Is 'she' intentionally disrespectful?
January 25, 2011 1:03 PM   Subscribe

Office Politics - Idiosyncratic language usage or Hindi diss?

I'm the ED of a small non-profit, and late last year we hired a new admin assistant, let's call her A, to join our team of 4 full-time staff (all women at this point). A is an Indian woman who moved here on her own 10 years ago, and who has been stuck in call centre work or short contracts in corporate offices since the move. This is her first non-profit experience, and she has been a bit slow adjusting to the new work environment.

In general, I am quite trusting with the staff in the office, and the overall environment is quite casual. I don't really care if people come in at the same time every day, as long as they're here for meetings and working their hours and I don't expect everyone to run every step of everything they do by me. I believe in setting clear job expectations and then letting people 'run with it', providing support where its needed, overseeing those tasks that are crucial to the organization (ie. accounting, tax filings, payroll) as necessary.

A clearly struggles with this, and the staff are struggling with her struggles. Her constant questions and need for reassurance (and I mean constant) is somewhat understandable given her history, but quite disruptive in the office. She is also incredibly rule-bound, adhering enthusiastically to any rules or templates I've given her, even if I've made it clear there's room for flexibilty or change.

One of the staff members, B, gets particularly frustrated by A's unwillingness or inability to move forward with any task without a tonne of hand-holding, and her need to do everything 'by the book' even if we've only just made up 'the book'. While I know B's trying to be patient, she has snapped at her two or three times, which sends A into an emotional tailspin. (I also get extremely frustrated but have managed to avoid snapping at her.)

Where the language question comes in: As 'the boss', and a nicer one than she's used to I suspect, A has put me on a bit of a pedestal. Her relationship with B is tense, even though B is probably more worthy of a pedestal than I. At this point, I'm trying to figure out whether I should interfere (they're both getting their work done) or let them sort it out themselves. What I've noticed though, is that A now refers to B simply as 'she' whenever she mentions her in conversation. Which makes sense in a group conversation where both are present, but less so when B is nowhere around. For example, today A told me that she needs to 'go to store x tomorrow, because there is something she needs'. B is not even in the office, and she is not the only other possible 'she' on the team. This morning A did the same thing while B was at the other end of the room on her computer - 'She needs some money from the petty cash for y.' In neither case were we speaking about B to begin with, and if I didn't know about the requests already, I wouldn't even be sure who 'she' was.

So my question (sorry for the length) is: Is this use of 'she' an intentional sign of disrespect in the Indian culture, or is it simply an odd use of the English language. It feels disrespectful to me, and if it is, indicates that I do need to step in at this point and do a little mediating. If it's simply a cultural/language quirk, I'm willing to ride this out a little longer and see if they can sort themselves out, or if they will ask me to step in.

General opinions welcome, but I'd really love to know the thoughts of those that have more experience with Indian and Hindi language/culture.
posted by scrute to Work & Money (33 answers total)
That's just general passive-aggressiveness. I've heard native speakers do this. As a native speaker myself, *I've* done this. (In my head, instead of saying "she", I'm saying "her @)(#* highness".)

That said, I'd let A & B deal with this on their own. You can't make B less needy, and you can't make A more patient. As long as the work's getting done, let them police their own behavior.
posted by headspace at 1:08 PM on January 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

Or rather, can't make A less needy, or B more patient. AUGH this is like algebra all over again!
posted by headspace at 1:09 PM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure about Indian culture, but by British-background mother uses "she" in the way you've indicated when she's being rude about the person she's speaking of. The tone is almost as if my mother is saying that so-and-so isn't worthy of even being named. Does that make sense?

If your "A" learned English in India, it's entirely possible that she is using this pejorative pronoun in the same way that my British mother does.

(My mother's response to other peoples' use of the disparaging "she" pronoun: "'she' is the cat's mother")
posted by monkeymonkey at 1:11 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

That's absolutely rude for native speakers of US and UK English. "Who's 'she'? The cat's mother?" is how my own mum said it.

I don't know if this person is doing "she" to be rude, or if it wasn't considered rude in her English-language environment in India, or if it's something that's absolutely not rude in Hindu and so it doesn't occur to her that it might be rude in English.

But what I would do in the absence of that knowledge would be to feign ignorance. "She needs a new computer." "Do you mean Anjali?" "She is finishing the report." "Do you mean Anjali?"
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:18 PM on January 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

The use of an emphasis on the pronoun as a passive-aggressive way to refer to someone seems really common in most English-speaking cultures.

Am I correct in stating that A has been working in the office, her first "real" job, for less than 6 months? I'm not surprised that she's reacted negatively towards being treated like an idiot (in her mind) for wanting to be thorough and wanting to follow the rules.

If it is explicitely B's job to be a mentor for A, then you need to make that clear to B and compensate her accordingly. If it's not her job, then it should be someone's job.
posted by muddgirl at 1:18 PM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Am I correct in stating that A has been working in the office, her first "real" job, for less than 6 months? I'm not surprised that she's reacted negatively towards being treated like an idiot (in her mind) for wanting to be thorough and wanting to follow the rules.

Sorry if I wasn't clear - she's worked in offices, but they've been quite corporate. This is her first experience in a charity, and our organizational culture is quite casual and very collaborative.

B is quite experienced and in a more senior position (although younger) and while not A's mentor could certainly be a good resource for her.

I wonder if A, in the absence of the clear corporate-type organizational hierarchy that she's used to, has constructed one in her head that is not entirely appropriate.
posted by scrute at 1:25 PM on January 25, 2011

The thing is that it can very easily come off as disrespectful to native speakers of English, which presumably all the other workers are. So it doesn't really matter if it's a normal/okay thing to do in Hindi. Either way you can treat this just like any of the other things that someone from another culture might do to inadvertently offend people.

You can just tell her, "I know you don't mean any offense by it, but people can be offended if they're referred to entirely by pronouns rather than their names, so we try to avoid doing that." Then if she keeps doing it you will know it's deliberate and you can have another talk.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:27 PM on January 25, 2011

Alternative explanation for usage of 'she' -

A might be worried and anxious and kind of obsessive about her interaction with B. This is common in unbalanced relationships. It might be that B is seen is a large, powerful entity, sort of a deity-figure. Perhaps it's She with a capital S. The one in power. The greatest threat.

(Sorry - Can't find ways to express this that don't come across as a little exaggerated.)
posted by krilli at 1:28 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

What's the tone of voice? Is there fear and submission in the 'she'? Or impatience and distaste?
posted by krilli at 1:29 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree it's passive aggressive- to refuse to name someone is to try to take power away from them or dehumanize them. However, I'm going to go against the grain and suggest that you sit both A down individually and then A and B down together to diffuse the situation.

I work in a small nonprofit (also all women) and having been involved in the kinds of situations, they tend to escalate, not diffuse themselves. Additionally, by refusing to get involved in our situation at work, it seemed as though our ED was tactically endorsing activities of both parties and refusing to take a leadership role. Ours escalated to the point of months of tension in the office, awful sides being drawn and power games, and ultimately someone leaving their position.

There are definitely times- most of them- that the ED should let things ride, but in such small office settings, I really feel like ongoing interpersonal issues should be nipped in the bud (once it becomes clear there is an ongoing issue) rather than allowed to spiral out of control. Once it reaches a certain point, there won't be a way to deescalate the situation, especially not with all people still employed there, and it sets a horrible precident.
posted by questionsandanchors at 1:31 PM on January 25, 2011 [5 favorites]

The use of an emphasis on the pronoun as a passive-aggressive way to refer to someone seems really common in most English-speaking cultures.

Is that what happened though? I can't tell if the OP's italics on "she" are supposed to convey A's actual inflection, or just to point out what was unusual about the phrasing so we wouldn't overlook it when reading this question.

If it's the former, it'd be hard to interpret that as anything other than rude (especially if it was with a drawn-out "her royal highness!" quality, per the first answer).

But if it's the latter (i.e. if she didn't actually emphasize the word "she"), I'd go easy on her. I don't know anything about the nuances of Hindi-English linguistic culture, but I couldn't possibly count the number of times I've heard someone say a sentence with a pronoun or other vague reference, without giving the necessary antecedent, and it's not because they're trying to insinuate anything, but just because people often lose track of when they've stated something out loud or just thought it.
posted by John Cohen at 1:32 PM on January 25, 2011

Also -- I think it might be better to go a little easier on A. I worked a string of shitty jobs in teens and early 20s, and if you've never had a super low level job, you might not realize just how badly low level workers are often treated and how damaging it can be. Everything you do has to be micromanaged because you are dumb and everything you would think to do on your own is wrong, and everything that goes wrong is your fault. Then you are berated. It can often reach the level of being real emotional abuse. It sounds like she's got the kind of perfectly normal by-the-book defense mechanism that comes with withstanding that kind of environment to support oneself. I think it would be better to let her slowly come to trust you rather than being frustrated with her.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:32 PM on January 25, 2011 [13 favorites]

Following up, I would agree with Ashley801 that it can be incredibly frustrating to be adjusting to a new office environment, and to be an administrative assistant. Asking a lot of questions is a defense against having to do the job again, and an effort to get the job exactly right. Often taking initiative or making your own decisions- even about whether to print color or double-sided copies- does not go well. The reassurance that she's doing a good job will hopefully continue to bolster her confidence.
posted by questionsandanchors at 1:43 PM on January 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

Even if it's not passive-aggressive or a diss, it can cause (and arguably IS causing) problems in the office. Wars have been started over lesser misunderstandings --yes, I speak from experience. You might want to take her aside and mention that this is a colloquialism that can lead to hard feelings. Whether she is doing it deliberately or not, the fact that her boss has noticed it enough to mention it *ought* to put her on notice that it is not a usage to be continued in the office.
posted by Ys at 2:10 PM on January 25, 2011

I think A is implying that she's so upset by this that she can't use the name, for fear of making it obvious how she feels, which would be disrespectful and insubordinate. She can't complain directly, so she's being overly respectful to convey her unhappiness. This may be because she doesn't realize that snapping at a coworker is considered a no-no in western culture. For her, disciplining a junior employee through humiliation is acceptable, the only problem is that she feels that this is unfair because senior staff are expected to provide precise instructions for what to do to avoid this. So the message she's sending you is that B is disciplining her unfairly because there are no clear rules, thus acting like a tyrant instead of a legitimate authority.

You might also tell her that's its considered taboo and impolite in many Western workplaces to openly imply that there is a hierarchy. Obviously there is one, but it's polite to pretend there isn't just as you would if someone passes gas. Demanding instructions is indiscreet and embarrassing to senior authority, she needs to find more tactful ways of finding out what she's supposed to do. For example, the convention is for the boss to ask you your preferences before telling you what to do, and even though this is mostly for show, it's expected that you provide a preference that you know your boss can easily accommodate.
posted by AlsoMike at 2:22 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

With quite a lot of experience working with Indian colleagues, I am sure that her use of the pronoun is not a Hindi-caused English mistake (wow!).

It looks to me as if A thinks everyone dislikes B and hence "she" in this case can only refer to one person (B). All of you on her side against B. Especially if there are other verbal or non-verbal cues like inclining her head or lifting an eyebrow in the general direction of B's seat.

In any case, I see this situation going to be even more difficult for you. B is going to stop supporting A at some point and you may have to step in as a buffer, till either A adjusts or gets fired.

Generally speaking, corporate type employees need a more detailed mandate and knowledge about boundaries than informal cultures like yours. What if I make a mistake? Will I get a neutral discussion or will I be crucified?. The reason is your culture (as in work culture, not geographical or demographical) is alien to her. Imagine this way - she is blind in a dark room and she doesn't know if there are walls or depths to fall down into. Her first few mistakes and your response will determine where this is going.
posted by theobserver at 2:30 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Re-reading the question, I think I did unjustifiably assume that A was putting emphasis on the pronoun. If she's just using it in odd situations that make you think, "Who is she talking about??" but not necessarily putting stress on it, then that may not necessarily be passive-aggressive.

Lots of good answers in this thread, IMO.
posted by muddgirl at 2:30 PM on January 25, 2011

Hindi, sorry. That was a typo, not meant as disrespect.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:33 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think this necessarily has anything to do with culture - the sorts of low level jobs you describe her having in the past often have a high level of employee supervision and rule-bound protocol, often to a control-freak or micromanaging degree.

The "she" thing might be an intentional form of disrespect, whether it's a South Asian language thing or not. I've definitely heard people do that before.

And for the record, I think you should let A work through this herself. In time she will probably adapt to the office climate and feel pretty bad that she was so resentful towards B. If anything, I would gently remind A that B is senior to her, has been with the company longer, has more experience, is very good at her job (etc etc), and her behavior (in general, not towards A) is perfectly in keeping with your office's culture, and thus is deserving of her respect.

That said, if anyone is really in the wrong here, it's B. It's one thing to be frustrated with a coworker, especially if you know you're in the right. It's totally inappropriate to lash out. This might also be worth a gentle reminder to B.
posted by Sara C. at 2:39 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can just tell her, "I know you don't mean any offense by it, but people can be offended if they're referred to entirely by pronouns rather than their names, so we try to avoid doing that."

Unless you know that A has frequent language barrier/communication problems, I would not address it this way. It sounds really patronizing and assumes that the problem is that A doesn't know English. Which seems to be neither here nor there in terms of the conflict between A and B.

A positively staggering number of Indians speak English as a native language. Even people living in India who have no real intent of ever moving to the US or UK. Adding to that the fact that she's been in the country a decade and has held jobs where she had to communicate with the public? Cultural minefield. Do not go there.
posted by Sara C. at 2:43 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Heh, my husband is Indian and we quite commonly have these pronoun confusions, where he will tell a story full of "he" and "this guy" and I have to constantly interrupt to figure out who is being referred to.

That said, it sounds like in the situation you are describing that your employee is being a bit passive aggressive. I think if you prompt every time she says "she" to ask who she is referring to, "A" will get the message. If it doesn't work, be more explicit about how it can be interpreted as disrespect to only refer to others by a pronoun.
posted by JenMarie at 2:57 PM on January 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

I know enough Hindi that I think I'd have been familiar with this if it were either a linguistic foible or a deliberate slight. It is, in fact, some sort of reaction to the tension between these women.

You're the boss, right? Pull her aside, and communicate with her directly:

* You are doing a fine job, but the number and frequency of your questions about your work can be frustrating for people who are used to being more self-directed. If you really are unsure of what to do in a situation, perhaps we can catch up at specified times (twice a day?) to address anything that comes up.
* As I'm sure you're aware, you've been referring to [B] as "she", which is unclear in many situations and may unintentionally come across as disrespectful. Is there a reason for it that I should be aware of, or can we simply use her name just as you do with everyone else?

That's it. Simple conversation, you can close by reiterating that she's doing well and not in trouble, but that this office has a very different attitude towards authority than other companies and cultures do, and she should take the opportunity to learn about and enjoy this new perspective on work.
posted by anildash at 3:03 PM on January 25, 2011 [6 favorites]

I could also be that she thinks of B so often, that she just doesn't realize that it isn't obvious who she's talking about. A friend's wife used to do this (with everything, though, not just one person.) Frequently she would say something that seemed like a continuance of a conversation she'd started or rehearsed in her head, and then forgotten that the rest of us weren't privy to that.

As her boss, I wouldn't bring it up directly, but I would have a "I've been noticing maybe you and B aren't quite meshing very well? Would you like to talk about it?" conversation.
posted by ctmf at 5:30 PM on January 25, 2011

I am bilingual in an Indian language similar to Hindi.

I find it is pretty common that people will use words like "him", "it" or "that" without having specifically mentioned the "him" or "it" that they're talking about. Usually it's clear what they mean from the context.

It's not that unheard of in English either. People say things like "Put that over there" without anyone spelling out what "that" or "over there" is in words.

Regardless of that, it's generally best to approach interpersonal issues with an open mind anyway. Don't go in thinking: "You don't get on with X and you are being disrespectful to her". Go in thinking: "It *seems* like you don't get on with X, let's discuss what's going on".

Btw... I don't think you can simultaneously tell someone "don't worry so much about doing things by the book, use your own judgment" and at the same time pull them up about their use of pronouns. That will be a fairly mixed message.
posted by philipy at 6:35 PM on January 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

There's some great answers here - I love Mefi.

Around the question of who's emphasis is placed on the use of the word 'she', I feel like it's hers. But it's possible that I'm being sensitive about that since the use of the word in that context is so odd to me.

I also really appreciate the comments on the corporate environment - I've had my share of unpleasant, low paying jobs but never in that environment so it's good to hear from those that have.

All things considered, I think a gentle but pointed conversation may be in order.

Thanks all!
posted by scrute at 7:14 PM on January 25, 2011

...Guys? What's wrong with cats' mothers? Cats' mothers are also cats, and I *like* cats. I fear I don't understand.
posted by Because at 8:02 PM on January 25, 2011

Are you sure Hindi is her first language? This is sort of a long shot but my husband is Indian and his first language is Bengali, not Hindi. He does speak Hindi and his English is, for the most part, impeccable. He also moved away from India to an English-speaking place (the US) on his own about ten years ago.

But Bengali is gender-neutral, and the single most common mistake he makes, even with awesome English that he's studied since childhood, is that he sometimes mixes up he and she, him and her, etc.

Given that we've established that B often shows impatience with A, and that there's some weird tension between the two of them, is it possible that A accidentally referred to B as "he" in the past, B overreacted, and A subsequently makes a weird point of referring to B as "she" as a result?

It's just an idea, but I figured since the question doesn't specify why her first language would be Hindi, other than her being from India, and Bengali is almost as widely spoken as Hindi, it could be a possibility. It's probably more likely that it's a more general, not-culturally-specific dis, a la "you know who," but since you asked about possible language-based reasons, I thought I'd mention it just in case.
posted by lampoil at 9:01 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is it possible that A has difficultly pronouncing B's name correctly and feels embarrassed by this? (Maybe B has even scolded her about it when you weren't around?)

And of course A is incredibly rule-bound and needs a lot of hand-holding! If you hired her "late last year" that means she's only been working there for a couple of months, right? The first several months at any job, particularly a new role and/or a new industry, are incredibly confusing and bewildering because you don't yet have enough experience to separate essential details from nonessential details. If you care about doing a good job then you're often overwhelmed because you feel like you need to remember/know EVERYTHING, and so you want some sort of documented rules/procedures to refer to because you don't want to screw up. Meanwhile, she's not only working in an environment that's totally new to her, but she may still have some lingering cultural understanding and assimilation issues that compound her confusion.

Frankly, it sounds like your organization's lack of adequate process/procedures documentation and B's snappiness at a new trainee are far bigger problems than anything A is doing. A probably just really cares about doing a good job -- you should be more worried if an inexperienced employee *wasn't* asking for frequent guidance and confirmation because that would indicate that the employee just might not give a shit. Seriously, think about the difference demonstrated in attitude between an employee who thinks "I'd better double-check on everything to make sure I get it right" vs. "If they wanted me to do it a certain way then they should have told me."

Experience and on-the-job knowledge/wisdom will come with time... attitude tends to be immutable.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:25 PM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Another thought: One thing that may make A happy and ultimately help out the entire organization is to give A the responsibility of documenting everything she's been learning, asking about, etc. into a new office procedures manual. As the newest employee, A has the clearest perspective on what information is *not* obvious and she will be more likely to remember steps that others would forget to write down because they've been doing those tasks for so long they don't really think about them anymore. This will also ensure that she will only have to ask each question once because she will have the manual to refer to when the question comes up again, so her questions will naturally dwindle over time.

Plan to meet with her on a regular basis to go over her new additions to the manual and to confirm/correct her understanding of processes as needed. This is also a great opportunity for you to improve or eliminate any processes that you realize are inefficient or unnecessary once you see them laid out on paper.

This manual will be worth its weight in GOLD someday if it is kept up-to-date. You never know when you might experience rapid growth, lose a key employee, need a temp to fill in for an extended period due to a long-term absence, etc. You don't want your organization vulnerable to falling apart because it loses crucial information that was stored entirely in one person's head.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:39 PM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

SHE is not the boss, but SHE acts like it. SHE has attitude that is unpleasant. SHE has no business being that way, since SHE is not The Boss. SHE clearly thinks her shit don't stink.

I suspect that to A, Miss B is too big for her britches, and is usurping that which rightfully belongs to The Boss. Miss A seeks to give you every assurance that Miss A sees through this, and is defending your position as a loyal employee.

There's a concept that's been popular awhile, which tries to clear some of this up. It's called "Team". Miss A may not comprehend the idea of a team so well, or that this new environment is in fact not competitive. Miss B in fact may be a little flaky on the concept of a team herself.
posted by Goofyy at 3:57 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cats' mothers are also cats, and I *like* cats. I fear I don't understand.

'Who's she? The cats mother?' is a common idiom in the UK used to scold children for using 'she' to refer to a female relative. A male cat is a tom-cat and a female cat is a she-cat.

I used to hear it alot growing up, along with 'Jump in my grave as quick?' (you sat in my seat as I left it, thats rude!) and 'Born in a barn?' (shut the door!).
posted by Ness at 4:07 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds as though A fears B and thinks she's going to lose her job. This may be compounded by a belief on A's part that younger people should defer to their elders. The word "She," in this usage, probably expresses both fear and disdain. I work with people from all over the world, including many from India, and to me, at least, this distancing language doesn't sound specific to any particular culture. I think a good response might be a deadpan "Who?" each and every time A talks about B like this.

Everything you say about her background - immigrant, call center work & short-term corporate gigs - seems like it could contribute to her desiring structure, stressing the policies/procedures, feeling insecure when confronted with a 'casual' job description, and asking for reassurance. I can see how this might be irritating and feel as though you weren't appreciated for giving her such a mellow friendly job. At the same time, your approach may make her panic, thinking that people are refusing to tell her the rules.

That said, it's hard to tell from your description if she's just nervous or if she has real psychological problems. If it's the latter, a small non-profit might not have the resources to fulfill its mission and address her needs.

Further thoughts:

Maybe she's not a good fit. If she's simply a nightmare, fire her. If you intend to keep her on, reassure her and give her some time to settle in. In the meanwhile, why not ask yourself a few questions? To wit:

1) You stress that she's originally from India. How diverse is your staff? Are you asking an immigrant to guess at things she can't possibly know because she comes from a different place?

2) How much do you like her? Your description of her doesn't seem very sympathetic. Are you ready, willing, and able to mentor her yourself?

3) Can you give her time to find equilibrium on her own, or does the nature of her job require that she 'get it' right away? Are you prepared to let her go?

4) How casual might your work culture seem to a newcomer? A small non-profit staffed by four women with shared values may seem mellow to you, but seem like a snake-pit to an outsider. When was the last time your staff had to accept a new person?

5) Do you want your organization to grow? If so, you might need to start doing the unpleasant work of codifying policies and procedures, such that they can quickly and easily be communicated to new staff.

6) Have you contributed to the tension between A and B? How much do you sympathize with B? Is it fair to ask B to mentor A? If so, how can you help?

7) Can you take advantage of A's strengths? If she's good with rules and details, maybe you and your other staff could delegate finicky tasks to her. That might make her feel more comfortable and give your other staff something to like about her.

I hope none of this sounds like an attack - if you have managed to create a casual, supportive environment for your workers, then you have done something a lot of managers can't or won't do. And if you have created a good place to work, you might not need to do much more than insist that everyone play nice, and wait for the pack to assimilate its newest member.

I'd suggest making it very clear to both A and B, individually, that you expect them to find a way to work together, rather than attempting some kind of intervention. This probably says more about my taste than anything else. Good luck!
posted by jcrcarter at 9:22 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Frankly, it sounds like your organization's lack of adequate process/procedures documentation and B's snappiness at a new trainee are far bigger problems than anything A is doing.

Actually, that's not true. Yes, like any organization we could always do better, but her job description, staff orientation, HR policies and the processes and procedures around her job are well documented. She has also documented her own version to make her work easier for her and I have encouraged her to do so - she continues to second guess her own ability to do the work (while I do not). But the real challenge comes whenever something doesn't look exactly as its written or as she's seen it before - she refuses to even try to figure it out even though I have clearly stated on many occasions (at least weekly) that mistakes are allowed and even encouraged as she figures things out.

jrcarter - some great questions (no attack felt). The staff is actually quite diverse - I am the only one who is not an immigrant, and none of the others are from 'western cultures'. We are also used to turnover of late - I am the only one who's been here more than 18months, although I'm realizing A probably isn't aware of that fact (and might like to be). I actually sympathize with both of A and B, and B has been making a real effort lately to be more patient - which hasn't changed A's behaviour.

I am willing to mentor her, and have been trying, but it is the type of job where I need her to be fairly functional, fairly quickly. I could do her work if she can't, but I am already way over-capacity, and we don't currently have the money to hire anyone else. I am very sympathetic, but at this point can't afford not to have her working as part of the team.

That said, it's hard to tell from your description if she's just nervous or if she has real psychological problems. If it's the latter, a small non-profit might not have the resources to fulfill its mission and address her needs.

You've hit my concerns on the head - I'm using every tool in my toolbox I can, but I'm beginning to suspect this goes fairly deep.
posted by scrute at 2:03 PM on January 26, 2011

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