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How to deal with arrogant colleagues

September 08, 2013 12:56 IST

How to deal with arrogant colleagues



In an online chat with readers, Sabitha Rao, director, Cerebrus Consultants addressed queries on how to tackle difficult colleagues and managers at work.

For those who missed the live chat, here's the unedited transcript:

Ankit Dave: How to overcome miscommunication with your colleagues??

Sabitha Rao:
Dear Ankit, Miscommunication typically occurs due to lack of clarity and consistency. Be the first to apologise if you have made a mistake. However, if you see a pattern in the miscommunication please pre plan and use the written form, wherever the outcome is critical. Oral communication is often misunderstood

kiran lokanath: Kiran Kumari am facing difficulty to focus on work coz i have a ailing father at home, how to deal with the situation?

Sabitha Rao:
Dear Kiran, It is always difficult when a close relative especially a parent is unwell. However, try to bundle your work into small pieces and ensure completion. If it is possible to negotiate a break or extended leave with your company, that could be considered. However it is difficult to predict the duration of an ailment. Therefore, try to get help, for eg. nursing assistance.

ganesh-nadar: What do you do when you are constantly at war with your colleagues?

Sabitha Rao:
Dear Ganesh, It is important to figure out why you are at war with your colleagues. Is it because you have some key points of disagreement / some personality issues / or are your own personal problems reflecting in your interactions with your colleagues. Try to have a "one on one" conversation with your colleagues. Some patterns may emerge, don’t try to tackle them as a group.

Anup Prajapati: How to handle or react with highly biased management attitude towards us?

Sabitha Rao:
Dear Anup, Don’t take it personally. Sometimes it often appears that one party is highly biased. Think about what would you do if you are the Boss? your response to the stated bias will be balanced if you take a 360 degree view.

James Dsouza: Can we judge a client by his looks. Can we more or less make conclusion?

Sabitha Rao:
Dear James, I strongly suggest you don't judge a book by its cover. Looks are rather superficial. Some detailed probing / conversation on 2 or 3 characteristics will help you come to a more accurate conclusion.

arun bansal: hello i'm arun bansal from gurgaon, and working in isp co as a jr HR, bt every time my boss thought arun is nt able to do complete this work, bt it is not.. he didnt gave any single1 opputunities, wht should i do? i wanna show I can.

Sabitha Rao: Dear Arun, Next time, please volunteer to do some work or do something that has a significant "value add". Then observe your boss’s reaction. He may be pleased at the initiative you have taken. Try this.

poorani vaidyanathan: My male colleagues keep asking me out for lunch which i refuse, when i have work with them, they are downright rude, what do i do?

Sabitha Rao:
Dear Poorani, it is quite common for colleagues to go out for lunch, it is a way of bonding and networking. So please try to accept a few times (not necessarily always).

dananjaypuri: Madam, how do I make my bosses realise my worth?

Sabitha Rao:
Dear Dananjaypuri, Bosses typically realise your worth, when you go beyond the call of duty. Take initiative and help others. Realisation of worth is sometimes not instantaneous.

ganesh-nadar: I always get saddled with the least popular work

Sabitha Rao: Dear Ganesh, Work is Work! if "least popular" indicates "most difficult", your Boss has a lot of confidence in your abilities. Take that as a compliment.

Uttam Ghosh: How do you deal with arrogant colleagues?

Sabitha Rao:
Dear Uttam, Arrogance, rudeness are labels applied to behaviour that is inappropriate. If you can take a straight forward conversation, point out the specific "arrogant instance" and the impact of it. You might see a change in behaviour.

Illustration by Uttam Ghosh/

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debasis banerjee: I am an employee of The Indian Railway. plz guide me, how work under a Officer/Incharge who is abusive and has no respect for anyone. 2) what can I do to improve my performance and rise up the career ladder?

Sabitha Rao: Dear Debasis, It is unfortunate that you have an abusive boss. However, as you navigate your career that last at least 35 years you will come across various types of people. If you retain your composure this is one more challenge overcome. You could also simply tell your boss that his tone is offensive. This does work sometimes. The simple mantras for moving up the career ladder are hard work, conscious value add and of-course loads of luck. Don't pass up opportunities that increase your exposure like travel and transfers.

hitansh: How to deal with a bitchy co-worker?
Sabitha Rao: Dear Hitansh, Some people are naturally quite sarcastic in their words and actions. They need to be brought down to ground level. Ignoring them does not help. Try pointing out the impact over a cup of tea, if this does not work then try making a game of it by publicly pointing out instances of inappropriate words and actions.

Abdul Warith: Dear Sabitha I recently joined this organisation and am working in an all-male team and most of them get along really well. Pls advice me what to do so that I get along with them without seeming like I am making an effort.

Sabitha Rao: Don't stress Abdul, it will take a while to "belong". In the meantime, be yourself. Look for opportunities to help, a simple lift home for example. Look for lunch time opportunities to discover common interests.

dinesh: How do you handle colleagues who are so much into their designation, that they refuse to acknowledge good ideas on the basis of you are my junior

Sabitha Rao:
Dear Dinesh, This is a question of hierarchy getting in the way of competence. If you permit the senior person to take credit then you will build a professional working relationship that will lessen the impact of the hierarchy / designation.

ganesh-nadar: How to deal with bosses who take credit for your ideas?

Sabitha Rao: Dear Ganesh, there is no harm in making your boss look good. Hopefully, at the year-end you will be able to take a conversation on your contribution and this will show up in your appraisal.

rahim: I feel so isolated in the office, everyone talks to their own department people and mine has only 2 per shift

Sabitha Rao: Dear Rahim, You are lonely at work and feel you do not have any friends since your department is very small. Why don't you try to make friends with colleagues from the departments that are similar / linked to you in terms of work. Lunch and tea breaks are often good times to say hello.

anil: What to do when people in your team take you for granted? how to be firm and make them understand

Sabitha Rao:
Dear Anil, People take you for granted when you are quiet and known not to disagree. It often helps if you can say a firm "no" sometimes. The next time you feel you have been taken for granted please point it out in a non threatening way. Watch the reactions.

omi: Even after working so hard and meeting the deadlines, I got a poor rating in the recent appraisal. What should I do?

Sabitha Rao: Dear Omi, While working hard and meeting deadlines is good, in today's volatile world it may not be adequate. Performance is sometimes relative and you need to understand through introspection or through a conversation with your Boss as to what went wrong. This will help you to take the next steps.

adil: No one takes me seriously because I am a bawa, what am I supposed to do?

Sabitha Rao: Dear Adil, This is a case of bias. This exists, however you have many role models of outstandingly successful people in the Parsi community. Please at least mentally think of them when instances of bias occur. You might choose to point this out also. Please conduct yourself with confidence and don't get influenced by others.

Uttam Ghosh: How does one react when you have many 'manmohan singhs' to work with?

Sabitha Rao: Dear Uttam, at work you will encounter all kinds of people. This is the beauty of diversity. Some people in your opinion will be productive and others not so. We need to accept this.

It has indeed been a pleasure interacting with all of you. Good luck in all your endeavours.

Illustration by Dominic Xavier/

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