Author Topic: How to handle difficult meeting on interpersonal issues? Update New Question #48  (Read 12436 times)

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NutellaNut

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Really long background - pull up a chair, get yourself a drink, settle in:
In my hobby club, there is a person in a nearby city I'm calling Jen.  Here's a previous thread on her: http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=113973.msg2651579#msg2651579

Her behavior has continued in the same vein, and even gotten worse.  My interactions with her have been sometimes difficult, as I try to avoid being a doormat, but we have gotten through several months of working together on various projects.  I am better at saying "No," and not letting her manipulate me into doing her work.

However.  On other fronts, things have gotten much worse.  She has engaged in intellectual dishonesty, where she has tried to present work and research as her own rather than others' in the club or on the internet (and really, it's OK to use others' research, just admit it!).  She has organized activities out in her area and then not actually held them, leading to new people arriving at a venue only to find it dark and unopen.  She's said things to people in far-flung parts of the club, telling them that the people in her area are all mean and awful.  She has deliberately stirred the pot to try to sabotage a new sub-group that a bunch of us hobbyists are trying to start.

I have someone I am mentoring who lives in Jen's area - I will call him Tomas.  He is one of the people who has been burned by her promising to do something, manipulating others into actually doing the work, then taking the credit.  Over the last year and 1/2, the relations between Tomas and Jen have deteriorated.  He started to resist her manipulations and she would push.  She began slinging insults at him, sometimes under the guise of a "joke" or followed by a half-hearted apology.  One incident, she angrily and mockingly called him a womanizer and a Don Juan in front of his new girlfriend (note: she and Tomas never have had any interest in each other, they each run to different types).  She sort of apologized later for it, and he tried to move on.  Another incident, a couple of weeks later, she had organized an activity at one of our events, and was pressuring folks to take part.  Tomas, and another of my students, Sandy, did not want to take part, as the activity involved being discourteous to others (it was actually a competition to insult your opponent.  Yes, really.), and additionally, they each had had issues with Jen and were trying to minimize their interactions.  She pressured them and pressured them and they said No many times.  Finally she stood in the main area and said something like, "OK, I see you're both too..." and she mockingly put her hands together as if praying and bowed over them, "...pious to help me out."  Both Tomas and Sandy were offended.  Sandy actually is a very religious person, which Jen had to know since she speaks of her religion very openly.  Tomas is not so religious, but finds the mockery of it very offensive.  They cooled their interactions with Jen even more for the rest of the day.

For some time after that day, Jen would contact Tomas as if everything was great, what were they doing next, etc.?  He tried to answer her in monosyllables and to deny all requests for favors.  She escalated to posting to a public group they are both on, trying to force his hand.  So he sent her a private email saying, essentially, that he needs her to know that he is no longer interested in a friendship with her, that their goals are too far apart, and that it's best if she just lets it go.  She responded in a tizzy, pressuring him to tell her what she had done wrong, using every manipulative technique possible (flattery of him and his friends, attacks on his own behavior "You've been cold to me," threats of "problems in the local group" if this wasn't solved, and so on) to get him to write back to her.  And, unfortunately he did.  He responded in detail about some of the things she had said and done for the last year and half, and how he had accepted sort-of apologies time and again and tried to chalk her issues up to inexperience and insecurity.  But that the last few weeks had shown that her apologies were hollow, that this was a pattern she was likely to continue again and again, and he just doesn't want to be around that.  He wasn't saying he can't be cordial when necessary, but rather that she needs to know they are not friends and she should not ask him for favors.  In his letter, which I have seen, he told her these unhappy truths very bluntly, but he was not rude (IMO).  And it was a private correspondence (at the time).

She immediately began complaining to any who would hear her that Tomas has been horrible to her.  She showed people his email without showing them the buildup or of course mentioning the many incidents previous.  In the sub-group we are trying to start, Tomas is one of the main forces for starting this, putting in many hours.  Jen interrupted one of our meetings about the subgroup to tell us that she can't be part of the group if we allow someone so aggressive to be part of it.  She took actions to stir up trouble for the subgroup in general, feeding inflammatory misinformation about discussions at the meetings to people who weren't there.  She has pressured me to promise that I will make Tomas apologize, that he has to realize that she is sensitive, and he can't talk to her like that.  She takes no responsibility for her actions, and actually somehow manages to ignore it when they are brought up.

Jen may not know this, but the things she has been saying about Tomas have already had a severe effect, in that she's told important people in the club these warped untruths, and they now believe he is unkind and cruel.  His prospects have been affected, perhaps permanently. 

Because we are loath to let this continue unabated, a local leader for Jen's group and I, and Tomas, have agreed to have a meeting with Jen and her mentor (who lives several hours away).  Initially it was set up to be all of us, then Jen tried to say, no, it could just be her and Tomas, but I was unwilling to have Tomas meet with her in a way that would not be witnessed by me, since I know that eventually what would happen is that she would spread mistruths about what he said during that meeting and I wouldn't be able to refute it if I wasn't there.  So now, it's back to a big meeting with at least five people.  Oy.

Truthfully, I think they should just exchange pro forma apologies and agree to move in separate circles, being polite when necessary.  This Tomas is willing to do.  I am not certain that Jen will be willing to apologize in any meaningful way, and I think she will want to press that he was the one in the wrong and she is the victim.  I am not willing to have him take all the blame as if he has majorly misstepped when I believe that is not the case.  I would prefer that this meeting not become a hashing-out of all sorts of past behavior but I can easily see it happening.

I do intend to speak privately with Jen's mentor, discussing primarily the problems with Jen's intellectual dishonesty, inability to take No for an answer, and the problems she is trying to stir up in the new sub-group.  Jen's mentor is a good person and already knows that this is a difficult situation.  I'm hopeful we will have meaningful discussion.

I know you folks are only getting my take on this situation, which is obviously biased.  But can you tell me, do you feel Tomas was justified in saying he doesn't want to have a friendship with her, after her repeated patterns of behavior?  Does he owe her a major apology for saying things so bluntly?  We want to do what we can to extricate ourselves out of the situation as best as possible.  And, as someone who still has to work with Jen for the next 6 months, and as someone with some standing in Jen's chosen art, I want to manage things well enough so that Jen's continued presence in the hobby club is not detrimental to the club. And truthfully, if Jen could be made to see the error of her ways, she is a talented artisan and would be an asset.  But I'm not holding my breath.

Opinions and advice welcome. 
« Last Edit: November 04, 2012, 01:41:43 PM by NutellaNut »

ilrag

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Re: How to handle difficult meeting on interpersonal issues? LONG x 10
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2012, 11:26:45 AM »
I'm just going to respond to this:

But can you tell me, do you feel Tomas was justified in saying he doesn't want to have a friendship with her, after her repeated patterns of behavior?  Does he owe her a major apology for saying things so bluntly?  We want to do what we can to extricate ourselves out of the situation as best as possible.  And, as someone who still has to work with Jen for the next 6 months, and as someone with some standing in Jen's chosen art, I want to manage things well enough so that Jen's continued presence in the hobby club is not detrimental to the club. And truthfully, if Jen could be made to see the error of her ways, she is a talented artisan and would be an asset.  But I'm not holding my breath.

1. Yes, Tomas is justified. There's no reason to have a friendship with some one who stresses you out.
2. He should only apologize if he's sorry. Blunt but not rude isn't something that requires an apology in my world.

Even if Jen complains to all of the known universe about what a meanie Tomas is just ignore it. Unless there's a lie you can't let sit, just look bored about the gossip. If Jen is the way you say she is eventually more people will realize that and she will discredit herself.

camlan

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Re: How to handle difficult meeting on interpersonal issues? LONG x 10
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2012, 11:27:14 AM »
Why hasn't Jen been kicked out of the organization?

To answer your specific questions:

Tomas is allowed to have the friends he chooses. Jen may not like his choice not be be her friend, but that's all she can do--dislike the choice. It's not rude to have friends who are, you know, like actually friends and not back-stabbing flakes. It would have been better if Tomas could have just let the friendship die a natural death, by not responding to Jen, but it appears that Jen made that approach impossible. Jen has reaped what she has sown.

Blunt is not rude. Blunt seems to have come only after every other option was exhausted. Again, Jen reaps what she sows. Tomas does not have to apologize for not sugar-coating the truth.

I think having several non-involved people at this meeting is a good thing. Just having Jen and Tomas and one other could lead to more of Jen's truth-altering. Get the biggest big-wigs of your organization that you can to be there and witness Jen in all her glory. The more witnesses you have to her behavior, the better.

Frankly, I'd be working to get her out of the organization. Doesn't matter how talented she is; that talent is coming with a large price. She's a thief, she doesn't inform people of what's going on (all those poor people showing up for events to find locked doors), When she started saying that she couldn't be part of the sub-group if Tomas was in it, I've have gladly shown her the door.

Has she contributed *anything* to the organization as a whole that would warrant allowing her to continue as a member, in spite of her bullying, abrasive, incompetent, thieving manner?

Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


LeveeWoman

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Re: How to handle difficult meeting on interpersonal issues? LONG x 10
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2012, 11:46:08 AM »
I'm with Camlan: why hasn't this bully been kicked out of the group? She lies, she threatens, she manipulates and other disgusting things.

VltGrantham

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Re: How to handle difficult meeting on interpersonal issues? LONG x 10
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2012, 12:04:14 PM »
Add me to the group of people that don't understand why this idiot has been forced to leave the group.

I would prepare documentation that proves Jen's behavior and take it with me to the meeting.  I would ask Tomas to do the same. 

Her behavior is going to cause people to either leave or simply stop coming altogether.  This is why I firmly believe that hobby groups should have some sort of mission statement and "rules" plus a probationary period for new members.  If at any time the new member is found not to be a fit, they are told that they are not a good fit and pointed in another direction.

Tomas should not have to apologize for not wanting to be friends with her.  Forcing him to do so is only saying that her tactics, cheap theatrics, and bullying are an acceptable form of behavior.

Honestly, I'd go in there with the approach that it was her or me, but no way would I give that person an apology.

kakack

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Re: How to handle difficult meeting on interpersonal issues? LONG x 10
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2012, 12:10:39 PM »
Regarding the spreading of misinfomation of various meetings - does anyone take minutes of the meetings?  If so, please bring those with you to counteract her misinformation.  Get others at the meeting to speak up about what really happened.  Don't just let it lie out there. 

Stephen Colbert invented a word that applies in this case - truthiness.  It means that the more people repeat something, even if untrue, it becomes the truth because so many people are treating it as fact.

Petticoats

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Re: How to handle difficult meeting on interpersonal issues? LONG x 10
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2012, 12:49:46 PM »
I think there needs to be a united, forceful effort to induce Jen to apologize and clear up the lies she's told about Tomas. Then: full-on shunning of Jen. I don't see why she's tolerated.

Calypso

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Re: How to handle difficult meeting on interpersonal issues? LONG x 10
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2012, 01:19:21 PM »
If this is the group I think it is, there's no mechanism for kicking someone out.

GSNW

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Re: How to handle difficult meeting on interpersonal issues? LONG x 10
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2012, 02:05:46 PM »
Then: full-on shunning of Jen. I don't see why she's tolerated.

Or just this, if Jen continues with her antics - a united front may cause her to dig her heels in even more.  I have seen similar issues with a gaming group I am involved in, in fact Jen sounds very much like someone I know.  If there is no mechanism for kicking someone out, they need to become completely irrelevant.  Once that happens, they can no longer create drama.

Queen of Clubs

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Re: How to handle difficult meeting on interpersonal issues? LONG x 10
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2012, 02:16:50 PM »
But can you tell me, do you feel Tomas was justified in saying he doesn't want to have a friendship with her, after her repeated patterns of behavior?

Does he owe her a major apology for saying things so bluntly?

Whoa, whoa, whoa!  Is he justified in not wanting to be friends with a thieving, lying moocher who's slandered him?!  Heck, yes.  Totally justified!

And if I were Tomas, I'd be refusing to give *any* kind of apology.  She owes him an apology - a huge one.

Tomas deserves to have his name cleared.  If the slander can be proved, it should be.  And if that leaves Jen looking like the lying thief that she is, good.

bopper

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Re: How to handle difficult meeting on interpersonal issues? LONG x 10
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2012, 02:28:56 PM »

I do intend to speak privately with Jen's mentor, discussing primarily the problems with Jen's intellectual dishonesty, inability to take No for an answer, and the problems she is trying to stir up in the new sub-group.  Jen's mentor is a good person and already knows that this is a difficult situation.  I'm hopeful we will have meaningful discussion.


i think you need to talk to Jen's mentor or anyone else who has influence in the group and ask how they intend to handle her dishonesty, setting up events and then not showing up and then the problems in teh subgroup.

Why is she allowed to create events anymore if she has had incidents where new people show up and she isn't there?
Or do you and others tell the new people to take Jen's events with a grain of salt because who knows if she is going to show?

Also that Tomas is spearheading a subgroup that has nothign to do with Jen and she needs to keep her nose out of his business. He is basically trying to extricate himself from her and she won't let him.

Maybe print out the Geek Social Fallacies http://www.plausiblydeniable.com/opinion/gsf.html and say that everyone doesn't have to do everythign with everyone else and he should be able to have a group that does not include her.

WillyNilly

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Re: How to handle difficult meeting on interpersonal issues? LONG x 10
« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2012, 03:07:47 PM »
I don't have much to add except I don't think Tomas has much to apologize for, maybe one of those "I'm sorry your feelings were hurt" non-apologies... but again only if he is actually sorry her feelings were hurt - he doesn't have to be.  Blunt is not nice, but it snot wrong or cruel or anything.

I do think though for your own amusement you should bring a big bowl of gummy worms to place in the center of the table.  Meetings run better with snacks and worms will allow you to mentally cool off as you imagine Jen "no body likes me, everybody hates me, I guess I'll go eat worms!"

yokozbornak

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Re: How to handle difficult meeting on interpersonal issues? LONG x 10
« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2012, 04:13:13 PM »
He has absolutely nothing to apologize for, and everyone should back him and the stand he took against a mean, nasty bully. 

LEMon

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Re: How to handle difficult meeting on interpersonal issues? LONG x 10
« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2012, 04:35:40 PM »
There was no friendship to be broken.  It doesn't sound like she was ever his friend.  He was willing to be polite but not a doormat.  She never acted as a friend.

At the meeting, he needs to bring a full copy of all correspondence to prove what happened in full.  After all, she apologized and he considered the matter closed.  He has not brought this matter up before others, she has.

The only way you can get any change is to use people she respects enough that they can get her to behave.  She has no incentive to act differently otherwise.

Honestly, those who have experienced her behavior first hand are doing the group as a whole no favors by not telling about what she is doing every time she does it.  Call out the intellectual dishonesty, call out the high pressure and refusing to accept 'no, call out the very negative gossip about others.  Don't let the innocent be fooled by the guilty.

Bijou

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Re: How to handle difficult meeting on interpersonal issues? LONG x 10
« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2012, 12:26:20 AM »
I am guessing that the reason you are very involved in the problems between Tomas and Jen is as a group leader.  I think the more people involved, the more drama and the more reward for Jen.  She really sounds like someone I would avoid, avoid, avoid!
I hope you guys can work something out that puts an end to the squabbling.  It would be a shame if the group went down the tubes because of one person.
I've never knitted anything I could recognize when it was finished.  Actually, I've never finished anything, much to my family's relief.