Is it any wonder that i feel like Audrey Hepburn in Charade?
September 22, 2017 4:03 AM   Subscribe

Work-related blues. Pay is okay, it's a family-run business, but a number of people are causing me to crawl the walls in more ways than I expected.

Long story short, I've been stuck in a project with a mostly self-focused, non-communicative group of vendors and clients who not only seem to know each other quite well socially, but were apparently friends of my late mother at one point or another (had I known better, I'd have sworn she had somehow masterminded this, but i digress).

We're supposed to be rounding off another planning phase of a mixed-media assignment, and I've been tasked with engaging in scrum sessions with other co-workers, who have either been abrasive in their feedback, or obtuse in imparting requests.

While I'd rather not share these details online, the following example helps describe the worst of matters, which comes back every so often like an unpleasant rash. There's one fellow who has a bit of an appetite (whom we'll just call "Duncan", as he tends to go on about all the restaurants he goes to off-hours.) On some days, he'll show up inordinately late, then drape something like a lobster bib over another co-worker' cubicle. If I don't inquire about the bib, it'll be brought to my attention by another employee - rather rudely - by their slamming a book against their cubicle wall and not replying verbally.

For the next four hours, I then have unlock an elaborate rebus puzzle outlining Duncan's level of "involvement" within the project, WHICH IS STILL EVERYONE'S PROJECT, mind you, as I'm not the only other person affected by this. What I eventually learn is that the Lobster is sometimes a mnemonic for delivering ["lobster" = "throw" ~ "send/sent/sending(?)"] and I then spend *another* hour figuring out if the item in question is an invoice, project diagram, or message.

There are a few others who have similar quirks, but they're all much younger, and frankly, it's a wonder any of them understand the work at hand. They seem more focused on the latest clickbait lists online, or Instagramming selfies from their desks.

I will say that there's another worker (whom I'll call "Abby") who can seem to work without a large drink in hand. This is usually done to act out of spite against the cleaning help who mop floor on weekends. I've confronted her repeatedly over her passive-aggressive messes, but I've been given notice about being too "pushy". It's a wonder nobody has slipped as a result of this carelessness, though.

We also have this big sci-fi nerd ("Odo") - who I'm told was laid off or fired recently - that always tried to imitate everyone as a prank (and often failing badly, due to missing a critical detail). This has also caused considerable embarrassment to myself and the company, as Odo went so far as to forge other employees' signatures or order coffee using everyone else' voucher cards.

Another recent hire ("J.B.") constantly clutters up the whiteboard in the meeting hall and while leaving their garbage about (like they were trying to raise rats or something). This individual is supposed to be a "distant" cousin, even though my aunts and uncles only vaguely remember them.

When not writing, J.B. has provided tips to everyone on how to dress, though it's clear they're only interested in waiting for those items to be bought only for J.B. to "borrow" them later.

J.B.'s among the most annoying members of the group, as they're incredibly lazy. Mosy of their "work" consists of writing the same thing on the whiteboards several times, while only changing a word or number value here or there in order to appear productive. AND THEY GET AWAY WITH IT, because everyone admires J.B.'s cleverness and sense of style. It's really infuriating.

I've cried at my desk over this, but it's as if nobody seems to case, as they're off in their own little worlds. Though I considered relocating, or taking up another job, I'm close enough to retirement that I don't want to lose what few benefits I have. (And of course everyone insists they're not being ageist, as there's a decent mix of individuals range-wise...though they all ten to act like stuck-up children).

My father's no help in this (he's pretty much retired at this point, and everyone's been yelling at him for years to take a vacation), while my cousins just shrug with exasperation, since a few of them have been already turning gray over this, and would rather not break contracts and face economic uncertainty.

Any advice on this would surely be appreciated.
posted by that's_my_best_top_damnit to Human Relations (5 answers total)
Ugh, don't indulge these grownup children anymore. It is not on you to decipher cryptic behavior for four hours, nor is it on you to police your annoying coworkers. Just try to keep your head down and get your part of the work done, whether they cooperate or not.
posted by 41swans at 4:24 AM on September 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

Honestly, you sound like you hate your coworkers - maybe this is justified, maybe not (I have personally noticed a pattern when someone thinks literally every single person they work with is incompetent...), but it doesn't really matter: your contempt is hurting you, you need to get out.

By hurting you, I don't just mean stress levels. I mean, it is hurting your own behaviours I'm sure, and doing deadbeat work on a deadbeat team won't be helping your career any, either.

Sometimes you're just a bad fit with a team or group of people. My experience is after a good effort, the best thing to do is just find somewhere else where you will fit in. Don't bother casting blame on yourself or others, it doesn't matter,and it just wastes time doing pre or post mortems. Move on and forget about it, it's better in the long run.

Best of luck,
posted by smoke at 4:48 AM on September 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

As smoke says, your contempt for these people is palpable and I'm not sure what kind of advice would be helpful for you here other than "Get a new job." If you are indeed committed to staying, I guess 41swans is right - do your work, to the extent that it is possible. If you can't do your work because other people are not cooperating, ask them directly and specifically for what you need in writing, cc'ed to your boss, and explain that you cannot complete your tasks until they finish whatever they need to finish. If they are being cryptic, just ask them to clarify (again cc your boss). Let someone else worry about the selfies and the messes and the former employees.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:16 AM on September 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

It sounds like this situation is truly making you miserable. Family business, toxic coworkers, close to retirement, nightmare client, feeling trapped? That truly sucks. If you're really determined to stay there, here's what I would try:

1. Dial back the contempt.
2. Embrace "stupid and cheerful".
3. Build your life outside of work / leave work at work.

I can't help but notice, from the way your question is written, how much contempt for your coworkers you seem to have. You criticize them for things that have nothing to do with their work performance -- how much they eat and drink, how they borrow clothes, their sci-fi fandom. This likely adding to your misery, for two reasons:
1. People are very sensitive to contempt, and they don't tend to react well. If your coworkers are getting even the faintest whiff of the contempt you're communicating here, it is not likely to make them treat you any better. That's not to say they're justified in treating you poorly or that it's your fault -- they certainly have the choice of how to behave -- but just put yourself in their shoes for a moment. If you were working with someone who seemed to hate you and everything about you in a very personal and specific way, would you go out of your way to treat them well, explain everything about the workplace to them, and make them feel welcome?
2. Contempt is a really "sticky" feeling -- it's hard to let go of it at the end of the workday. It tends to take up a lot of space in your brain and in your life, and push out the other things that might make you happier. Think about the story of the monk carrying the woman across the river.

"Stupid and cheerful" is a tactic that might help you replace the contempt with something that works better for you. It's basically all about not taking the bait. Here are a couple of articles about how to do that. As a final note on this front -- crying at your desk hoping someone will notice you is sort of the opposite of the "stupid and cheerful" approach. I'd avoid that -- it seems unlikely to help and very likely to create more difficulty.

Finally: leave work at work and build your life outside of work. Do you have a ritual at the end of the day to help you shed your work stress? For a lot of people, that's a trip to the gym or some other exercise. By the time you're done with a brisk workout, you will likely have left thoughts of work behind, and you'll have elevated your mood, too. If that's not your style, try something else: picking a song you really like and dancing/singing along, taking a walk, stretching your body, really anything that helps you reset and feel better. Once you're done with that, do you have friends you like to see? Books you like to read? Hobbies you enjoy? If you have a life outside of work that you enjoy and look forward to, then you're more likely to be able to float above the petty workplace nonsense.
posted by ourobouros at 5:23 AM on September 22, 2017 [6 favorites]

Sounds like there's nobody at the helm of this ship, and it's likely drifting towards the rocks. Given that you can't fix it, you don't want to leave, and nobody else seems to care, who does it benefit for you to be so invested in this? Back off a little. Check out to whatever extent you can without getting disciplined. It sounds like this could be a pretty easy job if you just didn't give a shit. Small family businesses are often like this, in my experience. It's not your job to manage these clowns. Just do the minimum to cover your ass, keep your head down, and try to invest some of that energy into non-work activities that you find actually rewarding instead of clothes-rendingly infuriating,
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:42 AM on September 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

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