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jca's avatar

If you were on a small commmittee that met once per week, and one of the other members appeared to dislike you, how would you handle it?

Asked by jca (27942 points ) May 2nd, 2012

I am on a small committee at work, 3 members including me. We meet once per week, Wednesday afternoons (hello, that’s today!). One of the other two members appears to dislike me.

The committee meets at my job, and the other two members come from other locations. This one person who appears to dislike me will say hello when she arrives and goodbye when she leaves. Other than that, while in the meeting she won’t say much to me, unless I address her directly. I will enter the room and greet both of them, and if I make small talk, I will address it to both of them, i.e. “What did you ladies have for lunch today?” If she makes small talk, she specifically addresses it to the other woman, i.e. “Mary, what are your vacation plans this summer?”

The woman who appears to dislike me is the head of the committee. I am there because our boss put me there. My time in the meetings is somewhat uncomfortable, because I feel like I am not there. She can act hostile, not to me, but in general, she acts kind of huffy, with an angry face and tough demeanor. That does not intimidate me, because we’re all adults and we’re all professionals.

Last night we attended a meeting at another location, where there were about 100 other attendees. She passed me several times, looking away each time, which was not surprising.

I’m not a rat, so I won’t tell our boss about what’s going on. Other co-workers tell me this woman is territorial, and perhaps she had another friend in mind for the spot that I’m in.

Should I be overly sweet to her, to force her to talk to me and bust her chops? or should I continue doing what I’m doing? or something else?

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47 Answers

marinelife's avatar

You could try confronting her directly, but that seems unlikely to work with a person as passive-aggressive as she is. At least it would let her know that you are on to her.

What does the committee do? Is its effectiveness impeded by her attitude?

Coloma's avatar

Feel sorry for her, she has issues. She may be very insecure and feels you are more intelligent, attractive, whatever. Too bad, but not your problem. Just keep being yourself, be friendly, but don’t chase her around looking for approval or acceptance. You could try to engage her in some of her other interests, ask her about her family, pets, hobbies, whatever and maybe you could find some common ground based on mutual interests.

If you feel you have done your best to be friendly and she keeps being distant, well…ya can’t please all of the people all of the time. Don’t let her attitude effect your self esteem.

wundayatta's avatar

Does the committee have a job? Is the job getting done? Are you able to work together despite your communication issues?

jca's avatar

The committee adminsters one of the benefits that’s available to the employees in the municipality I work for. This woman has been on the committee for a few years, and so she can pretty much do this work single-handedly. She is friends with the other woman on the committee, and they have a cameraderie. The other woman is passive and good natured, and she and I get along fine. The effectiveness of the committee isn’t impeded by this woman’s bad attitude toward me, because like I said, she can do this single handedly.

@Coloma: Here’s an example of me trying to engage her in conversation: Me: How was your Easter? Her: I had my kids over for dinner, I cooked. Me: That’s nice. She says nothing like “and how was your Easter” in return, so it would be weird for me to just start talking about mine. Like I said, she’ll address the other woman directly, not the group, when making small talk.

marinelife's avatar

@jca Then I would just keep going as is.

wundayatta's avatar

So you don’t need to be at the meetings? I mean, it sounds like there’s nothing for you to do. Do you knit? You should bring some knitting, if you do.

SpatzieLover's avatar

I’ve been in this situation numerous times. What I’ve done is my job.

I’ve been on voluntary boards to create legislation, group projects at work, and I happen to be in business with family members that have chips on their shoulders. I remind myself their behavior is reflective of their own issues, not mine.

I take a deep breath, remain civil, kill them with kindness when necessary and get on with my efforts.

mowens's avatar

Two quotes come to mind:

1. “Who cares about shit people say that they don’t have the balls to say to your face?”- Tony Soprano

2. “It’s none of my business what other people think of me.” Davey Wavey

jca's avatar

@wundayatta: I do need to be at the meetings, as a committee member. I find a chore to do and I sit there and do it. I am not learning anything, as I am not included in their conversations about issues, unless I specifically ask. Right now I am culling cards from a list of current employees. I get the card file, and I ask this woman for the list, and I sit there and do that for two hours.

gailcalled's avatar

When I used to go to faculty meetings, I made 12 needle-point covers for my dining room chairs and knitted 8 sweaters.

bkcunningham's avatar

How long have you been on the committee, @jca?

jca's avatar

@bkcunningham: Since around 12/11, so four or five months or so.

wundayatta's avatar

Sounds like you are being as productive as you can be. Sorry it isn’t any better. I think to make it better would be more trouble than it was worth, and might backfire on you.

bkcunningham's avatar

Is it like a union/company type committee situation, @jca?

bkcunningham's avatar

Ooohhh, that ‘splains it then.

jca's avatar

They sit there and whoop it up and laugh, and when I walk in, they stop. The passive one just goes along with things. Sometimes they eat lunch and then the one that doesn’t like me shuts the door, so when I go there at 1:00, I have to knock. I am going there soon, as it’s 1:00 now.

LostInParadise's avatar

Have you tried to address her directly in small talk? If she answers, no matter how abruptly, I would let it go. If she just ignores you, I would point out the rudeness and then let it go.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I would “dislike” her back! Since there are only two of them, you can get away with saying something like, “sorry to kill the party, but I am here now.” And when you leave, you can say, “you can go back to talking about me now.” Screw them! Sounds like they were born in a barn.

bkcunningham's avatar

Honestly, I’m too sarcastic and too big a smartass to give you an answer that wouldn’t just cause trouble for you. I feel your pain though.

LOL, I just saw @Skaggfacemutt‘s response. IRL, I’d say something worse to those “ladies.” I guess that is why I was never in a managerial position.

serenade's avatar

I generally feel better if I hand someone else’s bad behavior back to them, especially if it’s attribution to me is unjustified. Then, when they’re ready to act like a normal person, I bury the hatchet.

I don’t know why, but some people don’t show respect for you until you bark back.

Bellatrix's avatar

As long as the work is getting done, I would just do what you have to do and leave. Don’t play the game and don’t let it get to you. In a few years she may accept you as part of the team! If it starts to affect the functionality of the group, then I would confront her.

Jeruba's avatar

I think I would make an opportunity—perhaps by staying behind when the meeting breaks up and asking her for an extra minute—and just speak to her directly: “There seems to be some kind of tension between us. Is there anything we need to clear up? Am I doing something that gets on your nerves?”

She might just deny it, but she can’t deny your feeling. Without assuming blame, you can say that you feel a strain between you that makes it difficult for you to relax and be a productive contributor in meetings.

I can think of three coworkers over the years that I just knew had taken a dislike to me. I made it a point to befriend them and went out of my way to show them kindness and cordial attention. In all three cases I made friends of them.

There were a few others about whose opinion I cared nothing, and so I didn’t bother. When I was forced to go to meetings with them, I did only what professionalism demanded and waited for it to be over.

Twice someone has come to me and asked me if there was a problem between us. In one case a coworker thought I had stopped responding in a friendly way when he spoke to me, and he thought I was angry with him. The truth was that I was in a great deal of physical pain over a period of months and found it very hard to be pleasant, and he took it personally. I made an effort after that to keep my demeanor neutral, if not cheerful, and not project negativity because of my physical state.

The other time, the person who confronted me was someone whom I truly did not like at all. I thought she was a whiny, manipulative, self-absorbed little bitch, and a liar to boot. When she spoke to me, she was almost in tears, and I suddenly saw her as sensitive and fearful, and I told her that I was sorry if I had seemed angry or impatient toward her. Realizing that my response to her had actually got to her made me want to go out of my way to be nice. And guess what—we ended up as colleagues on the same project team and worked well together, and she wrote a four-star commendation to my manager. I never did come to think of her as a friend, but we put the hostility behind us.

Sunny2's avatar

Me: How was your Easter? Her: I had my kids over for dinner, I cooked. Me: That’s nice. She says nothing like “and how was your Easter” in return, so it would be weird for me to just start talking about mine. It’s not at all weird, when she has told you what she did, to follow up with what you did and add a follow-up question. Do you make a special dessert for Easter? etc. You can change her coldness into lukewarmness by ignoring her attitude. That’s how you engage people in conversation in general, sin’t it?

jca's avatar

@Jeruba: I have had coworkers who acted hostile and unfriendly, but I always smiled at them and said hello first, and over time, they warmed up and we were on friendly terms. I can think of a few over the years that had reputations as being tough and unfriendly, but I always got them to come around. This one is cold as ice and I’m not sure if she ever will. She seems to thrive on acting tough, and the other one in the committee gives her an “out” by responding to her and laughing with her, so it’s not just us two looking at each other. Today I sat there and acted friendly and smiley, and when I asked her questions directly, she answered in a hostile manner (for example, I asked her if she’s ever been to a place where we recently had a conference, and she responded “No, because I never wanted to go there.”). I just act like I’m blind to her attitude. When I left the committee, I told them “It’s been so nice working with you both today.” She did not respond. When she left today she didn’t say anything, either. Oh well.

Someone was telling me to go out of my way and be overly friendly, like “Hey, how are you today!?” but it’s hard for me to kiss ass – I consider that behavior kissing ass.

jca's avatar

@Sunny2: When you combine what she says with her not looking at me when she says it, like she never looks at me when she talks, it’s different than when I write the dialogue out of context. In other words, it’s not just what she says, it’s how she says it and her demeanor combined.

Sunny2's avatar

@jca Sounds like you’re doing the right thing. Just keep doing it. She may come around it time. be patient. When I meet someone like that, I remind myself that she has to live with her attitude. I’m glad I don’t. Maybe you remind her of someone else she can’t stand.

Jeruba's avatar

Well, the other answer is to just keep it strictly businesslike and forget about asking people how their Easters and weekends and vacations were (if they weren’t pleasant, it’s painful to be asked) or other off-topic small talk, and just concentrate on making a useful contribution to the work of the team. Perhaps you could volunteer for a task that would take some load off her shoulders.

CWOTUS's avatar

I couldn’t possibly improve on @Jeruba‘s first response. In fact, I’m taking mental notes.

I work with a mostly technical / engineering crowd, so right off the bat – many of the stereotypes being all too true – we have a lot of “failure to communicate” issues: people walk with their heads down, are completely oblivious to “normal” social interactions, fail to say “hello” in passing for no particular reason at all, but if I sensed any of this to be deliberate then I would not consider it “kissing ass” in the least to confront it head on. Either get the hostility in the open, if it’s really hostility (“anger” being a more nearly healthy emotion for both of you than “covert hostility”, and “anger” can be moved up to “antagonism” and then “boredom”), or resolve it if there’s something there.

There’s often a complete misunderstanding at the base of many of these types of issues, but if neither of you will say the first word, the misunderstanding will never be cleared.

tinyfaery's avatar

From one of my favorite facebook posts:

If someone doesn’t like you for no reason, give that motherfucker a reason. ;)

jca's avatar

@CWOTUS: Re: your last paragraph: It’s for that reason that I continue to be nice and pleasant to her and on occasion, try to make conversation with her. I don’t want her to be able to say that I was rude to her and she was reciprocating it. I want it to be that it was definitely one-sided and I want it where there’s no doubt that it’s one way.

Jeruba's avatar

@jca, you have no control over what she says in any case.

I got on the wrong side of a manager (by having the temerity to ask questions), and he subsequently told the other managers that I refused to speak to him and even snubbed him when we met in the hallways. It was a flat-out lie. I avoided him when possible, but when we met or crossed paths I always spoke in greeting and exchanged pleasantries. Nevertheless, the other managers took his word for it, and it affected my performance rating, which translated into serious lost dollars. Because it was all behind closed doors (I found out about it only because someone talked out of turn), there was no way I could even answer the charge or set the record straight. He was able to say whatever he wanted.

jca's avatar

@Jeruba: True, but in my case there are many people that can say they have seen me be nice to her and receive one word, curt answers, etc. Luckily, she’s not my boss so she has no say in any evaluations, either!

gailcalled's avatar

@jca: Is there any way you can switch to another committee? I would also second the idea of being pleasant but skipping the personal questions about her private life, such as Easter.

jca's avatar

@gailcalled: Not really. My being on this committee means the organization I work for doesn’t have to get release time for my time at the meetings, as they do for the other two members (releasing them from work on Wednesday afternoons). Since I’m there already, I’m kind of like “free labor.”

gailcalled's avatar

Do you know how to knit or crochet?

jca's avatar

@gailcalled: Laugh out loud! No, but I do enjoy looking out the window.

gailcalled's avatar

How about bringing in three lbs. of fresh peas and a bowl and then shell them. or remove the strings from string beans? Then pass out healthy snacks?

wundayatta's avatar

Hey! I already suggested the knitting thing! I got a lot of hooey about culling cards or some such. How come you don’t give @gailcalled the same guff? Huh? Huh? ;-)

gailcalled's avatar

Milo here; ^^Because she is needier than you.

wundayatta's avatar

But Milo, she has you. What more could she need?

gailcalled's avatar

Milo here; ’She needs independent affirmation; besides with my four paws I can knit a sweater twice as fast as she can. That really depresses her, particularly since my sweater sleeves are not designed for an orangutan.

jca's avatar

I guess the bottom line for me (aside from yall’s jokes) is that because this woman is going to act miserable and try to shut me down, I am not going to take the bait and act like I’m affected. I’m going to act like my usual, smiley, welcoming self as long as I can stand it, and she won’t ever be able to say she misunderstood and that any hostilities started with me. I think a part of acting professional is acting nicely and decently to all.

bkcunningham's avatar

Not allowing others’ emotions and/or actions to control my emotions and/or actions would be my mantra around her.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

It is a miserable situation to be in, and I understand how you feel. Please be assured that many others have been in the same boat. Here is what I have found, based upon my own experiences and those of others:

There are several options available that result in resolution.
1.) Let it go.
2.) Discuss the situation with your supervisor.
3.) Confront the co-worker.

The Let it go process rarely works, especially if the irritation still exists on a regular basis. As long as you are a member of this committee and it is run by the same person, these feelings are unlikely to go away. You will have to attend the meeting armed with an emotional shield to deflect your feelings. It is counter-productive, and from my perspective, emotionally draining for all involved.

Discuss the situation with your supervisor can sometimes work, but it can also backfire. A good manager would be willing to listen and provide not only insight, but some problem-solving solutions.

Confront the co-worker The word ‘confrontation’ has a negative connotation. Even if it didn’t, the thought of using this method makes many people uncomfortable. Yet, in my experience, it almost always nets the best results, if handled properly. @Jeruba provides an excellent template of how to do so.
* Ask to speak to the chairperson privately and specify how much time it will take.
* Pose it in a way that expresses your feelings and not in an accusatory manner.
* Listen to what the person has to say.
* Thank them for their honesty.
* If possible, work out a solution at that time. It may require time to digest the responses and follow-up later, which should be an agreed upon date/time.

Another way to approach both #2 and #3 is to ask both the supervisor or the chair-person what your role is as a member of this committee. I would start with my supervisor.

It it all too common that work structures to continue to utilize the same processes without regular re-evaluation as to how effective they are. There are also many cases when a new member is added or substituted for a seat on a committee without being given proper instruction on the goal or their responsibility. As inane as this sounds, it happens with alarming frequency.

CWOTUS's avatar

I agree, @Pied_Pfeffer. Maybe another way to clarify is that you have to “confront the issue” more than you confront “the person”. That is, you have to acknowledge that there is an issue in order to address and resolve it.

Certainly if you’re being treated with deliberate stony silence, some people might wonder, “How is this person so tone-deaf as to not realize they’re being frozen out?” when you keep addressing them with a cheery “Good morning!” every day.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@CWOTUS Thank you. That is a much better way to word it. “Address the concern” may even be a softer form.

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