How to deal with a maddening co-worker?
January 26, 2008 9:42 PM Subscribe
What if Lucifer was your co-worker?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (44 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Recently my work environment has become increasingly toxic - now I'm turning to my fellow MeFi'ers for advice. Please excuse the long post.
This spring, I graduated with my master's degree in history from a state flagship university, nothing fancy. For quality of life reasons, I chose a job in the Midwest over another on the East coast, despite a much lower salary. In early February, I will have seven months of work under my belt. This is my first full-time job.
I work in a very public space with two other colleagues who work side by side at our desks in the middle of a reading/research library. I get along great with one of my colleagues who happens to be male (I am female). As for my other colleague, it is a very different story.
Within one week of starting my job, I watched as she repeatedly used rude, abusive language towards our patrons. One elderly woman came to me in tears after being tongue-lashed. This behavior has continued over the last six months and has often been directed at me, not just patrons. She has verbally attacked me time and again, 99.9% of the time when there are no witnesses in the room (i.e. my male co-worker steps out of the room and there are no patrons around). It is often over trivial matters.
In the last two weeks, it has escalated. I have managed to keep my cool so far and have remained professional. She, however, has aggressively yelled at me, got very close to being in my face, etc. Again, no witnesses. The latest example: When I did not shut a drawer, she screamed at me to shut a file drawer. I asked "Why?" The answer was because a patron might be tempted to pull out a file of random newspaper clippings. As usual, no patrons or co-worker in the room, I was right beside the drawer and had it within my sight the entire time. I pointed out she was talking to me in a rude and unprofessional manner. She stated I was highly argumentative, that I constantly question her. To make it worse, she is best friends with the front office staff who is incredibly gossipy and likes to stir the pot constantly. She said the front office staff (a couple of women who are often backstabbing each other as well as anyone else) thought the very same thing about me and said I ran and tattled on her to the boss (which, ironically, I have not done so until this situation worsened recently).
After talking to my other colleague, I found out that she treated him like this up until I joined the office; now I have taken his place as the whipping boy. To be clear, she is not my supervisor, we are all supposed to be equals. She has repeatedly told me that she does not like taking orders, that she went and confronted my boss (also the director and overall big boss) about the fact I entered at a higher salary than she did, etc. etc.
I've talked to my boss twice about the situation after waiting six months before I complained. He has told me that patrons and other workers have complained about her for the last four years (she's been there for eight, three under a previous boss). He admits she does not have good interpersonal skills, but that she does have "gifts" which means she can organize books and do data entry because that is all she truly does. My co-worker has backed me up with the boss. I have had other co-workers tell me they know how she is.
The first time he promised to find a resolution, he has so far failed to do so. He has once again promised to make things work, but I doubt that he will. He is unwilling to fire her even though she could be easily replaced.
I hate to leave my job. I love my job, I love my patrons, I love the other staff members. I do not want to admit defeat and allow her to win. I also fear that I will not find another job anytime soon and I cannot afford to leave and do temp work because of student loans, etc. but I am approaching the end of my rope.
Have you had a co-worker like this? What worked? I know that I can ignore her, but sometimes it's hard to do that when she's going bonkers right in front of me. Unfortunately, there's no human resources office for me to turn to.