Tips for dealing with coworker’s snide comments

Dear Joan:

I am working with a new employee, who I have noticed makes “funny remarks: which I am not comfortable with...I feel he is trying to undermine my reputation with colleagues, etc.
 
As an example, if I come back a few minutes late from lunch, he loudly comments about me being late, and that someone should have a talk with me. My manager does not have an issue with my lunch taking if it happens, as I more than deliver, stay late, skip lunches, etc.
 

Or, if I leave to speak to someone outside of my area, he jokes--sort of insinuating that I am dodging work.  I am actually called for input on other people's projects or stuff I am involved with outside my department, which my manager is aware of.  

When someone comes over to ask a question, the worker makes a comment such as, “Well don't leave it with Barb, you know how forgetful she is,” or stuff like that, implying that I may say I will take care of it , but won't-- ha ha. 

Other comments like, "She says nice things now about you, but wait until you are not here, ha ha." I am not that type of individual. I have a reputation of being very knowledgeable and a lot of my ideas and suggestions are implemented through out the company. 

I am agreeable and a person who is very approachable. I am easy going to boot, but wonder whether my easy going self deprecating ways may in the long run cause me to be seen through those negative comments as being like that. 

People are busy and some may not really understand that this is a really a joke, especially those who don't really know me that well, but come to me for a business reason.  I am the opposite of any of those types of comments.  

Sometimes I think I may be too sensitive...but something about these remarks makes me uncomfortable. Your astute opinion please: is it me, or what should I do? Your thoughts will be most appreciated. 

Answer:

The next time someone comes over to your work area say, “Have you met our new employee yet? He’s really a smart mouth who is trying to be funny. Ha ha.” Okay, so that is a bad idea—but it would feel good wouldn’t it?  

The problem with a sarcastic person is that you never know if they really mean what they say when they cover their hurtful barb in a veneer of humor.  In this case, however, I think you are right in assuming that he could influence how others view you—whether he is trying to be funny or not.  

First, go to your manager and tell him/her what is happening and then explain that you’d like to address the matter yourself with the new employee. Explain that before you do, you want to make sure that your manager agrees with your self perception about how you use your time and your follow through.  

Assuming your manager affirms that you are a good employee who is responsible and has no performance issues, prepare to look for an opportunity to talk with your knee-slapping co-worker. 

Wait until the next time he makes an inappropriate joke and then talk to him as soon as the other person leaves, “When you say things like that to people who don’t know me well, they may believe you. I’m sure you’re just trying to be funny but it may not come off that way to them.”  

He will surely brush off your concern and may even say you need to “Lighten up,” or “Get a thicker skin.”  Reply with, “I’m concerned about it not only for my own reputation but for your’s. People who don’t know you may think you are trying to undermine me or hurt my reputation—which wouldn’t be good for your reputation.” 

This may stop Mr. Chuckles but if it doesn’t you will need to escalate things. I don’t recommend that you try to take him on publicly, by trading sarcastic zingers. But if he persists, warn him again—only this time more pointedly, “I’d appreciate it if you’d stop that.” If that doesn’t work, pay another visit to your manager and fill him or her in on what has transpired. If it becomes a recurring problem in the future, your manager should be ready to deal with it.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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