Author Topic: My coworker thinks "polite" means "friendly".  (Read 8377 times)

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Mental Magpie

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Re: My coworker thinks "polite" means "friendly".
« Reply #15 on: October 25, 2012, 02:43:07 PM »
Who ever above me said "Be friendly without being friends", I just want to say that that is exactly how we were told in training yesterday (for CorrectionOfficers) to handle the inmates  >:D
The problem with choosing the lesser of two evils is that you're still choosing evil.

Lynnv

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Re: My coworker thinks "polite" means "friendly".
« Reply #16 on: October 26, 2012, 12:35:41 AM »
Who ever above me said "Be friendly without being friends", I just want to say that that is exactly how we were told in training yesterday (for CorrectionOfficers) to handle the inmates  >:D

At the time (this was very early in my working life), I was working at an amusement park.  I am not sure what that says about prisoners and/or people riding roller coasters.  :>
Lynn

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Rhindle

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Re: My coworker thinks "polite" means "friendly".
« Reply #17 on: October 26, 2012, 01:10:48 AM »
My tablet decided to run out of battery power before I could post my reply. Argh. So I'm trying again, at my desktop. Power company, don't you dare fail me now!

To the posters in general: Thank you for your perspectives. They give me some interesting things to think about. Also, something that I should have put in my initial post: this woman made me cry twice with her vicious comments. After the first time, I realized she was not truly a potential friend, and backed the EHell away from her.

Boss and BigBoss know about the second time; Boss actually witnessed it. Coworker has been written up for this. She thinks that because she apologized, everything should be all right between us two. It isn't. I know I can't force her to understand that. She wants my regard and my attention, but I have none for her. And I do want to discourage her from hanging around me.

By the way, yes, I now document my interactions with her, no matter how benign they are. Just thought I would throw that in there. There is no HR department to worry about; it's a small business of 30 people, so I'm not worried about HR. But documentation might come in handy if I ever need to justify myself later.

camlan: I will keep that in mind if Boss or BigBoss ask me to be nicer to Coworker. During the meeting, BigBoss did ask her to be more specific. So did I. Coworker wants me to paste on a grin when I greet her or if she needs to come to my office about work-related stuff. I am currently pondering if that is a reasonable request on her part or not. It seems unreasonable to me but that's why I came here.

Redsoil: Yes, you're quite right. I'm being frostily polite, not pleasant. I already understand this is the effect I'm giving off. I'm concerned about slipping into actual rudeness, not so concerned about being "pleasant" to this one person.

Lynnv: Thank you. It helps to know that other people have had to deal with some really heinous coworkers too.

PastryGoddess

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Re: My coworker thinks "polite" means "friendly".
« Reply #18 on: October 26, 2012, 01:55:59 AM »
Hmmm, I don't know about you OP, but when someone TELLS me that I need to act a certain way I tend to do the opposite.  So I can see your point about the whole smile thing.  It's like if you smile at her, is she getting her way.

Maybe instead of a smile you can do a smirk.  Or you can say hi and then do a quick quirk of the lips (try not to roll your eyes though)

Gosh! people like this are so annoying. 

Mental Magpie

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Re: My coworker thinks "polite" means "friendly".
« Reply #19 on: October 26, 2012, 08:14:33 AM »
Hmmm, I don't know about you OP, but when someone TELLS me that I need to act a certain way I tend to do the opposite.  So I can see your point about the whole smile thing.  It's like if you smile at her, is she getting her way.

Maybe instead of a smile you can do a smirk.  Or you can say hi and then do a quick quirk of the lips (try not to roll your eyes though)

Gosh! people like this are so annoying.

I do, too...or I do what they tell me to but I do it sarcastically.  ("You learned to dance sarcastically?")  Would it be rude for the OP to give her a big grin but make it obvious it is fake? 
The problem with choosing the lesser of two evils is that you're still choosing evil.

BeagleMommy

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Re: My coworker thinks "polite" means "friendly".
« Reply #20 on: October 26, 2012, 12:33:24 PM »
OP, body language experts often describe a "true smile" meaning that the mouth is wide; sometimes showing teeth and the eyes are crinkled at the corners.  It is the smile we use when we are truly happy about something.  You do not have to give that detestable woman a true smile.  When she greets you, you can say "Good morning" and simply turn the corners of your mouth up slightly.  She probably won't even notice the difference.

As far as tone, try to go with "professional" rather than "flat".  It might take some practice, but I've seen it work.  This is how I usually speak with Annoying Coworker.

grannyclampettjr

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Re: My coworker thinks "polite" means "friendly".
« Reply #21 on: October 26, 2012, 12:45:18 PM »
Does it really hurt you in any way to smile?  I have coworkers I dislike, but I still give them a polite smile rather than keep my expression neutral, which yes, does make it obvious you dislike her -- especially if you're deliberately using a flat tone to say good morning, and you smile to everyone else.

It would probably help the office atmosphere if you could treat her the same as you would another coworker, as it relates to the friendliness/smiling scale.  As a boss, I'd probably respect you more if you smiled rather than held a grudge. 

I don't think you need to carry on long, chatty conversations with her, though.  Just don't make it obvious (with the flat voice and lack of expression) that you dislike her.  I don't think that would be appropriate at work.  Sometimes we just have to work with people we don't like, and deal with it.

I've had co workers who thought that *any* smile, small talk, etc, meant we were besties again.   Since this woman is so all over the board and extreme with her reactions, I think it truly would hurt emotionally to smile at someone like this, because I would never know what flavor of worms could come out of that can I just opened. 

camlan

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Re: My coworker thinks "polite" means "friendly".
« Reply #22 on: October 26, 2012, 12:59:17 PM »
Does it really hurt you in any way to smile?  I have coworkers I dislike, but I still give them a polite smile rather than keep my expression neutral, which yes, does make it obvious you dislike her -- especially if you're deliberately using a flat tone to say good morning, and you smile to everyone else.

It would probably help the office atmosphere if you could treat her the same as you would another coworker, as it relates to the friendliness/smiling scale.  As a boss, I'd probably respect you more if you smiled rather than held a grudge. 

I don't think you need to carry on long, chatty conversations with her, though.  Just don't make it obvious (with the flat voice and lack of expression) that you dislike her.  I don't think that would be appropriate at work.  Sometimes we just have to work with people we don't like, and deal with it.

I've had co workers who thought that *any* smile, small talk, etc, meant we were besties again.   Since this woman is so all over the board and extreme with her reactions, I think it truly would hurt emotionally to smile at someone like this, because I would never know what flavor of worms could come out of that can I just opened.

I'd feel this way, too. That any sign of a thaw would me that she'd assume we were best friends again, and the whole cycle would repeat itself.

I know the OP works for a small company, but think about how you would treat a co-worker whom you did not know, say if you worked for a company with hundreds of employees? You get on the elevator one morning and there's a co-worker you've never met and will probably never see again. But there's the chance you might meet up again, so you are polite. You give a little smile, maybe ask what floor they want and push the button. If the weather is particularly good or bad that day, one of you might remark on the two feet of snow or sunshine after 6 days of rain. Or not. That's the attitude I'd take with this woman.
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


figleaf

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Re: My coworker thinks "polite" means "friendly".
« Reply #23 on: October 27, 2012, 06:19:20 PM »
I feel your pain. I had a Boss a few years ago who would not let me leave the room if I disagreed with her.  She would keep me in her office not only until I verbally agreed with her, but until she could "tell by my demeanor" that I actually DID agree with her. Extra bonus was that our profession is all about being body language experts. It was an impossible situation.

In my case, my higher supervisors decided that it was not effective for us to continue working together and reassigned me to another supervisor. Within two months she had been removed from the organization because her behavior was not confined to me.

I think you are very wise to document each interaction with her. In your position, I would probably monitor my own behavior to make sure that you are not being PA, and are treating her like any person with whom you need to maintain a business relationship. This will elevate you in your boss' estimation. In the meantime, she probably won't be able to keep up the perky facade for long, and will lose it on you again, especially if you continue to be coolly pleasant. Then your bosses will contrast your behavior with hers and you will come out on top.

In your shoes, constantly reminding yourself that you are the better person helps to keep up the good attitude!

P12663

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Re: My coworker thinks "polite" means "friendly".
« Reply #24 on: October 27, 2012, 09:19:59 PM »
OP, you've said that this woman wants you to return her grin.  Well, there is a big difference between a grin and a polite smile.  Smile->  :)  Grin ->  ;D  (and a 'polite smile' can be even smaller than a 'smile')

Besides the physical differences, a grin is something friends would share.  A polite smile is all you need in a professional encounter. 

She can grin at you all she likes.  You don't have to grin back. 

Ceallach

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Re: My coworker thinks "polite" means "friendly".
« Reply #25 on: October 30, 2012, 01:28:42 AM »
I think it's important to remember that the act of not smiling is a form of communication in itself.   Finding that balance of "neutral pleasantness" is slightly different for each person.    To keep the workplace civil you should try to err on the side of "flat expression that indicates neutrality" as opposed to "flat expression that may indicate internal hostility or resentment".   

However overall I think you're fine.   Just try to treat her the same as you would a random acquaintance or business associate who you need to interact with.   
"Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something"


It's good to be Queen

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Re: My coworker thinks "polite" means "friendly".
« Reply #26 on: October 30, 2012, 06:38:35 PM »
I worked with someone, X,  whom I really didn't like.  He and I were the same age, but he acted like he was still in his 20's.  He liked to brag about his partying, hit on all of the women in the office (and was married) and just generally had a personality I didn't like.  I treated him politely and professionally.  I gave him everything he needed.  He went to my supervisor and complained about me, saying I didn't like him.  I met with my supervisor and told him that no, I didn't like X but that I always did his work and treated him professionally, but I did refused to join his after work drinking parties or have lunch with him.  I also did not really joke around with him in the office like I would do with people I liked.  I asked him if X could give any examples of me not doing my job or not treating him correctly.  Turns out he couldn't.  I asked to have the complaint removed from my personnel file and it was.

You can never go wrong if you treat co-workers professionally and politely, but no one can force you to be friendly!

LEMon

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Re: My coworker thinks "polite" means "friendly".
« Reply #27 on: October 31, 2012, 03:58:32 PM »
Do you have a clear picture of what Boss wants you to do?  I would see that as of highest importance.  Your last comment made it appear that Boss does not support coworker's desire for the 'grin'.  I suspect Boss will be fine with business polite, but I would want clarification from (him/her).

MyFamily

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Re: My coworker thinks "polite" means "friendly".
« Reply #28 on: October 31, 2012, 04:29:46 PM »
Your coworkers is a bully.  She is bullying you into doing what she wants, which is to make her feel good about herself with no regard to what you need.  She is a bully.  No real advice, but just remember this, and if your boss really wants you to smile at her, I'd suggest using this word.


"The test of good manners is to be patient with bad ones" - Solomon ibn Gabirol

Rhindle

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Re: My coworker thinks "polite" means "friendly".
« Reply #29 on: October 31, 2012, 10:25:32 PM »
Neither one of my bosses care if I smile at her. They both defended my perspective to her at the meeting. Our bosses just want the work to get done without drama and with evidence of teamwork.

I think the issue has died down, at least for now. Today, I trained her in a new procedure which will save the company money, so if she complains in the future, I can point to the fact that she asked for the training and I gave it to her.