How can I deal with a troublesome co-worker, or else not let her get to me?
April 19, 2007 12:05 PM   Subscribe

How can I deal with a troublesome co-worker, or else not let her get to me?

Sorry this is not me, this question came to me from a very good female friend of mine who wanted to solicit advice from the famed HiveMind:

I've been in my current role with a Fortune 500 company for 2-1/2 years - about 1-1/2 years ago, a woman in her late 20s joined the group. We slowly became friends and she visited my house on a Saturday, my husband and I joined her at her birthday party. There were red flags that I chose to ignore because she has interests that are more worldly than others in this office. About a year ago she told me that she requires her friends to be very intensely close to her and always available, otherwise she won't bother (red flag #1). At her birthday party, she ended up sleeping with a consultant in our group. He went on with work but she became obsessive. While I was preparing for an important meeting & had managers at my desk, she demanded a minute of my time, I walked around the corner and she told me "he sent me an email asking me to go to out, I'm going to tell him no, think that will get him?". At that point I turned around and walked back to my desk annoyed. About a month later, she told me that at a conference his manager asked her to have an affair. I stopped hanging out and personal calls with her around that point and made our communications casual at work. She had a birthday a few months back and I told a co-worker that we should do something nice (it was her 30th & she doesn't have many friends/family). He brought in donuts and we walked over to her office and said "Happy Birthday!" (making no mention of her age) and she went off on us about how people will ask her how old she is and how she won't get the projects she wants because of age discrimination (she's 10-15 years junior to the other managers). I have never witnessed this to be the case but stunned, I apologized and walked off. My peer quietly told her she was over-reacting and we were attempting to be nice.

Since then, she ostentatiously ignores me (walks within 2 feet of me and looks the other way, avoiding any eye contact) and if she is forced to ask for something, she will ask for it and under her breath give me a 'please'. I walk by her in the stairwell and she won't say anything. I've made a point to try not play her games and will casually say hello just as I would anyone else, but it still bothers me.

Since this event happened, I've learned that she has done this to others in the group and is close with her senior reports and people that she has to work with. The dissed refer to it as being part of 'the club'. Oddly enough, her office door opens directly facing my desk - since her birthday she often keeps it closed but I've also gotten the sense that management has no idea that she is so socially undeveloped. Any thoughts on how I can learn to not let this immature person get under my skin??
posted by psmealey to Work & Money (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Why does your friend even want this person's attention or friendship? Isn't this exactly the kind of person one wants to be dissed by?
posted by 4ster at 12:15 PM on April 19, 2007

google "borderline personality disorder."
posted by konolia at 12:47 PM on April 19, 2007

Sounds like problem solved. Think "Thank god I don't have to be involved in this messed up persons soap operas any more!"

Unless job performance is an issue.

If it is (in other words she cuts off communication to the point where it is causing troubles in workflow) then you need to go into her office when she's alone, close the door, and sit down and talk to her about how your lack of communication (between both of you, not yours or hers. Don't blame) is making work difficult, and discuss solutions to the problem. Then keep records of it so when she makes things even more difficult you will have recourse to take to your superiors.

Though when I had an employee somewhat like this (sleeping around, making work "enemies") they had a lot of explaining to do. When they were unable to change, and in fact escilated, they got dismissed.

However it sounds like job performance isn't an issue. Be glad she removed herself from your situation.
posted by Ookseer at 12:57 PM on April 19, 2007

Management exists to deal with problems like this. The quicker they are notified, the quicker productivity can recover & liabilities decrease, the quicker stockholder equity is maximized. I know it can appear otherwise at times, but this is exactly why management is there.
posted by jwells at 1:03 PM on April 19, 2007

Yeah, there's a good reason she doesn't have many friends. Clearly. My advice? Do not take on other people's issues. Turn her into an acquaintance & nothing more... it's clearly the best decision. Detach yourself, she's not your problem. Take care of yourself.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:21 PM on April 19, 2007

Best answer: There's no reason to let this get to you. You may have ignored some early warning signs, but once her behavior became intrusive (interrupting you at your desk) it sounds like you pulled away. The gesture of the donuts was nice, but her reaction was in line with the same crappy attitude that put you off in the first place. Think of it an affirmation of your earlier opinion about her.

Putting on a show of ignoring you is childish. Take the high road; keep treating her with respect and a healthy detachment, and she'll eventually bring herself down with her own bad judgement. People like this are their own worst enemy. Stand clear and be grateful that you never got too involved in the first place.
posted by junkbox at 1:24 PM on April 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I think my friend would happily pursue any and all advice to blow the whole thing off. Having said that, I think there are a couple of things she's having trouble with. First, she has an incredibly sweet and uncompromisingly friendly personality, is a natural peacemaker and is absolutely unaccustomed to anyone disliking her for any reason. Secondly, I suspect there might be an unstated office politics issue. To clarify, I think she's feeling slightly insecure because the person in question is senior, on a management track, while my friend is administrative. She may fear being victimized by the other person's vindictive/erratic behavior, for example having her reputation damaged by this person's back-stabbing. Thanks for all the responses so far!
posted by psmealey at 1:40 PM on April 19, 2007

It appears that the whole group has cottoned on to the fact that this woman has issues. So I don't think your friend has anything to worry about in terms of being victimized, especially if she is so universally liked as you say.

As for not being used to being disliked by anybody - it was bound to happen at some point. She'll just have to get used to the idea that there are people like that and count her blessings that she has managed to avoid them so far.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:07 PM on April 19, 2007

Best answer: You're dealing with her problem behavior correctly by ignoring it, and acting like a healthy person. She is putting effort into her behavior towards you.

Your primary concern should be whether she might engage in sabotage. Pay close attention to any clues that she's backstabbing you. You may want to respond to any discussion of her with sympathy and even pity. If the attitude of 'she's kind of un-balanced and unreliable' gets around, her ability to screw over other people will vanish.

Office politics and crazy people can really suck, but you need to protect yourself. Sounds like you're doing a great job so far.
posted by theora55 at 2:33 PM on April 19, 2007

Don't overestimate your own worth. Don't work with people who do. Don't work in an office.
posted by airguitar at 6:58 PM on April 19, 2007

Just sit tight. If she was crazy with you, she'll be crazy with others. I don't want to be a Polyanna, but I've had a few people like her in my life, and they all seem to get fired in relatively short order. It's hard, but keep the faith.

Not only is she your worst enemy, she's her own. In my experience, you never get thanked for warning people, and the less you react, the better off you'll be.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:14 PM on April 19, 2007

I wouldn't worry about this woman. I know it's harder to do than say but it can be done. As long as she doesn't do anything to impede your ability to do your job.

Gesamtkunstwerk is correct, she is her own worst enemy. I'm in a similar situation myself but since I've been in it before.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to scale back my personal interactions with my co-worker and only keep things on a business level. I told my supervisor that I was going to stop talking to her about personal issues and that she might come and state that I'm not 'talking' to her but that wouldn't be the case-I just wouldn't be talking to her about personal issues. That was enough for me. She, however, took it as a personal affront. I doesn't seem to matter to this woman that I don't report to her and that she doesn't report to me and that the information we were sharing isn't imperative to her job because that's really all that matters. Gesamtkunstwerk is also correct in their assessment that you never get thanked for warning people and the less you react, the better off you'll be. I've been asked by a co worker to tell her what she did and I've constantly re-iterated to this co worker that she'll just twist it around or lie and say she didn't say it. It was just easier to not share any information with her at all. I know it's personally killing her because she NEEDS to talk but it's not a need that fuels her ability to do her job. It's frustrating but it's not a popularity contest or at least it shouldn't be.

Show up, do your work and make sure to be accountable for the things your responsible for. The rest takes care of itself.
posted by msbasque at 8:09 AM on August 4, 2007

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