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The Self Righteous Employee

I worked with a woman I will call E, this woman was a pain in the…

She was in the office at 8am each day – we worked flex time, so could take back ‘extra’ time, most people arrived between 8.30 and 9am. She was ALWAYS the first in…

When we arrived she would start her dramatic,  “Ohh i wish I could come in ‘so late’ but I am FAR too busy.”

The at the end of the day she would be the last to leave, usually (she claimed) staying until 7pm to get ALL her work done.

At lunch she watched everyone come and go, and as her office was the top of the corridor she saw everyone leave and enter (we had to pass her office). Again she would start the,  “Ohh I wish I had time for lunch.”

This woman did not take her holidays, and then did the,  “I am far too busy, I wish I could take my holidays.”

But E was often even worse than this. I arrived before her a couple of times because of projects needing to be out in the morning… (She did NOT know I was there). I found that she spent the time from 8am to people arriving: making breakfast in the kitchen, eating breakfast in the kitchen, making and drinking coffee, nosing around other peoples offices! And then chatting with everyone as they arrived.

So yeah, she arrived at 8, but started work about 10.  The rest of her day was spent wandering from office to office, chatting (especially with one woman).

The one time she was off, her boss asked my boss if I could help him with something.  In E’s office I found a list… initials of everyone in the office, and lots of times and notes. She was making notes of when people arrived and left, and even how many trips to the bathroom they took!

At this point I found that her boss was 100% computer illiterate… And he was stunned when I provided him with some stuff he asked for. Turned out she was regularly telling him,  “Oh no, computers can’t do that.”  These things were basic things: tables, spreadsheets, flow charts, powerpoint stuff. When he found computers can do this, as I had, she told him that HER computer couldn’t do that and then she was really nasty to me when no one was around to witness it. Her boss believed her and had IT provide her with a brand new PC so she told everyone I was not doing MY job and she was having to learn new stuff so she could pick up my slack!

Then this woman NEVER called in sick, she came IN… Spreading her germs, then when others went down with whatever she had first, she would point out,  “Well I managed to come to work.”  Sure she came in, but spent her day going from office to office spreading her germs and letting people know how sick she was but was “just too busy” to take time.  I honestly believe had this woman actually been working rather than chatting, she would be finishing work at the same time as us but she loved to be the martyr.

She managed to cap all of this however when I ended up off work with a condition which was undiagnosed at the time, but one of the many symptoms was severe depression. In the end I was off work for 3months.   When I got back in, I found she had rearranged my office! (Losing items in the process) she also printed off my entire internet history and thought I would be in trouble…. I had a LOT of history, but nothing bad.  Silly woman was unaware that part of my job (PR) was searching the internet looking for mentions of our company and printing them, be they good or bad.

She had given my boss this “list” with what my boss called a “very smug expression” and said, “Have you seen how your PA spends her day?’ My boss looked at the list and said, “Judging by this… HER JOB!”

After my time off for depression she was always making snide comments:

Oh, I am so busy I am going mental.
If I keep working like this I’m going to have a mental breakdown.
If I don’t take a break now, I’m going to end up in the loony bin (UK slang for a mental hospital).

In the end of my time there my boss retired, and her boss was to take the department into his, she would then become my direct equal colleague, but she kept insisting she would be my manager…

I tried speaking to HR, but her best work friend was in HR and told her!!   Needless to say I quit.

I just had no idea how I could deal with this woman, although I often looked at the shredder and imagined 😉   0628-13

{ 90 comments… add one }
  • MichelleP July 1, 2013, 5:29 pm

    @Brenda, I was with you until the “learn to cry on command” bit. Under what circumstances will falsely losing control and crying in the workplace help anything?

  • Susan T-O July 1, 2013, 5:50 pm

    “I wish *I* could go home at 5:00 o’clock but I’m sooooo busy!” “Sounds like you need to work on your time management skills. Good-night.”

  • chocolatemoose July 1, 2013, 6:22 pm

    We’ve got a woman at work who keeps a notebook. We refer to it behind her back as Gertrude’s Book of Hate. If she thinks somebody has slighted her in any way, it is logged in the notebook. Two or three time a year she calls in her boss and HR to report all of the heinous things that are being done to her. I can’t wait until she retires.

  • LawGeek July 1, 2013, 7:07 pm

    “The thing is, there’s a point where if you “have” to stay late every single day (and not because someone’s asking you to) you’re just not doing your job properly”

    Spoken like someone who has never worked in a white shoe law firm.

  • LizaJane July 1, 2013, 9:27 pm

    Re: Brenda’s statement that the first one to go to HR is the one believed. Not necessarily.
    Twice I had people go to HR to complain about me. The first one was so ridiculous I never could really understand what the complaint was.
    The second one would have had me immediately dimissed and meant very heavy fines for the company, HAD IT BEEN TRUE. Fortunately,I had no problem presenting the paper trail that prove the accusation was false. Had the complainer read their paperwork properly, or even asked my director or HR about it first, all would have been made clear to them . HR was especially thrilled that she had discussed her complaint with about 20 other people, all of whom had to be met with to be set straight.

  • Mary July 1, 2013, 10:00 pm

    Law Geek, I totally agree. There are some jobs where one does have to stay late every day. Either due to expectations by management or due to understaffing. However, if one is not in a situation like that, it might definitely have to with job performance.

    I have a friend who is a manager at a very large financial firm. He works 60-70 hours a week, sometimes till 10 or 11 at night. long hours are expected in his position, but if he didn’t pull those hours the job would never get done.

  • Barbarian July 1, 2013, 10:32 pm

    I have witnessed lots of office time-wasting routines and encountered some skilled slackers and sycophants in my working life. Here are some I recall:

    1.The Breakfast Club: they all show up early but are so busy making and eating breakfast during the first hr it would be hard to see what they are actually producing. I have always had my morning meal at home so i could just get started as soon as I come in.
    2.Plugged In and Tuned Out: monitoring an array of cell phones, I-Pods, and I-Pads-their personal life is so all -consuming they need work time to keep up with it.
    3. Prince/Princess Special Snowflake- Like someone another OP described. So busy helping management with “special projects” that they can’t account for their time and production. Loves networking at prestigious events after hours but calls in frequently.
    4. The Absentee Office Manager – probably best friends with another Op’s manager! Sets deadlines for their personal convenience, telecommutes regularly while his or her “dedicated staff” is having a blast while he or she is gone, delays their own high profile projects for lack of time, Claims to know everybody and everything going on in the office-but what they don’t know would hurt them big time.

  • Elle July 2, 2013, 1:52 am

    “6. Learn how to cry on demand. This depends on the situation and the people involved, but sometimes shedding tears works. ”

    No. No. No. No. NO! For the sake of little green apples you do NOT cry in the workplace. And you do NOT use tears to manipulate a situation to your advantage after the age of six. I can’t think of ANY workplace where that would do anything but make you seem less capable, dependable, and strong as a coworker who constantly keeps a stiff upper lip.

  • M July 2, 2013, 3:48 am

    I take offense at the general tone of this submission and some of the comments. Leaving work later than most and coming in early is not very glamorous, nor is it generally a sign of incompetence as some of the posters may suggest. I left a meeting yesterday at midnight, got home at one and came into the office at 8 this morning. I don’t take long breaks and no, I haven’t had a holiday in over two weeks (and yes, I have more than two months’ worth of break days saved up). I do not consider myself a bad worker (management seems to agree), am not bad at managing my time, know how to use Excel shortcuts and have a good marriage and homelife. But, if my company needs me, if stuff needs done I’ll stay after hours, because I’m passionnate about my job, the projects I am handling and I happen to like my management and feel like I should do a good job and make it as easy on them as possible, I’ll stay after hours. I don’t resent people who leave at 5 on the dot, I don’t burden them with my tales of woe, so I would really like it if they did the same. How about not judging, not making assumptions into my personal life, not assuming I’m incompetent, and certainly not accusing me of brown nosing when I get promoted and they don’t. Sorry if this seems too intense, but I was really irked by some of the comments. To go back to the story at hand: the complaining, not tattling and the not doing actual work are despicable and should be addressed with and by management.

  • Lo July 2, 2013, 6:53 am


    I have to strongly disagree with the “cry on command bit”. The expectation of that kind of emotionally manipulative behavior is one of the things that gets women maligned in the workplace to begin with.

  • Lo July 2, 2013, 6:55 am


    No, I haven’t. But I do work long hours without being asked and there’s a huge difference between a good work ethic and someone who dawdles and then has to stay late because she can’t get the job done.

    This woman wouldn’t survive in a law firm.

  • Elizabeth July 2, 2013, 8:58 am

    No, Brenda, don’t complain immediately. You will be branded as the complainer. Just do your work. And the ‘cry on demand,’ never! Particularly if you are a woman. Ugh – Brenda’s list makes women in the workplace all look foolish.

  • Thistlebird July 2, 2013, 9:06 am

    From Lauren: “… one of those weirdos who think that if they get to order people around at their lowly jobs then they have POWER. I’ve worked with so many people trying desperately to order other people around, when all it did was make them look desperate and grasping.”

    Oh, I know just what you mean. I used to work on an organic farm & was in charge of a garden that was a sort of sub-department. I had an intern working with me & had big plans about how I would leave her in charge while I went on a trip & that would teach her to make the jump from “I just do whatever she tells me” to “OK, what needs to get done in this garden today?” (Because that’s how I learned.) Come to find out when I came back, her notion of “in charge” was not so much the responsibility to take care of the garden (which she did… the basics at least which if you know organic farming is *never* enough) but the right to boss the other interns around whenever they had to come onto “our” territory and tell them they couldn’t use any of “our” equipment (which was NOT “ours” and was routinely used by anyone on the farm)! I should have seen it coming–I had gotten her the desirable job of being my garden assistant because she was complaining a lot & I thought that would fix it & make her stay. (We had a pretty high intern attrition rate on that farm…) The squeaky wheel gets the grease! She never shaped up into a good worker and within a few weeks she did leave and I’d wasted my time training her. I learned a lot about not being a stupid boss that year. I even know exactly who I should have picked instead.

    The funny thing was that the original manager (whose departure had given me profound relief that same year) had a very similar problem. He was terrible at communicating to people what they actually needed to do or giving them info that would help–but he was VERY big on making rules about *not* doing things, especially not borrowing equipment (which was common because it was a co-op situation with people living right there and had never caused a problem as people were very responsible about returning it). I labeled my personal equipment with my name in very large letters because God forbid he might see me walking off the farm with a plastic 5-gallon bucket that might not be mine!

  • Lychii July 2, 2013, 9:21 am

    I can’t believe everyone here just ate up this story. It definitely reads as something that has an ‘other side’ to it.

    Sure looks like OP antagonized the mostly-harmless office troll (by gossiping and telling tales, most likely), then was surprised when the woman had a grudge…

  • Shalamar July 2, 2013, 11:02 am

    My mother used to work with a woman named Janet who was constantly doing personal errands during work hours (such as shopping or haircuts or dentist appointments), and then she’d stay late to finish her work. The kicker was that she got paid double for doing that “overtime”. My mother called it a license to print money.

    The final straw was when mum’s boss made it clear that he thought Janet was a superstar for “going that extra mile” and putting in all that overtime. Mum couldn’t take it anymore and snarled “I’d have to work hours of overtime, too, if I went shopping during the day!” That didn’t make Mum very popular. She was very happy when she got to quit that job.

  • The Elf July 2, 2013, 11:15 am

    OMG, one of *those*. I think everyone’s worked with someone like that. The only thing you can do is 1) ignore the person as much as possible. She’s saying those things because she wants validation.
    2) when it impacts your work (such as with your boss thinking you can’t do something) you go on the offensive and matter-of-factly point out that you can and you do, with as much material as you can to back it up. Never say that the other co-worker is doing this or that, just state what *you* are doing and what *you* can do.

    Good supervisors aren’t stupid, even when they are computer illiterate. And if yours is….. well, that’s an entirely different issue.

    How is she doing spreadsheets if not on the computer? With pen and paper? On a typewriter? Ye gods! No wonder it takes her all day! If I didn’t have my best buddy Excel, I literally could not do my job.

  • Christine July 2, 2013, 12:00 pm

    There are some people who legitimately have to work their tails off every second of the day, but the lady that the LO describes is not one of them. In my previous job I literally did not have 2 minutes to use the restroom most times during the day. I came in an hour early every morning, and was always the last person to leave at night. I set up several meetings with my boss to discuss how overworked I was, but was told that there was nothing she could/would do. I finally quit. Best decision of my life, and all the more sweet when I found out that they had to hire FOUR people to take on my workload.

    Difference is, my coworkers knew I worked hard and needed extra time to complete all of my duties despite putting in 150% during the day. If it’s legitimate, I think it’s fairly obvious to others when someone is burning the midnight oil vs. screaming about how “busy” they are.

  • NostalgicGal July 2, 2013, 12:41 pm

    Dilbert site a long time ago, had some contests; and one that I remember (and ‘won’) was a woman that was secretary/gal Friday in a firm, her boss had gotten vacation reservations during tourist season on Maui and when the place called for confirmation she cancelled it. Why? She had not been allowed to take a vacation day or sick day in SIX years because she was so vital to the company’s functioning that she was NOT ALLOWED to NOT come in. (someone who read that contacted her because they were a lawyer and she ended up owning the company over that).

    During my temp jobbing for exec secretaries stint… two women took care of x number of execs, a lot of them travelled a lot, and contracts and such with serious security. I got brought in for 5 weeks of a 6 week medical leave of one of the women; the other gal was so used to juggling everything as the one on leave was pretty..ineffective..but. She could answer the phone when the one that did the work was not at desk. She had suffered a week then called for a temp, and that was my original job; smile, warm chair and answer the phone (and take messages mostly for the other gal). When she found out I could file, type, fax, and would cheerfully dive into any pile of crapola (because that was my job as temp, any duty assigned (office desk type work)) she had a huge pile of stuff that needed attention; I did. I sorted, I filed, I tossed, yes I could type up stuff (read any writing scribbled) and do spreadsheets, send the faxes, route the mail, do the copying… in 5 weeks I apparently did close to a year’s worth of backlog that the gal I was replacing had amassed. They wanted to keep me. When I worked another vacation assignment there in another building, some of the ones I had worked for, had me come join them for a lunch; they had missed me. It had also weeded out the one’s chronic needs to stay late to work… I had proved that there was something seriously amiss on those claims by the one that had had the leave…(and the reason for her leave would not have impacted her ability to do any of the work that I did). I have no idea how that ended up…

  • appalled July 2, 2013, 12:45 pm

    Chances are she’s embezzling from the company.

    Employees that always come early, always stay late and never take any time off should be suspected of embezzlement. She obviously doesn’t have enough real work to justify that overtime, but she needs the time alone to cook the books. The boss would be well advised to order an independent audit.

    See “The Art of the Steal” by Frank Abagnale.

  • ferretrick July 2, 2013, 1:31 pm

    “No, Brenda, don’t complain immediately. You will be branded as the complainer. Just do your work. ”

    Not necessarily. Depends on the culture/situation/how stupid the boss is. I was once accused of slacking and not helping out. These same women that made the accusation were famous for doing two things: 1) Complaining it you didn’t help them. 2) If you did help them, criticizing everything you did for the most minor differences in how they would do it, or flat out tell you not to “touch their stuff” or worst, accuse you of “spying” on them and what they were doing. So you couldn’t win. I had constant problems with these two women and their nastiness, but I elected to be the bigger person and not waste management’s time. One review cycle, I said absolutely nothing in my review about the ongoing problems. Even when prompted I told the bosses that, while there were problems, I felt they were petty and I was going to continue to ignore the women and not waste their time that should be spent running the business resolving personality conflicts. The two women went in to their reviews and ripped me up one side and down the other and told the bosses that I did nothing and wouldn’t help them at all.

    I got called in for a dress down session and I was most definitely on the defensive the entire time, and I’m not sure I ever did convince management that there was no truth in what these women said.

  • Anonymous July 2, 2013, 1:35 pm

    @Christine–Did they hire all four people at once to replace you, or was it a “one at a time, until everything was taken care of” kind of situation? Because, if it was all at once, then your boss presumably knew that you were overworked, and didn’t care/was taking advantage. If it was one at a time, then wow……that would have been a pretty rude awakening for your boss, once she realized, over time, that you were literally doing the work of four people.

  • Gen Xer July 2, 2013, 1:41 pm

    What it really boils down to is minding your own business. Concern yourself with your own job and stop worrying about what everyone else is doing – whether they are leaving early, staying late or how long their break / lunch was.

    Nothing destroys workplace morale more than ratting on your coworkers.

  • The Elf July 2, 2013, 3:18 pm

    Lychii, I think the reason people (me) “ate up” the story is because it is entirely believable. I think just about everyone’s worked with the oh-I’m-so-busy-woe-is-me type at some point.

  • LizaJane July 2, 2013, 3:46 pm

    Llychii, I don’t understand your post. Are you saying that the OP caused this woman to act the way she did?

  • LizaJane July 2, 2013, 4:02 pm

    I would also like to point out the difference between the hours expected from a salaried employee vs. hourly. Those on salary are given a set of duties and projects and the deadlines. Then they’re expected to have it done.
    A savvy owner/comptroller, etc. doesn’t want perpetual overtime. If several people are working it, it costs more long term than hiring another person.
    The real red flag to me, and at least two other posters agree, is that the woman NEVER takes a day off. For anything.

  • Mae July 2, 2013, 4:02 pm

    Lychii- are you sure you read the whole submission? If E was complaining all the time, making notes about staff, recording staff members arrival/departure times, lying to her boss about computer programs and then making passive-agressive comments to OP about depression, then she deserves the reputation she got. If E had minded her *own* business and quit playing hall monitor, people probably would have liked her more.

    There is someone very close or just like this in almost every office. It is usually someone who has been there for awhile, has never moved up and feels that if she/he brown-noses enough, they will eventually get a promotion/raise/reward/praise.

  • Kate July 2, 2013, 5:53 pm

    I had a co-worker like this, except he was in a management position! He was *a* manager, not *my* manager, but he took it upon himself to monitor the comings and goings of everyone else in the office. Once, my other co-worker and I were discussing customer issues that had come in while I was on leave. He came into my office and said “You guys have been chatting a while, hmm? Was your weekend that interesting?”. Then he went and told my boss that we’d been “talking all morning”. Fortunately, my boss was the one who had told us to have the catch up in the first place!
    He would also scrutinise the hours I worked (part time, I’m at uni full time) and say things like “Is there even a POINT to you being here?”. Well, my boss clearly thinks so, because I’m still here and he got fired.

  • Anonymous July 2, 2013, 9:15 pm

    @Kate–You mean the guy just walked into your office without knocking or asking permission? Barring some kind of prior agreement, that’s really disrespectful.

  • Barbarian July 2, 2013, 9:35 pm

    The moral of this story-don’t engage crazy or work with crazy if you do not have to. OP’s evil co-worker was probably working those long hours to spy on other employees, embezzle, or help herself to confidential company information.

    And then she heaped drama on OP to deflect any scrutiny of her own behavior.

    HR clearly was not doing its job either. An employee spending lots of time after hours on the premises, snooping in others’ offices and accessing their PCs unauthorized should raise a red flag. And HR wrongfully leaked confidential information about OP’s medical leave.Evil coworker had too many friends in HR to cover her tracks.

  • Lychii July 3, 2013, 4:28 am

    To those who called me out, I’ll clarify what about the original post rattled me:

    The first half of the post is just nit-picky whining from someone who doesn’t mind her own business. What exactly is E being accused of?

    – coming early and leaving late (so what?)
    – not taking her vacation (you care why?)
    – talking to others about how busy she is (again, who cares?)
    – coming in sick & spreading germs (nasty, but it happens very often. doubt E was the only one)
    – slacking off when no one’s watching (not your concern)
    – going through someone’s office (for all you know, she had a reason to be there)
    – keeping a list of people’s comings and goings (bizarre, not necessarily malicious, could be a mental problem)

    Had OP’s workload or wellbeing been affected by E’s behavior, she should have brought it to the attention of her boss. Apparently that wasn’t the case, though.

    Now I’m pretty sure the long list of petty grievances above was aired by OP to her coworkers, who promptly spread the gossip around until it reached E’s ears. Add the spreadsheet incident, which from E’s point of view was an invasion of her territory and a hefty addition to her workload, courtesy of OP.

    I’m not saying E was right in being nasty and vindictive to OP, but the source of E’s dislike is clear. The situation where E came after OP and made her life miserable, could be avoided entirely just by being a tad more diplomatic.

  • chechina July 3, 2013, 11:16 am

    I have a co-worker who also likes to tell everyone how late she stayed the day before, or how early she came in and so forth. I find a deadpan, “Good for you” works reasonably well. In a super-sarcastic day, I like to start a slow clap.

    This behaviour started slowing down about six months ago due to the fact that a) we do the same job and b) I started asking our director and other departments for more work because I didn’t have enough to do during the day. I think people clued in to the fact that perhaps our job wasn’t as strenuous as she made it appear.

  • LizaJane July 3, 2013, 4:33 pm

    Coming in early and leaving late whlie not being productive is time card falsification for an hourly employee and grounds for immediate termnation in most places because it’s theft.
    The office that E was going through was the OP’s. I think the OP would probably have been told upon her return if E had been given permission to re-arrange and dispose of items in her office.

  • Michelle C Young July 4, 2013, 4:59 am

    As an admin, I would sometimes find myself staying late just to enjoy some quiet time. I could get a lot more done, without interruptions, and that was nice.

    However, I was required to work no overtime, so that meant I had to make up for it in other ways, like lunchtime, and breaks. My hours got kind of wonky sometimes, if you looked at it on a daily/hourly view, but weekly I was at 40 hours.

    Something I learned, though, is that if you want people to think yo are busy, don’t tell them you are busy. Let them see that you are busy. If you just say it (especially if you say it often), they will think you are making excuses. You can say “Sorry, I’m on a deadline right now,” and tell them you can’t chat at the moment, or maybe “I have an urgent project.” But complaining about being too busy? Not a good idea. It doesn’t really look good on a performance review. It makes you look incompetent that you cannot handle your workload.

    And as for coming in to work when you are sick – that is another pet peeve of mine. If I (with my poor immune system) should come down with YOUR germs, which then settle in and become a bad secondary infection, leaving me off for weeks at a time, because you would not take a day, then I thoroughly blame YOU.

    Now, to be fair, she may have wanted to come in every day because being at home was just that bad. I’ve known a few women who literally preferred to be at work than at home, because work was less stressful for them. In a stressful office. Go figure. These women hated weekends, because they’d be with their family. I feel truly sorry for them. However, these women actually said so, and weren’t playing the Martyr-Worker-Drone card. Ugh.

  • MsCynical July 4, 2013, 1:25 pm

    So this person really does work everywhere? Thus far I haven’t experienced this person, but my DH worked with one for nearly 10 years. She came in late, but stayed very late, never took vacation, and never took sick time. The reason my DH knows this is because the department where he worked was small and Co-irker told him and everyone else in the department (including her boss), how she worked so late and never took vacation or sick time (I get the impression from the OP that E also regaled anyone and everyone with stories of her martyrdom).

    She was a buyer for the company, which meant she processed purchase orders (POs) and worked with vendors to get other employees what they needed. And the reason she worked so late and never took vacation? First of all, she didn’t like using her computer and kept paper notes and hated using the automated PO system, so she basically doubled her workload by writing everything down. Second of all, the company had a clear deadline for submitting POs; however, Co-irker would process any PO, no matter how late it was submitted. This, in turn, caused many employees to just submit POs they knew were late to this Co-irker because they knew she would process them anyway. In this way, she made a lot more work for herself. And DH knew because she would constantly complain about how other employees kept submitting these POs too late. Once he said to her, “They should know better so don’t process the late POs,” and she hemmed and hawed and said that was poor customer service. Third, she spent a LOT of time on the phone between vendors and employees trying to settle complaints and payment issues, which wasn’t actually part of her job (that was an entirely different department). Yes, DH and Co-irker’s boss was aware of all this. Boss just let it go because Co-irker eventually got her work done (she was salaried so no OT) and that was easier than trying to discipline her, even though her complaining to other people in the department (and loud conversations on speaker-phone) were disruptive.

    My DH is very well-tempered. After working with Co-irker for over 8 years, he finally had such a bad day when she came over to his desk to complain yet again about the long hours she worked, he snapped and told her something like, “If you just did your damn job instead of complaining about it, maybe you could go home!” She promptly reported him to HR. He got a face-to-face meeting with an HR rep and an official reprimand. The company was small, so HR knew about Co-irker, but DH was still in the wrong.

    Moral of the story – there are people like this everywhere, and they tend to complain to anyone and everyone. And in general, it is easier for companies (even ones where Co-irker is not friends with HR) to just put up with them than try to take action (as long as they aren’t actually doing anything illegal). DH’s best coping strategy – tune her out and ignore her. And the next time he had a bad day and she was whinging on, he just took an early lunch.

  • kingsrings July 4, 2013, 5:28 pm

    I used to have a co-worker like this as well. She was hell-bent on monitoring the work activity of everyone in the office, and for some reason had her sights set very high on me. She complained to my boss because I sometimes took my breaks that I am legally entitled to. She said that I wasn’t a very good worker, and that everyone else in the office always gave up their breaks so they could work harder, so I should, too. She also said that nobody should ever call in sick under any circumstances, and that they were bad workers if they did. She proceeded to once come in with a raging bout of the flu. Thankfully, my bosses put a stop to that immediately because they wanted us to get well, and to not infect the rest of us with their germs. I also once, years ago, had a co-worker at a part-time job I had while in college that used to ask me every Monday, “What did you do this weekend? I WORKED!!”, trying to make me feel like I was bad because I didn’t come in and work that weekend. The fact that I was a full-time college student who was concentrating on my studies at the time fell on deaf ears, apparently.
    I wonder why there are these “office martyrs”, and why they feel compelled to act that way. Insecurity, and this is a sick way to deal with their insecurity?

  • Ultra Venia July 4, 2013, 11:58 pm

    Lychii: “Now I’m pretty sure the long list of petty grievances above was aired by OP to her coworkers, who promptly spread the gossip around until it reached E’s ears. Add the spreadsheet incident, which from E’s point of view was an invasion of her territory and a hefty addition to her workload, courtesy of OP.”

    What an interesting assumption.

    A major part of etiquette is to assume good faith unless shown not to assume such anymore. There is nothing in this letter that would give the impression that the OP is a gossip. Nitpicking OPs here seems to have become a sport. Please, let’s save it for those that deserve it.

  • Missy J July 5, 2013, 10:27 am

    This sounds just like an older woman I used to work with and I resigned my job due to stress and my health condition, which her behavior made worse. She would hide work assignments from me and then turn around and tell anyone who would listen that I was “incompetent” and would “warn” others about me and she even caused the former boss to quit because she was making her life hell. I should’ve known the dysfunctional atmosphere of the workplace when the current boss said it was no fluke that the past eight women who worked there “Miss M” didn’t like them, either and made their lives miserable. Nothing was ever done about her because she obviously had something on somebody there!

  • lena July 6, 2013, 6:27 am

    At my old job I started at 6:30am, whereas most people started at 8 or 9. When I left at 3:30pm they would exclaim that I was so lucky to get to go home ‘early’ – but really, I was just going home at the end of my day of work, it wasn’t like I got to go home after 6 hours work!

  • Livvy17 July 10, 2013, 9:25 am

    My advice would be to kill her and her boss with kindness:
    “I know you’re really busy, so is there anything I can take off your plate?”
    “Oh, it’s horrible that you’re so busy, is that why you’re talking with HR – to get extra help?”
    “Based on what your boss said, you’re having some difficulty with using spreadsheets, etc., can I help show you how you could make your work go more quickly?”
    “Would you like some help in showing your boss how to use a computer?”
    “It’s shameful that you can never take a vacation – can I help you talk to your boss/HR?”

    There are several possible reasons E behaves the way she does:
    1) She doesn’t have the skills necessary to do the job, and therefore, it really is taking her longer to do the same or less amount of work.
    2) She is insecure in her position, and wants to trumpet how “indispensible” she is to her boss
    3) she’s lazy and wants to keep her workload to a bare minimum, and deflects questions by the extra “face time” and complaints about other “slackers”
    4) She’s embezzling or engaged in some form of fraud which she’s trying to cover up
    5) She’s suffering from some form of delusion/other mental issue.

    In any case, I believe trying to “help” should at least get her off your case.

  • Livvy17 July 10, 2013, 9:30 am

    (I know that OP quit….but the advice stands generally, especially where HR or other intervention isn’t possible.)

    @Lychii – are you E? I can’t understand your perspective.
    @Brenda – NO NO NO. Tears are unacceptable, ESPECIALLY crocodile tears. Next you’ll suggest that you blame “that time of the month.” Don’t set progress backwards. And regarding item #1, all HR isn’t so gullible as to believe the first person; I apologize on behalf of the profession if that’s been your (shoddy)experience. HR is supposed to conduct a full and fair investigation into all complaints.

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