briefly as possible and then go about your day without giving her a second, or third, thought when you can. The more you allow yourself to interact with her, the more stress I think you're bound to encounter, and I don't think anyone else will think less of you either if you just address issues straightforwardly and check any negative emotions as much as you can in order to not further engage her.

Liz


Clinical Research Associate


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