Instead of sharing that your difficult co-worker embarrasses you, upsets you or makes you uncomfortable, focus on telling him what you want and what the consequence will be if he ignores your request.

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Q. One of my co-workers likes to openly criticize me during meetings. He brings up complaints about my team that are totally unrelated to the meeting agenda. Other people in the meeting also think he’s a jerk. I recently told him it upsets me when he acts like this. Do you think he’ll change now?

A. No. People don’t change because we’re upset. People change because the cost of not changing is a price they don’t want to pay.

I’ve often watched my coaching clients be frustrated and puzzled at why co-workers don’t shape up when my clients share their feelings. I tell my clients that it’s great they can identify their feelings. However, the only outcome we get when we tell people they make us feel bad is guilt. When people feel guilty around us, they’ll avoid us but they still won’t change.

Instead of sharing that your co-worker embarrasses you, upsets you or makes you uncomfortable, focus on telling him what you want and what the consequence will be if he ignores your request.

Before your next meeting, have a chat with your complaining co-worker. Say something like: “I’ve noticed in meetings you often bring up requests you have for me when our meeting agenda is on a different topic. I prefer to have you bring these concerns to me after the meeting. Otherwise, I’ll need to point out that I can’t take the time of the group to address these private concerns.”

Be prepared that people will usually test our willingness to set limits by trying out the old bad behavior just one more time. If you don’t follow through on the consequence you promised, you’ll not only continue to be treated poorly, but you’ll have also undermined your credibility.

Respect in or out of the workplace isn’t based on fear, popularity or intimidation. Respect is based on people experiencing that you clearly state what you want, set limits of treatment you won’t accept and also make sure people around you get what they need.

Since doormats don’t get the corner office, and since office predators only inspire people to get quietly even, finding a middle path to walk through your workplace is crucial. You can’t blame your co-worker for enjoying the meeting spotlight when he jumps on his whining soapbox. However, you don’t have to make it comfortable for him to continue.

The last word(s)

Q. An attractive co-worker and I slept with each other on a business trip. Can I just pretend it didn’t happen?

A. Nope.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., is an executive coach, trainer, therapist, speaker and author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). She can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at interpersonaledge@comcast.net; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube