General Etiquette > All In A Day's Work

S/O of Mr. Negative - Meet Ms. Defensive

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I have to deal with a manager who is making me crazy .

My job is to correct problems that I find and to do so , I work closely with Management in many different facilities and departments . None of these problems that I find are Life-Threatening Disasters of Monumental Importance . They are simply things that need to be corrected .

Each time I find a problem , my first step is to notify the department manager . It usually goes like this :

Me:  Hi Manager , I found a ______ problem in this area. I have the correct ______for this and with your permission , I will fix it . "

Manager 1 : Really ? Thanks for bringing it to my attention . Let me know if you need any help .

Manager 2 : Yes , we've been having issues over there because of XYZ . If you can get any assistance from Parent Company we would appreciate it .


She goes on and on and on. She reacts like I am attacking her . I try to remain calm and explain that there is no " fault " involved , I am simply informing her of the problem and what I will be doing to correct it .

I try agreeing with her - I know it's not your fault , I'm just telling you what I found... ( this is often a lie and it usually is her fault , but again - these are not Life-Threatening Disasters of Monumental Importance . )
All of this falls on deaf ears and while her volume goes down a bit , the JADE continues until I walk away .

It's exhausting . I have taken to going to her Boss with my findings and and usually get the Manager 1 / Manager 2 response from them . But now Boss is starting to ask :

" Why aren't you addressing this with Ms. Defensive ? It's her department and she needs to be informed ."
" Have you informed Ms. Defensive about this ? "

I just don't know what to say....I am a visitor to these places . I am not on their payroll . I feel like I would be throwing another log on her PD bonfire if I were to state the real reason I try to avoid her . The Boss is aware that Ms. D has issues - she does not have a great reputation within her own facility .

Any wisdom , E-hellions ? 

Would it be possible for you to talk to both her and her boss together when you go over your findings? That way, you are talking to her directly, but you have someone else there who she reports to. If she becomes super defensive, her boss is there to witness the behavior and address it later. If her boss doesn't feel like it's an issue worth addressing, all you can really do is listen to her rants and and treat them like small talk that doesn't need to be taken seriously and ask what else you can do to help as you wrap up and prepare to make your exit.


I would address it directly with Ms Defensive once - "Ms Defensive, when I tell you about a problem I am not blaming you, I am informing you. You do not need to explain or excuse."

Then, if she starts it up again, you say "Oh, I have to go now" and physically leave while she's ranting.

After that, you're honest to the managers. "I've tried telling her directly, and she inevitably assumes I'm accusing her and gets very defensive, after which it takes a long time to calm her down to the point where I can get on with my work. It's much easier and more useful to tell you directly."

They know what she's like, and they can either address it with her, or act as a middle man.

I think it helps a lot that you're hired by someone else - as the trouble shooter who swoops in and does a survey, you can ignore a lot of the inner departmental divas and personality conflicts, because you don't stick around all day, every day.

I'd go to Ms. Defensive with the next issue that comes up.  Let her go into her rant (bonus points if there are witnesses).  Wait until she's done and very calmly say "I never said it was your fault.  My job is to find things like this and help fix them before they become a big deal."

After that, respond to all of her rants/defensiveness with the same phrase in the exact same tone of voice.  Eventually, she ought to realize that her defensiveness isn't getting her any sympathy from (or provoking) you and hopefully, she'll calm down.

I have to work with a consultant of a client who is defensive/work avoider.

Me: "We would like you to provide examples of the data so we can test."
Him: basically "You don't need that blah blah blah"
Me thinking: Why are you fighting me over trying to find problems earlier??

Me: "You changed the underlying template without telling us so everything we documented and developed and agreed upon has to be done again."
Him: "If you knew the service you would have known we would have changed."
Me thinking: "uh, no, we solved the problem that the change fixed a different way...quit making me look bad."


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