Dealing with Ms. Snark…Wait…Who’s the Problem?

Question:

I work 80 hours a week in the field. I run a crew of ten to twenty men. The heavy equipment we use costs a couple of grand a day to rent. I don’t have a minute to spare.

Supposedly, our company’s administrative staff supports those of us who run field jobs. They don’t. One of the administrative assistants is particularly snarky. She’ll say, “You can look that up on the server yourself” or “it would have only taken you a minute to look that up, and that would have been faster than calling me to do it” when I ask her a question.

She doesn’t get that I’m out in the field working full out. If I stop work to look up something, I’m not keeping my eyes on what I need to be doing to finish the projects that pay her and everyone else’s salary.

It’s not she is so busy she can’t help. When I’m in the office I see her texting, chatting or strolling to the break room to grab a cup of coffee.

This morning, I asked Ms. Snark to look up something. She said, “It’s on the server, but if you need the answer and don’t have time yourself, I can locate it for you tomorrow.”

I’d had enough. I blasted her. I reminded her that “tomorrow” was Saturday, and I’d be working, but she wouldn’t, and that I “DON’T HAVE TIME” or I wouldn’t be asking her. I used a few choice words. She then ran to the office manager, told her I’d been mean, and both of them went teary-eyed to the General Superintendent.

I’m now ordered to pay for “anger management” training and take it on my own time. Is this f—– up or what? Can a company order me to use my own time for training?

Answer:

Ms. Snark needs to realize that not everyone sits in front of the computer. What seems simple to her IS her job, as is supporting you.

Ms. Snark’s problem behavior, however, doesn’t justify yours. And if you’re an exempt employee, your company can order you to take a class on your “own” time as part of disciplinary action.

In the long run, anger management training may pay off for you.

Here’s what you’ll learn. Although many use anger to control others’ actions and feel powerful in the moment, outbursts fail as a problem-solving strategy and often backfire.

You’ll learn to act rather than react when others push your buttons or frustrate you. For example, when Ms. Snark first dissed you, what if you’d contacted the office manager and said, “Hey, I thought the administrative staff supported the field. Could you let her know we need fast answers when we call?” If you’d done that, you’d have been part of the solution instead of being labeled the problem.

At this point, Ms. Snark has won the office politics award and you’ve made things harder for yourself. If, however, she doesn’t change her ways, her self-important snark will prove her undoing.

Turn this around. Take the training (you may find it benefits your personal life as well).

© 2020, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry, Ph.D., SPHR, is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016, https://amzn.to/30V5JO6) and “Solutions”, https://amzn.to/2GYlnAN (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com). Send your questions to her at https://workplacecoachblog.com/ask-a-coach/ or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.  www.workplacecoachblog.com.

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2 thoughts on “Dealing with Ms. Snark…Wait…Who’s the Problem?

  1. This is annoying. I have been an office worker who worked with people like this in the head office. They sucked up to top management and wee snarky to many to most of the rest of the staff. The anger management class is a good idea, though what about an “office support” class for the snarky person who doesn’t much feel like helping anyone not in her social media? And after taking anger management, then the filed worker can do what he should have done from the git-go, complain to management about lac of support. They need to take the lack-of-support comment seriously and not decide they don’t need to deal with it because it’s presented with an angry or resentful tone.

  2. Suz, you’re absolutely right on! Ms. Snark needs to be reined in. But she didn’t right me, Mr. Blast did.
    By the way, I’ve coached a lot of individuals with anger management issues, and generally after their first of two or sessions, they tell me, “my spouse says to tell you thanks” or “my kids have noticed, so thank you.” Both individuals in this situation needed to change.
    And, it’s a lesson, that if you say the right thing in the wrong way, you undercut your ability to reach good outcomes.
    By the way, you’ve given such insightful comments for a while on this blog, and I’ve just put the finished touches to Managing for Accountability, the first of three books commissioned by Business Experts Press. On MFA, I’ve found great value in having five peer reviewers make comments. I’m wondering if you’d like to be a peer reviewer for the second of the three books, Tough, Touchy Conversations & Situations: Tools for Navigating Conflict. Just let me know.

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