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How to handle covert attacks of unprofessionalism over email

Need a bit of help for my girlfriend who s a very peaceful and hard-working lady.

She's got this co teacher they are meant to be equal.  This lady is very anxious and always wants my girlfriend's to do things more quickly a drill sergeant type.

Today she sent email saying my girlfriend had to do all these things urgently.

We replied nothing so urgent all in hand. And it was true most of the things had already been done.

She replied complaining about a bunch of a small things.  And said "Nothing is a rush if you know what you're doing."

To me that is a personal attack in writing on a colleagues competence.  A red light.

We were going to reply that her tone was unacceptable.  And she needs to not make personal remarks in future.

This lady has written other aggressive emails in the past so we were planning to build a bit of a dossier.

She is not popular in the workgroup and known as difficult to work with.

 

To me this lady has crossed the line and we want to get it on the record.

But then i also remember @lucio advising to keep emails very clean and only make power moves in person.

And if it's smarter to go for a collaborative frame.  How do you do that from such a bad rapport break?

Interesting situation.

Good Status VS Poor Reputation: Overall You’re Good

Your girlfriend's good status, and this anxious drill sergeant poor status is a great basis to start from.

You Got the Luxury – And Opportunity – of Letting Time Further Empower You

The general tendency moves in your favor:

Your girlfriend doing good work and the drill sergeant annoying people allows you to let time play it to your advantage.

For example: let her dig her own grave even further.
Eventually, if you want, it will be far easier to push her into it.

Not Yet A Smoking Gun For Strong "FU Email"

On this email, it doesn't seem to me like you've got a proper smoking gun for strong enforcement of boundaries on a written medium.

That sentence sounds too much like a saying/proverb that could turn into a covert power move if you go too overboard.
Ie.: "I never meant to say you don't know what you were doing".

So I'd either ignore and go to talk to her in person, OR, if you think it's damaging for the people who are in CC, you can address it while going higher.

For example:

Tasks have been done...
(Insert professional talk here).

P.S.:
Not sure what you mean when you say that "nothing is a rush if you know what you're doing."
Overall I believe we've got a very capable and competent staff here, doing a great job.
If there's anything you're not happy with, let's talk in person to improve the work and maintain a positive working atmosphere.

This answer addresses the potential for the insult.

  • "We" frame: You use "we" to frame yourself as a part of the team doing a good job, which frames her instead as the lone complainer.
  • "Maintain a positive working atmosphere": frames you as taking active steps to keep the environment healthy, and her as making it toxic
  • Professionally giving her the benefit of the doubt: you know, she knows, people reading might know. But giving her the benefit of the doubt might be the best option in the absence of a smoking gun
  • Build that track record, develop a storyline of good VS bad

Finally, you display for everyone to see that you're always happy to smooth things over, even in the face of covert aggression.

If in the future you're forced to escalate, you will have a track record of smoothing things over.

Then, when she truly exaggerates, you got a nice storyline.
The storyline is that "she's always been difficult, and I've always done my best to work it out. But this was the straw that broke the camel's back, and it now requires an escalation to deal with her poor behavior".

Does it make sense?

Do you think that could work?

Edit:
@transitioned , to increase the odds you read this one before you guys reply.

Matthew Whitewood and Transitioned have reacted to this post.
Matthew WhitewoodTransitioned
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Brilliant.  Thanks.

Achieves the goal of calling out the bad behaviour without being too strong

Interesting so this falls  in the covert aggression amber category.

Fits this ladies sniper attack style she pops up fires a couple of shots then goes quiet for a few weeks

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood
Quote from Transitioned on September 1, 2021, 11:06 pm

Interesting so this falls  in the covert aggression amber category.

Fits this ladies sniper attack style she pops up fires a couple of shots then goes quiet for a few weeks

Yeah, basically anything that allows one person to deny or retreat (to "go undercover") from the aggression/nastiness/power move can be considered covert.

By the way, Kevin, cool with you if I change the original title to reflect the content?

Something like "how to respond to covert aggression on a  workplace email".

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Good by me

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