Speak Business English Like an American » LESSON 19 - Complaining about a Co-worker

Complaining about a Co-worker

Justin, from the marketing department, is complaining to Mary about Joe. Joe is always nasty to Justin and Justin is sick of it. Mary advises Justin not to let Joe bother him.

Mary: How did the meeting with Joe go?

Justin: Lousy. He was in a snit.

Mary: Why?

Justin: He got bent out of shape over the fact that I didn't bring him the sales forecasts. He gave me an earful about how people from the marketing department never bring him the right information.

Mary: Don't worry about him. Don't let him push your buttons.

Justin: I'll just have to steer clear of him now that I know he's such a hot-head.

Mary: He's not a bad guy, but he does have issues. And he's got a chip on his shoulder when it comes to marketing people.

Justin: Joe's always on his high horse about something.

Mary: You'll just have to grin and bear it. We've got a lot of personalities around here.* You'll just have to learn to work with them.

Justin: Well, I don't know how I'm going to be able to work with him. He gets under my skin.

* This is a nice way of saying: Many of the people working here have strange and/or unusual personalities, and it may be difficult to work with them.

  • in a snit
    in a bad mood; angry
    EXAMPLE: No wonder Donna's in a snit. She just found out she didn't get the promotion she was expecting.
  • (to be or to get) bent out of shape
    to be or to get very angry about something
    EXAMPLE: When Nick's boss told him he couldn't take two weeks off for a vacation, he got bent out of shape.
  • (to) give somebody an earful
    to say what you really think, in detail (usually criticism and often more than the other person wants to hear)
    EXAMPLE: When Doug showed up for work late again, his boss gave him an earful.
  • (to) push one's buttons
    to annoy someone; to make someone angry
    EXAMPLE: Liz pushes my buttons with her bossy behavior.
  • (to) steer clear of somebody or something
    to avoid or stay away from someone or something
    EXAMPLE: Ray is on a low-carb diet. He needs to steer clear of bread and pasta and other foods high in carbohydrates.
  • hot-head
    a bad tempered or very moody person; a violent person
    EXAMPLE: Don't feel bad that Tim yelled at you. He's a real hot-head, and he yells at people all the time.
  • not a bad guy
    an okay person (usually used when you don't really like somebody, but you want to say that they're basically not a bad person)
    EXAMPLE: Tim does have a bad temper, but he's not a bad guy.
  • (to) have (some) issues
    to have some personality problems (a vague way of saying that somebody is not quite right in some way)
    EXAMPLE: Unfortunately, Denise can be difficult to work with. She has some issues.
  • (to) have a chip on one's shoulder
    to remain angry about a past insult; to bear a grudge
    EXAMPLE: Ever since Mike was told he had to leave his office and move into a cubicle, he's had a chip on his shoulder.

    ORIGIN: This expression comes from the 19th century. Those looking for a fight placed a chip on their shoulder. If an opponent knocked it off, the fight was on. Although that custom has ended, we still say an angry person has a chip on his or her shoulder.

  • (to be or to get) on one's high horse
    to have an arrogant or superior attitude; to think one has all the answers
    EXAMPLE: Hank's on his high horse again, telling everybody around him how to behave.

    NOTE: You'll also hear the related expression: "Get off your high horse!" meaning to stop acting arrogant or superior.

  • (to) grin and bear it
    to put up with it; to pretend it doesn't bother you
    EXAMPLE: I know you don't like traveling with your boss, but it'll just be a short trip. Just grin and bear it.

    NOTE: "Grin" is another word for smile. "Bear" is to endure or tolerate.

  • (to) get under one's skin
    to bother; to irritate; to annoy
    EXAMPLE: Your boss is certainly annoying, but don't let him get under your skin!
Practice The Idioms

Fill in the blanks, using the following idioms:

  • issues with her
  • gets under his skin
  • grin and bear it
  • push my buttons
  • get bent out of shape
  • hot-head
  • in a snit
  • steer clear

Tracy has a reputation for having a bad temper. Everybody in the office knows she is a (1)___________ . When she's in a bad mood, it's best to just (2)___________ of her. Seth doesn't like Tracy. He has (3)___________ . He complained to their boss, Yuri, about how much she (4)___________ . "Too bad," said Yuri. "You have to work with her even though you don't like her, so just (5)___________ ." Today, Seth went into Tracy's office and asked her to help him gather some sales data. "Why should I?" asked Tracy. Seth replied, "Why are you (6)___________ ? This is a simple task. There's no need to (7)___________ just because I'm asking for your help." Tracy got angry, pounded her fist on her desk, and yelled, "Seth, you really know how to (8)___________ ! I'm sick and tired of doing your job all the time. If you want sales data, get it yourself!"

Answer Key
Practice The Idioms
  1. hot-head
  2. steer clear
  3. issues with her
  4. gets under his skin
  5. grin and bear it
  6. in a snit
  7. get bent out of shape
  8. push my buttons
Answer Key
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