Q: I have a colleague in another department who is extremely pushy and rude toward me. Not only can she be very short and abrasive, but I’m afraid she’s not even aware that she’s talking down to me. We work together — I do not work for her. How can I address this problem of disrespect before it gets worse?
A: Clearly, doing nothing isn’t going to help — and you can’t try avoiding her, either, since you have to work together. That leaves only one option: talk to her. The trick is to do this in a way that resolves the situation and doesn’t degenerate into a shouting match. Ask to speak with your colleague alone. Set a time outside the hours when you normally work together, so the problematic behavior won’t be occurring while you’re trying to raise the subject with her. When you talk, don’t be accusatory. Instead, frame your discussion in terms of building a stronger relationship: “Jane, I asked to speak to you because something seems to be happening that makes me very concerned. I feel you’ve been a little short with me, and it’s making me focus on whatever might be wrong, rather than getting my work done with you. Is there a problem that we can address together?”