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Part: I An Aggressive Species > When to Turn Down the Volume, or Find Someone E...

Chapter 4. When to Turn Down the Volume, or Find Someone Else to Do It

Sometimes simmering workplace feuds can bubble along under the surface. You know they are there, because of a sense of unspoken tension between two or more people who work together. But often such low-level tensions are ignored in the interest of keeping the peace. In some cases, such feuds start off being one sided, when one person is offended by or simply doesn't like another employee and shows this in subtle ways. Some common methods include quiet putdowns; indirect insults; or passive–aggressive tactics, such as agreeing to take on certain responsibilities for a joint assignment and not doing them properly or at all, so the disliked person ends up looking bad. As such guerrilla hostilities continue, the victim is likely to strike back, perhaps by some undercover action, too. An unspoken feud can easily escalate and heat up, creating a truly steamy brew that can explode and spread to others.

That's what happened to Betty, an office manager who handled program planning at a health service. She wasn't sure exactly how the problem started, but she noticed that the administrative assistant, Allison, who was supposed to help coordinate her meetings and trainings, seemed to have some kind of gripe against her. Betty felt this way because of how Allison reacted on numerous occasions. Allison repeatedly sounded annoyed when Betty asked her to provide the material she needed for a presentation. Allison made several easily avoidable mistakes in getting requested equipment. At meetings, Allison offered subtle putdowns, suggesting Betty wasn't competent, with remarks such as: "Didn't you hear me when I told you three times?"


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