I recently participated in your Emotional Intelligence (EI) webinar and have a question regarding EI and assertiveness. What do you do if you work with a colleague who makes you look like an idiot in meetings and then acts so sweetly one-on-one if you mention the behavior? (“Oh, I didn’t mean to ….”). Her passive-aggressive actions are patronizing and it’s always when she has an audience. She’ll also take the upper hand at meetings we are supposed to present together as a team of two. So frustrating, because she will be sweetness incarnate. In the webinar you mentioned that EI is also timing. I really am at a loss as to how to handle this.
-Sweet and Sour
Dear Sweet and Sour,
First off, I’m glad you enjoyed the webinar. How frustrating your colleague is so manipulative. She is someone you are going to have to be very clear with upfront.
Let’s use the DEAL to deal with taking the upper hand in meetings. I would pull her aside immediately following the meeting, as long as it’s just the two of you:
Describe the facts – It was my understanding we were going to present together as a team in today’s meeting, and yet you covered (list out points) and I only spoke on (what you talked about).
Express your feelings – This concerns me as it didn’t give me a chance to say what I planned, nor was it what we agreed to upfront.
Ask for what you want – I need you to be respectful of our decisions and follow through on our agreements.
Look for agreement – Is there anything you want to share with me that I may be misunderstanding?
She’ll probably try to bull her way out of it: “I’m sorry… it’s not what I meant.” Respond, “This seems to be a pattern with us and it concerns me. There have been other times where you told me you would do one thing and did another (name them) or when you said something that didn’t make me look positive (give an example if possible). I need this to stop rather than your choosing to say you’re sorry following. I need you to be more aware of how you’re handling communication between us and with others.”
Another option is to say, “I’m really confused by your behavior. You’re very sweet when we’re alone, but when you have an audience, you find ways to make me look less professional (provide example). I need you to stop this as it’s upsetting and unprofessional.”
Stick to your guns! She’ll keep taking advantage of you until you gently but firmly don’t give her an out. If you need more help, ask!