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Sorry there is a long lead-in to this question. It's a specific complicated situation and the background is part of it.

I am on retirement/long-term sick leave. I do a certain amount of tutoring online, mostly in math. It brings in a little much-needed cash and keeps me busy and my mind occupied while too much housebound.

There is a lot of competition for tutoring students. The company's new management keeps adding more tutors while the student body is not increasing that fast. I manage to get some by tutoring very advanced and weird subjects that few other people do and by being online late at night. New tutors have a hard time getting started. Most of the new tutors are undergraduate students, and most of them don't stay long.

Another problem is that we are in competition with people who tutor for free, from peer tutors at schools to various sites and even the Mathematics Stack Exchange. The only way we can keep clients is by providing very good, very focused work and helping students in detail. It is to be understood that most students on the tutoring site are badly behind, unsure of themselves, and lacking in a variety of skills including being able to search for themselves.

A lot of people try to use the site to cheat of course. They post homework and expect an instant list of answers, they post take-home tests online, and some even want to arrange live lessons during their tests. The particular company tries to maintain a professional and academic standard and we are not supposed to help on any tests or equivalent; on homework we are supposed to lead the student to the solution and teach the method, not just hand out answer lists. There are people who don't live up to ths code and the company tries to weed them out, one reason I will work with them.

Also we get a lot of students trying to scam us to get work for free or at least cheaply. Two favourite tricks are to ask for help in the chat box rather than signing into a paid lesson, and offering to pay outside of the tutoring company's system. All tutors are required to go through a training sequence where we are given repeated instructions not to tutor through the chat box. This information is also repeated in the FAQ.

The tutoring company has a private facebook page where tutors can contact the company representative about problems, ask each other for advice, and share concerns. It is sort of an online teacher's lounge. Everyone talks about the difficulty getting enough students and the number of people trying to cheat; it's a running discussion.

So . . . the situation. A girl posted that she is a new tutor and had her first student. The student needed a long English paper edited. It took four hours to do the whole thing. But the poor student didn't have a credit card and wanted to pay the tutor directly by Paypal. The tutor agreed and did the four hours of work through chat. She wanted to know when she would be paid and she is very upset because she needs this money badly to pay her rent.

A couple of other tutors replied and said no, you've just been scammed. The original tutor posted another time, saying she worked so hard and she needed the money so badly and wouldn't administration do something?

I stepped in here and made a firm but still moderate comment. I started by saying "Didn't you take the training courses? Didn't you read the FAQ? Have you read the posts here on this page? You could not possibly avoid seeing that you are never supposed to tutor through chat and you are never supposed to arrange alternative payment, and very sorry, yes you have been scammed and your time and work and money are lost." I also pointed out that her actions cause trouble for everyone because having succeeded so well in one scam, that person will certainly try again and will tell their friends. Many people, five over the first nightt, may not have had the courage to wade in but liked my reply.

The girl blew up at me. I am supposed to be a professional colleague and am supposed to support her. I am not here to belittle her or disrespect her. I am awful and cruel to innocents. I am a terrible person and should not be teaching (heard that one before).

I replied again, by this time a little less friendly, and said that when I want to disrespect and belittle her, she will know it. Then I repeated that it's too bad she lost her time and money, but if she chooses to ignore all the warnings then there is nothing anyone can do to help. I noted that she apparently decided the rules don't apply to her because she thinks that she is smarter and better in some way, but unfortunately the rule is there for good reason and because of long experience.

This got me another tirade. I am a horrible person and a bully among other things. I have to act like a grown-up, she tells me.

Short reply to that one: "Act like a grown-up? Your turn."

OK, so what do you do when someone claiming to be a professional colleague is a special snowflake who can break the rules and then come whining that they are being mistreated, makes the professional situation much more difficult, responds to factual critique of their serious mistake with nasty personal insults, and generally throws catfits if everything does not go their way and doesn't center on them?

closed as off-topic by Ben Crowell, David Ketcheson, scaaahu, henning -- reinstate Monica, lighthouse keeper Mar 24 '17 at 6:51

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "The answer to this question strongly depends on individual factors such as a certain person’s preferences, a given institution’s regulations, the exact contents of your work or your personal values. Thus only someone familiar can answer this question and it cannot be generalised to apply to others. (See this discussion for more info.)" – Ben Crowell, David Ketcheson, scaaahu, lighthouse keeper
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 8
    Is there any reason you need to keep talking to this person at all? In this case it seems like the simplest and best thing to do is just to ignore any further communication from her, and make no further replies. I am afraid your responses are starting to make you look unprofessional yourself, and continuing the engagement will only dig you deeper. – Nate Eldredge Mar 24 '17 at 4:48
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    I agree with Nate. Your reply to her first tirade was borderline unprofessional; your reply to her second tirade was borderline childish. Just disengage. It's okay not to convince her you're right. If she continues to harass you, bounce her email up to your managers. – JeffE Mar 24 '17 at 4:59
  • Yet again one of these business models where the 'freelancer' works with one single company and shares most of their business risk. Welcome to the 'sharing economy'. – henning -- reinstate Monica Mar 24 '17 at 6:16
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    If you participate more on StackExchange, you will get more experience with (a) disagreeing with people online without fanning the flames, (b) writing succinctly, and (c) learning when to back off from others who are fanning the flames. – aparente001 Mar 25 '17 at 0:27
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A couple of other tutors replied and said no, you've just been scammed.

Okay, so others had already responded to the tutor.

The original tutor posted another time, saying she worked so hard and she needed the money so badly and wouldn't administration do something? I stepped in here and made a firm but still moderate comment.

I don't understand why you stepped in at this point. The tutor is hoping that the administration can make an exception to the company policy because of her inexperience and financial need. You are not an administrator in the company (right?), so you can't speak to this either way.

I started by saying "Didn't you take the training courses? Didn't you read the FAQ? Have you read the posts here on this page? You could not possibly avoid seeing that you are never supposed to tutor through chat and you are never supposed to arrange alternative payment, and very sorry, yes you have been scammed and your time and work and money are lost." I also pointed out that her actions cause trouble for everyone because having succeeded so well in one scam, that person will certainly try again and will tell their friends.

All of this sounds factually correct and not overtly disrespectful or inappropriate, but: this person was asking for sympathy and help, and there isn't a shred of this in your response. The last part, in which you explain how her actions are harmful to others as well as herself, seems rather harsh to me: the tutor already seems to have more than enough negative reinforcement not to make the same mistake again, and perhaps enough to quit the job entirely. If she does stay with the job, she'll presumably come to appreciate your final point on her own.

Were you perhaps trying to end the conversation to save your friends and colleagues the trouble of continuing to deal with her? That is understandable, but it seems that it didn't work. Your further comments are less understandable to me: in a professional situation, purely personal attacks do not merit a defense, much less a retaliation.

OK, so what do you do when someone claiming to be a professional colleague is a special snowflake who can break the rules and then come whining that they are being mistreated, makes the professional situation much more difficult, responds to factual critique of their serious mistake with nasty personal insults, and generally throws catfits if everything does not go their way and doesn't center on them?

Well, the commenters already gave the easy, definitive answer to this: you stop responding to them. You have no necessary professional interaction with this tutor at all, so just don't spar with her on facebook.

None of this has much of anything to do with academia by the way. It mostly has to deal with how to interact with coworkers in a way that does not set them off. I would like to suggest for your consideration that you have some room for improvement here: in my opinion a lot of people would react negatively to some of the language you used. I would also like to suggest, carefully, that you may be redirecting some negative energy from your own life situation to a larger extent than you realize. (If true, that would certainly engender my sympathy and understanding.) Imagine how you might feel if instead of a gratuitous negative interaction you were in the middle of a similarly gratuitous positive interaction: better? It's a thought.

  • +1 TL;DR: OP's comments might be appropriate (even if harsh) for a Line Manager, not from a fellow colleague, especially not if the points have already been made. – Captain Emacs Mar 24 '17 at 8:43
  • I tried to give the back story. I'm a long-term experienced person here and help a lot of new people get started. There are a lot of newbies. All of us are suffering from limited work opportunities and low income Management doesn't especially care; they make lots of money when there is an excess of tutors waiting to help every student at every hour 24/7. All of us suffer badly from the number of students trying to get free work; one person posted last week that the previous ten contacts in a row, all that he had all week, had been people who refused to pay, many of them wasting his time – victoria Mar 25 '17 at 20:06
  • Warnings abound not to this. Specifically it's repeated a couple of times in training, a couple of times in the FAQ, and in every second or third thread on the page where it was posted. You do not know how egregious this was. For comparison, most schools ban teachers and instructors from tutoring their own students for money after hours, conflict of interest. So say your colleague tutored after hours and then would not quit complaining that the student wouldn't pay up for after-hours work. Once, twice, three times someone says nicely "sorry, you shouldn't do that." Then what? – victoria Mar 25 '17 at 20:14
  • @victoria: "You do not know how egregious this was." Maybe not precisely how egregious, but you explained very clearly that it was a serious error. "So say your colleague tutored after hours and then would not quit complaining that the student wouldn't pay up for after-hours work. Once, twice, three times someone says nicely "sorry, you shouldn't do that." Then what?" Then you stop talking to your colleague about it. It''s not your responsibility to intervene further, and as you saw, such intervention need not be well received. – Pete L. Clark Mar 25 '17 at 21:20

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