Office politics make me want to vomit.
November 10, 2010 9:47 AM Subscribe
A coworker with whom I only occasionally interact gave another coworker a very ambiguous yet relatively serious performance-related warning to give to me as a "heads up." To my self-knowledge, the accusation in question did not occur, but, if in the off-chance it did, I would want to know more details so I could avoid somehow fucking-up-while-having-no-realization-of-doing-so in the future. I'm not sure how to proceed.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This morning, a coworker (code-name "Jim") came into our large shared office room to (ostensibly) pass along a serious warning. Another individual at our workplace with whom I rarely work (code-name "Mark") told Jim in confidence that I had fucked up while dealing with a patient/subject. (For some context, Jim and Mark are "bros" who hang regularly outside the workplace.) We work with patients/subjects with serious psychological issues, and the gist of the infraction was that I evidently asked questions that were inappropriately probing with regard to their condition. This was all given to me in a very grave, serious tone, the feeling of "I can't believe you fucked up like this, and I am saving your ass."
Mark had apparently wanted Jim to tell me this, so that it didn't need to go any superiors within our workplace. When I consulted my memory, I could recall the patient, but couldn't recall any conduct along these lines, and asked for more information or context as to this apparent problem. Jim wasn't able to proffer any actual details with regard to what had allegedly occurred, and, curiously enough, also told me that under no circumstances was I to ask Mark for any further clarification or to tell Mark. Jim did not really budge upon further questioning (under the very honest protest from me that I could not remember and wanted to shape up if there was a legitimate problem), nor upon expressing confusion toward the contradiction he had in his own story (i.e. this was supposed to be a warning to me, but he could not know that this warning was given). "Just don't do it again," were Jim's final words.
The fact that Mark did not actually inform me about their concerns despite ample opportunity to do so (this patient came in about three and a half weeks ago!) makes me feel that Jim's narrative as presented is probably spurious. It seems possible my closer coworker tacked on the altruism (i.e. "a warning to you") to the narrative of what was otherwise gossip, which is why Jim does not want this getting back to Mark. But, who the hell knows?
I'm not sure what my correct stance is in this situation. I pride myself on my competence. I tend to be a very cautious and self-critical person—I actually have a problem with ruminating over my mistakes and flaws, and am hypersensitive in the moment to my capacities—which is why I'm surprised to hear that something apparently this serious took place without even the slightest anxiety on my part. (Though the seriousness of the event itself is obscured by lack of detail; like chiding an amnesiac "you know what you did!") Furthermore, I actually know people with the condition in question, and know full well what are and are not safe topics of discussion. The one piece of identifying information (apart from specific patient) I was able to extract from Jim with regard to the alleged exchange renders the exchange impossible, as I was preparing equipment for the procedure at the time it allegedly occurred. It doesn't seem to add up. I am tempted to call bullshit, but don't want to leave this dormant if I'm messing up.
"I don't like my co-worker for personal reasons" is one thing; while anxiety-provoking, it isn't globally serious if I'm not best friends with (this/these) particular co-worker(s). "I think my co-worker is a fuck-up and am going to spread rumors to my bros in the office" is another—that's potentially affecting my employment. If there is a problem, I don't want to whitewash over it; I want to rectify it, and improve for the future—if I am being in some way thoughtless, I want to be conscious and change these slips that apparently don't even register in my memory. If there isn't a problem, I want to make clear that I will not tolerate gossip about my professionalism. And, I'd also like to make clear to people that if they have a legitimate problem with how I do my job, they should talk to me about it rather than play messenger boy with their office bros.
What are some reasonable things for me to consider doing? Even though the surface justification was that this was done as a favor to avoid involving my superior, I wouldn't be averse _to_ involving my superior. We have a very good working relationship and I have presented no problems in the past, and I trust he would deal with the situation fairly, especially if there in fact was a problem. As it stands, I'm just really anxious that something bizarre and unexpected is going to come out of the woodwork to blindside me.