Dear Aunty B,
What should I do about a woman who has just joined our team and is an absolute cow? She is an arrogant, nasty backbiter who has a few favourite people that she picks on (not me luckily). She talks about people behind their backs and never has a good word to say about anything you do.
She also gets off on humiliating people in meetings. She has this really awful habit of setting you up by asking if you know such and such or about something. Most people nod because they might or should have but instead of going on with the conversation she stops and asks the person to elaborate. Then when the person can’t answer she says, ‘So you don’t know? Why did you say you did?’ leaving the person really embarrassed.
She joined us six months ago and everyone hates her. The whole unit is being affected by her negativity even though we are all doing a good job for which she is partially getting the credit!!! And I think this is what is getting to me the most. This happy little unit is now becoming defensive and bitchy itself!
The only comfort I can offer you is to know that these destructive types usually don’t succeed – at anything!
A person who leads like this has no desire to see others succeed. Her ego – or lack thereof – is far more important than the other person, their work or even the company strategy. So ultimately, nothing works for them – the relationships with her husband, kids, family, community and work. I bet if you look at her resume that she moves around a lot. People like that usually only last two years somewhere before they are found out and are moved on.
Your strategy is this: treat the woman like she is mad. We feel sorry for mad people. So you feel sorry for her. When someone raises something nasty about her, respond with a comment about how you should feel sorry for her. Get everyone to see that she should be an object of pity rather than hate. That then defuses the group bitching to a more charitable discussion. The only difference is you don’t try and help her. You avoid her at all costs unless it affects the business performance.
Never engage in backbiting with her. Always be very busy if she comes around to chat. Support any “targets” and let them know they are part of a strong team. And get on with implementing the company’s strategy. She won’t last long.
Your Aunty B
This article was first published on March 3, 2011. Aunty B is on holidays sailing the South Pacific and sipping piña coladas, but she will be back soon with fresh advice for your business.