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Feeling like a perpetual schadenfreude victim.
January 18, 2012 8:08 AM   Subscribe

Annoyed by annoying coworker...and it's eating me. Help.

Here's the situation...I work in a sales-type profession which I generally enjoy. I get along with my coworkers, but there is this one employee, we'll call her Jill. Jill is a very attractive, busty woman, who gets a lot of male attention. I'm female, not a stunner. I work with plenty of other attractive people (male and female) and yes, it doesn't bother me that people like eye candy and can make more sales just by their looks.

What grates me about Jill, however, is that she likes to ask how my sales are when her own sales numbers are down. I know she doesn't ask any of her super attractive colleagues...she doesn't want to know about their numbers, because they'll often do better than her and make her feel worse (her confession to me). I'm almost 99% certain she asks me my numbers to make her feel better about herself. I feel like I'm her emotional crutch.

We have been coworkers for years. She probably considers me a buddy but inside I find this behavior irksome and sometimes infuriating. I really don't want to rock the boat at work by telling her I feel. Especially since she is buddy buddy with the big boss. On the other hand I feel like I'd just soon as not see her stupid face. It's gotten to the point where I simply actively avoid her. It's almost come to the point where a great day is a day where I don't see her. At all.

What I truly hate is that I never considered myself an envious person before, but somehow this has sparked a level of jealousy and resentment in me (whenever her figures are good) that I find very distasteful.

My questions:

Am I being overly sensitive? Am I over reacting?

How do I stop feeling resentful, inferior, and jealous? Any exercises you could recommend? Or a change in perspective?

How would you deal with this situation? Have you ever dealt with something like this before?

Sorry if this is longwinded. It's been bothering me for a while and my thoughts are snowballing.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hmmm. I wonder if maybe the reason for the depth of your annoyance may be in the contradiction between this statement:

it doesn't bother me that people like eye candy and can make more sales just by their looks.

And this one:

What grates me about Jill, however, is that she likes to ask how my sales are when her own sales numbers are down. I know she doesn't ask any of her super attractive colleagues...she doesn't want to know about their numbers, because they'll often do better than her and make her feel worse (her confession to me).

On the one hand, you're saying that her own attractiveness doesn't bother you, but on the other you're saying that her seeing you as not-as-attractive DOES bother you. It sounds like maybe there's some complicated stuff going on there; sometimes feeling like you're "oversensitive" about something may be coming from the fact that something is bothering you that you don't want to admit IS bothering you. (What I mean is -- what, you're SERIOUSLY not bothered that the person with the big bazooms does better than you? I sure would be! And there's nothing wrong with that.)

In the meantime: maybe just politely but firmly telling her that you don't want to discuss your sales records with anyone, because you feel it's inappropriate; she is not your manager, after all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:18 AM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think you should do a detailed analysis of your coworkers' numbers and see exactly how often they are doing better than you.

Because you make it sound like this: a) attraction is correlated with success; b) you are the only person Jill asks about numbers because you are the only one she can rely on to be doing worse than her; c) you are the least attractive woman on the team.

Really?

Do you actually have any evidence that you're the worst-performing and/or the ugliest? Because this sounds like confirmation bias to me.

I mean, if you do come up with evidence that you're the worst-performing, then you do have a problem, and it isn't Jill. But I would like to see some evidence first.
posted by tel3path at 8:23 AM on January 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Am I being overly sensitive? Am I over reacting?

I think so. I think you're making a number of assumptions about Jill that you don't necessarily know. She may ask other people too in private because she's insecure. She may consider you a role model, or as a buddy, someone she can confide in that she's not having a good month.

The point is, everyone is fighting a hard battle for different reasons. Jill's looks might make her some sales, but what does that cost her? Does she get hit on, sexually harassed or treated by her co-workers as though her only skills are her looks? Those things hurt too.

The point is, I think you should be charitable about where Jill is coming from, but let her know that you don't like to discuss it because it makes you feel bad. That's a fair comment, but be friendly about it.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 8:25 AM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think you should give her a chance to Do The Right Thing by letting her know you find it irksome.
posted by drlith at 8:34 AM on January 18, 2012


You could always lie. If she's really coming to you for comfort in your low sales numbers, then tell her some inflated number next time, something like 150% of where you'd normally be. If she is having a bad day and goes to you and hears she is getting smoked, she won't quickly return. And it sounds like she is a colleague and not a boss, so when you lie to her it shouldn't bite you in the ass.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:38 AM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm almost 99% certain she asks me my numbers to make her feel better about herself.

I used to run a clothing store. My friend ran a clothing store in the same neighborhood. During the day, we'd always be checking up on how much the other person was making. It helped to both calm us down when business was slow, and convince us to put some elbow grease into selling if one store was doing considerably better than the other. So, yes, in that way, we asked about one another's numbers to make ourselves feel better by either commiserating about shitty days or getting some (friendly) competition going.

Along those lines, she might see you as an equal rather than a crutch. Maybe she doesn't ask those other people because she knows they're always doing better than her for whatever reasons and you're the person with whom she can do a fair comparison. Or maybe you're wrong and she does ask them about their numbers and you're just not there when she does.
posted by griphus at 8:42 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really don't want to rock the boat at work by telling her how I feel.

This is a really female engagement dynamic. But your situation is not about feelings; it is about boundaries. You need to stop telling her, and you need to not feel "mean" about that. "My figures? Ahh well, I guess you'll know at the end of the month!" Then smile and change the subject. Stop giving her information you don't want to give her that she is not entitled to. If she really wants to know, let her go sucker your numbers out of one of the Big Bosses.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:45 AM on January 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


work with plenty of other attractive people (male and female) and yes, it doesn't bother me that people like eye candy and can make more sales just by their looks.

It's reads like you meant to write "and yes, it DOES bother me..." Is that the case?


Otherwise, if you stop giving her your sales info, it's liable to change the relationship dynamic in a negative way. You say you don't want to annoy or piss her, so I'd start asking her for her sales numbers on a regular basis. Just make it a weekly or monthly thing, that way it's a regular exchange that isn't based on how she is feeling.

How do I stop feeling resentful, inferior, and jealous? Any exercises you could recommend? Or a change in perspective?

You stop feeling resentful, inferior and jealous by choosing to do. Being happy is a choice and there's nothing that Jill can do to make you feel bad without your letting her do so. Recognize she's being petty and shallow and resolve to have such a person affect how you feel.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:59 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


If she's really coming to you for comfort in your low sales numbers, then tell her some inflated number next time, something like 150% of where you'd normally be.

I would advise against this. You don't want to get into a situation where you have to explain to anyone why sales figures don't match between what you said and what you actually made. There will be a mess on your hands if she tells the boss you're making $1500 a day and the books say you're only doing $1000.
posted by griphus at 9:07 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


She's asking you because you tell her. Stop telling her, she'll stop asking you. Tell her you've just read [Getting to Yes or whatever the hot sales book is at the moment] and you're working on your strategy, which includes keeping your numbers to yourself. Look mysterious when you say it. It's not a crazy foreign thing to not tell your numbers, and you don't need to make a giant confrontation about it.

Yes, you can feel a little bad that she's basically admitted to asking you your numbers to make herself feel better. But I've seen sales people do far worse to each other to psych each other out, so you may have to thicken your skin a little, or at least work on some snappy comebacks.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:12 AM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Memail me.
posted by winna at 9:25 AM on January 18, 2012


Lay some innocent female guilt on her - "Jill, it actually makes me uncomfortable when you ask me that." And hopefully she gets it, sees that she makes you feel bad like the others make her feel bad.
posted by lizbunny at 9:38 AM on January 18, 2012


Put. The Schadenfreude. Down.

Just kidding. If I were in this situation, I would handle it with some self-effacing humor, making sure to de-personalize it. I'd probably say something like, "Talking about my numbers is too depressing so I'm instituting a policy of not talking about them, ha-ha."

If you present it as something you're doing in general, especially framed as something self-improvement oriented, it makes it difficult for someone to argue with, while also making it impossible to take personal offense at. You're not not-talking-about-it to her, you're just not talking about it.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 9:53 AM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I would try subtly letting her know you're not going to be having this conversation with her anymore. Next time she asks how your numbers are, reply "Three gazillion. How about you?"

When she replies say, "anyway, I'm kind of sick of thinking about and talking sales numbers. Lets talk about stuff that's more fun. So, where in town do you think does the best cheeseburgers?"
posted by hazyjane at 9:53 AM on January 18, 2012


If part of what's making you unhappy is a feeling that you shouldn't be feeling envy or sensitivity, maybe you can feel better by realizing / reminding yourself that everyone's mind is filled with similar feelings and thoughts. Such a high proportion of what goes on in our thoughts and feelings is connected to envy and our standing vis-à-vis others.

I disagree with the comments advising you to tell your co-worker to change her behavior. I don't think it would help, just make you feel / seem less 'together' than this other woman. I think consistently remaining professional and neutral is more likely to result in good things for you in the long run . You're on the right track in your question in looking for exercises you can do within your thoughts to find relief. There are a lot out there, but what you will like will depend on your taste. Otherwise, just hang in there and time will do it's thing.
posted by Paquda at 10:07 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


If Jill stopped asking you how you were doing, would your resentment fade? Or does it go deeper than that? In the long term, you need to either work on letting go of your resentment or get a new job. Try the former before you resort to the latter, because you're never guaranteed a job free of obnoxious coworkers.

As for answering her question, do you really need to give her a number? Give her a vague non-answer, like "doing good" or "well, I landed a pretty good deal yesterday" or "well, it's a slow month for everyone but I think things are gonna pick up." If she presses for figures, say "I'd rather not go into details." Or you could go the direct-but-gentle approach: "I prefer not to chat about numbers, thanks" or "When you ask me that, it makes me feel like we're competing, and I don't want it to feel like that."
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:09 AM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whenever I don't want to tell someone something I just say "Ancient Chinese secret" and wink. They can't figure out if I am joking. Either that or it creeps them out. Either way, they usually drop it.
posted by Foam Pants at 10:13 AM on January 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


anonymous, please read this book. There is no reason to feel "less than"..you need to adjust your attitude and stop trying to "please" this co-worker and others. Whatever you can make yourself look better, do that too. Everyone can look GREAT with proper exercise, a great diet and a huge smile. With the proper knowledge, you can and will outshine a devious and conniving coworker..be certain of it. The workplace is not a schoolyard. Disengage with her.
posted by naplesyellow at 10:14 AM on January 18, 2012


DarlingBri has it. Just tell her it's not something you talk about with coworkers. Don't feed the drama. No need to tell her you find it annoying, she seems insecure, etc.
posted by seesom at 10:31 AM on January 18, 2012


It's hard when you want to change someone else's behaviour but you don't want them to take offense. You clearly don't want to annoy Jill because she's buddies with the boss.

I would tell her that you have decided not to talk about your sales stats anymore, except with the boss. You could say that discussing your figures psyches you out and you're trying to keep your head in the game these days.

I think that your feelings of jealous/inferiority will fade once you stop talking about sales stats. And if they don't, you might have to work on the ol' self esteem a little! Jill (or anyone) cannot make you feel inferior if you reject the idea that you are inferior. In other words, if you have a strong sense of self-esteem, the notion of being less than Jill would be easily dismissed.
posted by cranberrymonger at 11:13 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm with the deflecting approach when it comes to answering her question. For whatever reason, she's super annoying, and regardless of whether it speaks to a greater insecurity you have or whatever, I'm erring on the side of her actually being that way. I read a lot that I could identify with in your story, so...take that how you want it.

I would deflect, and I would certainly not tell her that it makes you uncomfortable etc etc. I think saying something like that just highlights to her that YOU have issues, which may well feed her need to feel better about herself by making sure someone else is doing worse. Someone above suggested saying "three gazillion" in response and changing the subject - I like that. Present a strong, impenetrable front and don't give her anything to work with, because every time you answer, you're giving her what she wants - if what she wants is to feel better by comparison. Don't let her have the opportunity to compare, or anything else to use that might make you feel worse.

I mean, I'd also say that what you're doing is ruminating and theorising on hypotheticals that may not be true (but maybe they are). I say this because I. Do. This. Myself. All. The. Time. Hypothetically, she needs your sales figures so she can feel better about herself, and you feel worse about yourself. Ergo, don't give her the sales figures, and keep it lighthearted. Don't let her see that you have an issue. Phase two of getting past this is - don't dwell on hypotheticals. Phase three is focus on realising that you're not inferior. You're NOT!

And hey! Good luck! And for the record, I totally feel how annoying she is.
posted by mooza at 3:38 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, on the whole the deflecting thing:

Jill: What are your sales figures like?
Anon: Oh, like three gazillion and counting. How are yours?
Jill: ...
Anon: It's snack o'clock. See you later!

BAM.
posted by mooza at 3:41 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


On review, that's exactly what hazyjane actually wrote. Quel embarrassment! hazyjane, I salute you, and maybe the mods will delete my superfluous contribution.
posted by mooza at 3:56 PM on January 18, 2012


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