A question came in about office rudeness, so of course Michael Scott sprung to mind.
Dear Social Grace:
I need some advice on how to handle a difficult coworker.
What's a Grace to do when:
1. My office mate keeps interrupting me, both when I am on the phone and when I am speaking to someone in person?
2. This same office mate bad-mouths a co-worker... (namely me) to the point of sending text messages to a client advising this client to go directly to the boss without passing through the secretary?
Let's start with question #1. Try this: When the interruption occurs on the phone, point to the phone, gesture that you'll be with her in a minute, and ignore further interruption. If the colleague continues to interrupt, politely say to the customer, "Excuse me Ms. Customer, would you excuse me for a brief moment." Then turn to Jabber Jane and ask if there is an emergency. When she says there is not, then tell her you are in the middle of something and will deal with her issue when you are through. If this occurs a few times, JJ should get the hint. If not, this might be a job for Human Resources.
As to question #2...This is a bit more complicated. But, you can never go wrong with either of these two options:
1. Take no action. To paraphrase an oldie but goodie, "Doing well is the best revenge." If you do your job well to the benefit of the organization, that will speak for itself. (But it might be wise to keep a documented record of the sabotaging acts that your colleague commits in the event that things escalate down the road.)
2. Ask for help. You can either do so via your boss or the HR Director of your company. Let him/her know that you and Jane have had some issues and you want to do your best to iron them out. Request that he/she assist with the discussion. What you really want is a reasonable third party who Jane will have to respect to serve as mediator and more importantly, witness. What you don't want is to come across as a tattletale, so be sure not to trash Jane, no matter how much she deserves it. You need to convey a desire to help the company by heading off a potential personnel problem, not a desire (no matter how fervent it is) to get Jane into trouble.
A third option is to confront Jane directly, but I don't recommend that; she sounds unreasonable and if cornered she might retaliate in more destructive ways.