A reader writes:
How does one, in a professional way, stop someone from picking on you in the office? I know, it sounds like something straight out of grade school but it is happening to me as an adult.
What this person does: in meetings, he often makes snide, sarcastic asides and jokes. He has a reputation for being sarcastic, and bordering on the disrespectful. He also is a crucial part of the organization with his technical skills. And of course, he outranks me.
A lot of the time, in meetings, he will crack a joke and then say "X can do that" or "I'm pretty sure X will do a good job at it" and then snicker -- X being me. In the past few months he has been doing that, I have taken the strategy of avoid him at all costs and just ignore his comments. Lately, however, the comments have been getting more and more frequent and I am afraid that it is getting to the point I have to put a stop to it. The problem is how do I do it in a professional way without losing my temper?
I am usually quiet and introverted by nature and not usually quick to spar verbally with someone. Also, this person is quick-witted and I am afraid any attempts by me to go tit for tat will end up with him winning and me looking foolish.
Yeah, I wouldn't try sparring with him -- not because he'll win but because no one who does this look good. I think what I'd do in this situation, the next time it happens, is to just say calmly, with no -- and I mean NO -- hint of hostility or defensiveness, "What do you mean?" And I would say it each and every time he does it. People who do this kind of thing rely on no one just responding normally, so my hunch is that he'll pretty quickly stop.
The other option is to talk to him privately and tell him that you're not sure how to take his comments, but that's much more confrontational, which most people would rather avoid.
I'm hoping others will chime in with thoughts as well.
Oh, and this guy is an ass.