This is the coworker who appears to look down her (his) nose at everything you do. When she speaks with you, her sentences inevitably seem to end with that unstated, yet clear sentiment – “stupid!”
Assuming that it is not just you misreading her behavior (always a possibility), then you are dealing with someone who is either narcissistic, unsure of your value to the company, or very insecure herself. Whichever the cause, chances are she is unaware that she is doing anything wrong. She has just failed to realize (or care) that she might be hurting other people’s feelings.
This type of behavior will not go away on its own. And it’s important to realize that, if you do nothing to stop it, you are tacitly condoning the behavior. Talking with your boss is only a final option; and complaining about it with your peers just makes you look worse than the coworker. You have to deal with it yourself.
There are two approaches you can take:
1. Hints & Sarcasm
I’m not a big fan of sarcasm in the workplace, but this is one of those occasions where a little well-placed words can be effective. Pre-plan some comebacks that focus on your coworker’s condescending behavior. i.e.:
“Hey John – thanks for reminding me I’m an idiot!”
“I’ll get right on that Susan – and thanks for those very kind words” “Nice tone of voice! Ever thought of a career with the IRS?”
When you reply with these sorts of comments, your coworker gets the message that his behavior is inappropriate. (you might have to do it several times to get through!)
2. A Frank & Open Discussion
When all else fails, find a private place and deal with it one-on-one.
Tell her that you don’t appreciate the tone that she uses around you, and ask her what it is going to take to be treated with a little more respect. Chances are, she will plead ignorance, and clean up her act. The worst case scenario is that she will at least tell you why she is treating you so disrespectfully. Then you have something to work with!