Office Coach: Check your attitude

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Question: Several years ago, I asked our human resources manager to mediate an ongoing disagreement with a co-worker. We were able to hash out our differences. I assumed this conversation would be kept confidential, but now I'm not so sure.

I have begun to notice that my colleagues frequently preface comments to me by saying "you're not going to like this" or "this might make you mad."

After thinking about this, I finally concluded that either the HR manager or my co-worker must have shared information about our previous conflict. What should I do about this?

Answer: You're assuming that your colleagues are wary because they heard about the earlier disagreement, but you seem to be ignoring the fact that this incident occurred "several years ago." After so much time, that single event would not influence current perceptions without more recent evidence.

A more likely explanation is that people are responding to the way you receive unwelcome information. Having observed that negative news tends to irritate or upset you, they attempt to lessen this reaction by providing an advance warning.

To either validate or disprove this theory, solicit some candid opinions from trusted friends, family members or colleagues. Ask them the following question, using these exact words: "At work, I've noticed that people keep trying to calm me down but I don't know why. Can you help me understand why they do this?"

Encourage honest answers, then quietly listen without arguing or debating. After reflecting upon this feedback, make any changes that seem helpful.

If you want to put an end to these annoying comments, you will have to demonstrate that they are no longer necessary.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach; visit

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