A new manager was hired recently for our department. Her managerial rank is the same as mine. She is quite knowledgeable and has many good ideas on how we can improve our operations. However, she is often abrasive and condescending to others. She makes comments like "That doesn't make sense" and "Come on, I sent that to you 2 weeks ago!" in a very rude tone.

I have had 4 members of department come to me and say that they either want to work with my team and/or that they cannot work with her. I have escalated this to the department manager, and he said he will pass along the feedback.

My worry is that because she is getting results, maybe nothing will get done. And, in the meantime, what to do when she also says these kinds of comments to me? Being the planning type, when I get those "that doesn't make sense", I tend to lose myself and cannot respond why it does.

Several factors in play here, but any initial support in how to provide feedback to her as a peer and handle these abrasive comments would be appreciated.

tokyotony's picture

The type of person I was talking about in the above post was recently talked about on the podcast "Business Week - The Welsh Way"--I just heard this. The key aspect is that this abrasive manager is "getting the numbers done", so maybe no one will really do anything for a long while. This is my greatest worry. Not sure if I can "wait it out" as the podcast suggests.

wendii's picture
Admin Role Badge


it sounds like she's all D in Disc terms. Have listened to the podcasts and seen the hint sheets on how to deal with the different communication types?

There's also some really good advice on how to deal with the High Ds on this thread:

Does that help any?


jhack's picture

There is a podcast on giving feedback to peers, Oct 23, 2006, which you can find in the archives. M&M cover this situation in that podcast.


Mark's picture
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I bet Jack said, the numbers aren't everything. Give feedback, coach him, and if he or she won't change, ask them to go. These people destroy teams and orgs, and one person is NEVER worth it.

I've heard Jack answer this question a hundred times, and when I told him I loved the answer, he said, "glad to have helped", and I laughed and said, "I've been saying it for 20 years, too, Jack."


tokyotony's picture

Thanks everyone for your advice. I will re-listen to giving feedback to a peer, and I am also thinking that this person is not open to feedback at all--especially from a peer.

What to do when I get those kinds of comments like "that doesn't make sense" or "I sent that to you two weeks ago"--all in condescending tones? I personally either become very quite or I explode--neither one is very effective.

jhack's picture

Consider the technique that takes their statements at face value without consideration of the tone or intent. So when she says "that doesn't make sense" you should say - without being snide or insulting - "which part can I explain better?" If your idea makes sense, help her understand it. If she's pretending, your sincerity is a good way to respond.

When she says "I sent that to you two weeks ago" what's the point? Did you actually drop the ball on this one, did you not get the email two weeks ago, is there something she's trying convey? If it's unclear, you could meet her with silence, as if waiting for her to continue, or you could ask a question that helps you understand what is at issue.

Fundamentally, you should stay focused on work and performance. Bring each conversation back to who needs to do what by when, and what it will take to get things done. Do not get dragged into a mudfight.

Since your manager (and hers) is just going to "pass along the feedback" you probably can't rely on that manager in the short run. Your conversations with your manager should be about your team's performance, not about interpersonal tiffs. If this other manager is eroding performance, then it's relevant, and it's about the performance. If it's just annoying, it's best not to make it an issue.


US41's picture

[quote="tokyotony"]Thanks everyone for your advice. I will re-listen to giving feedback to a peer, and I am also thinking that this person is not open to feedback at all--especially from a peer.[/quote]

Some people are not open to feedback when they are your peers, and you have no control over them. Until they do something unprofessional enough that you are willing to damage yourself going after them with management or HR (and you will take some bruises and cuts defending yourself and be seen perhaps as a co-whiner), feedback is your best option.

I don't believe someone else being "condescending" is something about which you can give effective feedback. It is not a behavior. "Condescending" is your conclusion about someone else's behavior. So, for feedback or even boundary setting to work, you'll have to distill down your complaint from "condescending", which is all in your imagination, to the actual behaviors... eye rolling? Sighing? Frowning? Scowling? Particular quotes (you gave two)?

When you go to your peer and give feedback that you are unhappy to have drawn a conclusion about them, especially a clever D, they will sneer at you and say, "I'm not responsible for your imagination!" and dismiss you as a crackpot.

[quote]What to do when I get those kinds of comments like "that doesn't make sense" or "I sent that to you two weeks ago"--all in condescending tones? I personally either become very quite or I explode--neither one is very effective.[/quote]

I sympathize with how difficult this situation feels for you, and in support of you, I would suggest that we can only control ourselves, not the difficult people we deal with. Controlling my reactions to difficult people is a big challenge for me, but it isn't something that anyone can help me with.

Groucho Marx said it best: "Then don't do that."

Feedback, feedback, feedback until they do something unprofessional enough that you can get support from the company or something severe enough that you are willing to fall on your sword and perhaps damage your own career in the effort to put a stop to it.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

She's poking you with an umbrella, but you're getting mad and becmoing ineffective all by yourself.


tokyotony's picture


Okay, so how to get her to stop poking me with the umbrella?


jhack's picture

Ignore her pokes. There is likely to be an increase in pokes after you start ingnoring them; continue ignoring them. Any response by you is rewarding for her. She will eventually stop, and even if she doesn't, you will have controlled the one thing you really can: your behavior.

Good luck. It's hard to be egged on by someone and not respond. And it will take some time.

bflynn's picture

[quote="tokyotony"]Okay, so how to get her to stop poking me with the umbrella?[/quote]

Tony, the better question is how to stop yourself from getting mad. The answer is to realize that her behavior is just the way she does it. Expect to see the high-D behaviors and understand them for what they are. Your goal should be to recognize and accept that this is how she communicates. Her behaviors are not an attack on you.

If you want to get her to stop, feedback to her is most effective method. Feedback to a peer is difficult. Other than giving it to a boss, it may be the most difficult type of feedback to give. Trust in the method and let all the fear go. What is the worst that could happen? Is the worst really that bad?


Mark's picture
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Good advice above, and let me connect them.

She's only poking you when you get mad. If you don't get mad, it doesn't feel liike she's poking you.

So, two ways to do it, easily combined.

1. Stop getting mad. The poking will stop (oh, you'll recognize the behavior, but you won't feel poked).

2. Build a Relationship. Compliment her about her success BRIEFLY. Suppport her efforts insofar as you can within your responsibilities. Visit with her an extra minute before or after meetings.


tokyotony's picture

Mark et al.,

You hit the nail on the head! I have been talking about this issue with my coach, and he said the same thing. Today, I have been giving her humbly "inside" tips on how to run operations. For example, "You know, not for nothing, and you probably know this..." And, I get a "Cheers, thanks for that. Great idea". Moreover, it gives her the opportunity to claim these for herself. I can come across as her friend...which is what she desperately needs.

If we look at her deep structure, all she wants is to be respected and to look good. I went about this the wrong way in the beginning....I shunned her and complained about her--opposite of what she wanted. Slap me on the wrist for doing so!

So, I need to build the relationship here. The only piece of the puzzle left for me to deal with is how to response to others when they say "I left work this afternoon early because I felt sick working with her" (true comment). I can't give the staff a full lesson in management-tools. What to do with the staff in the meantime? What to say to them?

Thanks everyone for your support. I am feeling a bit better now.

And maybe I can learn in the process!


wendii's picture
Admin Role Badge

Hi Tony,

so glad it's working better already.

For your co-workers, how about the feel, felt, found model?

I understand how you feel, I've felt that way about people in the past, what I've found is ... approaching them in a different way, building a relationship etc makes all the difference.

You don't need to confess that you've felt it about this person, which will encourage their negative feelings.


tokyotony's picture


Thanks for the advice. I feel a change in direction in my relationship with her. I need to be an ally rather than a competitor.


storm's picture

When I give work to people to do I always discuss a deadline with them asking them if they're able to meet it, and telling them why the date is the one it is.
When it's getting close to the deadline I check to make sure they're still on track. If they then don't meet the deadline I feel I'm within my rights to be cross.
How does that sit with people here in terms of an approach?

WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

M&M talk about this in a podcast about creating a sense of urgency. I think that's pretty much their line. If I recall, they suggest having the direct provide the deadline - date & time. Time being key. Of course, if that date doesn't work you can nudge it in the direction you need. But by getting them to set the date you get more buy-in.

One question to ask yourself, could there be multiple deadlines? If the project needs to be finished in 6 months, and you check in at 5 1/2 months, well, that's too late. :) Breaking down to smaller deadlines helps keep the project on track.

That's how it sits with me. :wink:

skwanch's picture

[quote]If they then don't meet the deadline I feel I'm within my rights to be cross. [/quote]

At the risk of putting words in M&M's mouths, I'd guess that they would say that 'being cross' is rarely an effective behavior, rightful or no. Your direct will focus on (or be shut down by) the emotion and miss the communication.

Feedback feedback feedback . . . remember it's 'no big deal'.

ehyde111's picture

I would agree. Being "cross" has rarely, if, ever helped me out in the long-term. It certainly makes you feel better, but, relies mainly on your role power. Sure it will help in the present. Maybe you can get this certain thing done now. I don't think that it does anything to help build a relationship or helps your direct want to meet deadlines. It willll only motivate them to avoid the corssness.

RichRuh's picture
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I agree with the postings above.

My "High D" personality and I struggle with this quite a bit, but I always get better results when I stay calm.


mptully's picture

There is also the difference between ‘being cross’ and ‘behaving crossly’. There is probably little you can do about your emotional reaction to something but it should not impact on the way that you behave towards your directs.

One of the recent books that I read, ‘Women at Work’ by Anne Dickson (highly recommend it), talks about acknowledging the emotional reaction that you are feeling. Not about throwing a wobbly or behaving according to your emotions, but telling the other person quite clearly and honesty what it is that that they have caused you to feel. In MT-speak, in your feedback you would say, very calmly, that one of the things that happened because of their behaviour is that you now feel very cross/angry/disappointed. It would be part of the description of the consequences, but delivered in the same tone of voice as the description of the missed deadlines etc.

I tried this acknowledgement of my emotions with my very high C & D boss (no people skills – doesn’t look you in the eye when you are behaving angry/sad/pleased) and was astonished how well it worked. I told him very calmly and without equivocation that his actions had made me very angry, outlined exactly what behaviours had caused this – and got an apology for the behaviour and it has improved our relationship greatly.


ascott's picture

[quote="tokyotony"]...she is often abrasive and condescending to others. ...

I have escalated this to the department manager, and he said he will pass along the feedback.[/quote]

I'm missing something:

1. She is abrasive and condescending to others...meaning not to you? You're worried about her...why?

2. You "escalated" this without having approached her yourself? Isn't complaining up the food chain Plan B -or C? Not to mention an admission of not being able to deal with it yourself? Whenever people "escalate" sandbox complaints to me my first question is "What have you done to try to resolve these issues?" If the answer is "nothing" - and it almost always is - I'll let the report bounce some ideas off me about how they could try to solve the problem themselves. (Obviously, this doesn't apply to serious matters - workplace violence, etc.).

We all have to work with difficult people, and it's a legitimate area for personal growth - for all of us. If her style is causing difficulty for you or your team or in any way interfering with your deliverables, give her the courtesy of taking it up with her.

We high Ds appreciate that sort of thing.

tokyotony's picture

1) Abrasive to many

2) I did bring it to her, and also brought it to my manager's attention since there was more than a few people complaining. Not as a "you should fire her" reason, but more from a team performance perspective.

US41's picture

I make sure that I am never complaining to management on behalf of others. "Everyone thought that stunk" usually means just I thought it stunk, but it sounds better if I say everyone did. And being a high D, I like to speak for everyone on the planet, because I rule the planet. It's just that everyone hasn't figured that out yet. :)

As a manager, when anyone tells me "Lots of people were complaining, didn't appreciate something, etc" I give feedback.

"When you tell me that you did not like something, I can address that. When you tell me that other people didn't like something, and you are the appointed spokesperson or the only one brave enough to bring it to me, then I draw the conclusion you are trying to make your coworkers look like cowards and are playing games."

I only want to hear from the offended party about their personal experience. I am not interested in gossip - EVER.

By speaking on their behalf, I believe you fall into a political trap - your coworkers let you be the bad guy, they sit back clean, your hands get dirty, and management gets irritated with you and the person you are complaining about. The two of you have your stock value reduced, and your coworkers wave "buh-bye" as the two of you pack boxes.

Recommendation: limit your reports to what you personally experienced and how it affected you and you alone. If your friends don't have the brass ones to say anything, they can lie in the beds they make for themselves.

Give feedback direct. If that doesn't work, report your perspective only and the fact your feedback was rebuffed.

In the world of psychology, sending messages via a third party is called "triangulation." It is generally considered unhealthy behavior between non-violent people unless direct communication is necessary and one party is refusing to engage.

I've noticed corporate types referring to "escalation" to describe two different behaviors:

* Referring an issue to higher levels of management for decision making beyond the pay grade of the immediate parties

* Tattling on one another

In the first instance, it is appropriate. In the second, it is little more than code language for "Mommy! He looked at me! Make him stop!"

I agree with the others who referred the person back for direct communication and refused to serve as a go between or be manipulated into doing someone else's dirty work for them.