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Co-Workers or Cow-Orkers or Co-Irkers?

Jan-Jun 2003 Archive
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You would not believe the nightmare I'm living at work right now.  I work for a medical university, co-managing a residency training program along with another woman (for those who don't know, a resident is a doctor who has graduated from medical school, but still is required to get "on the job training" under the supervision of experienced physicians for a certain number of years, depending on specialty).  It's a GREAT job-I've been doing it for eight years, and I love it.  The residents are wonderful, bright, young and enthusiastic.  My boss is a terrific guy-completely reasonable and never micromanages.  Sounds great, doesn't it?   Well, it was.  

For six years, my co-manager, "Terri," and I worked side by side, taking care of everything-evaluations, exams, recruiting people into our program, and so on.  We were a terrific team and became close friends.  A couple of months ago, Terri had to move back to her home state to take care of her elderly mother.  I miss her very much, but we still keep in touch, and I'm happy she got a good job at the medical university where she is living now.   The problem is Terri's replacement. This is bad.  So, so very bad.  

We hired "Lucy" primarily because she had several years' experience in this specific type of work.  Big, big mistake.  She packed up her life and moved to our state and was very pleasant-for the first couple of days.  I was charged with training her, which of course makes sense.   Well, turns out she already knows everything.  At least that's what she thinks.  Over the course of trying to train her, she would complain that:   1.  Having to clock in and out was equivalent to being treated "like trash"   2.  Being downtown, parking is limited.  Almost all employees park a few blocks away, and the university provides shuttle buses to bring us to our buildings.  According to Lucy, this is also being treated "like trash."   3.  When trying to train her on a particular task, her comment was "well, it's boring, meaningless and unfulfilling, but it has to be done, so go ahead and show me."   4.  Other tasks are frequently referred to as "moron work."   5.  And-my personal favorite-she didn't like that I was telling her how to do things.  Never mind that she was brand new and didn't know how we did things here.  She had experience, true, but that was in a different specialty and at a different university, and her old program used different software than ours.  Even with experience, there is a lot to learn.   

She's been here less that two months and already she's turned things upside down.  Instead of asking me a question, she will email our boss, who will then come and ask me the question.  I then go to Lucy and explain to her that she should just come directly to me with her questions and not bother him, but she continues to do so.  Her latest thing is that she refuses to speak to me now---no good morning, no good night, nothing.  Ever try to train an employee who completely ignores you?  Not that it bothers me, though-all that means is that she's digging her own grave with her bad behavior.  She continually tries to make me look bad to the boss---with whom I've worked for many years, and who knows me and my work habits very well---by telling him lies and half-truths.    It's blowing up in her face though...I almost laughed out loud yesterday.  She really made a fool out of herself.  

We had our weekly Education Staff Meeting (group of about ten of us) and as I was going over my upcoming events and deadlines, I mentioned an after hours meeting I was having with a group of students last night.  As an afterthought, I asked Lucy if she planned to attend.  Her response was that she had never been informed of this meeting, that I had never invited her and that she was never told a thing about it.  I pointed out that yes, she had been told, that I had discussed it at our last staff meeting the week before, and that everyone present could (and did) confirm that.  She argued again that no, she was never told.  I let it go, but one of the other people was so irritated with her idiocy that she retrieved the agenda from last week and pointed out to our bosses that my meeting was, in fact, an agenda item.  Their responses?  Of course they remembered the discussion and they don't know why she does these things.   She's rude to the point that one of our chief residents stopped me in the hall yesterday and hugged me, telling me to hang in there, everyone knows I'm doing a good job, and that this will be over soon.   Not soon enough for me!  There's more, but I'll spare you the rest of the tale...   I'm glad to say, at least, that she has shown her bad behavior to other people, to the point where I think she is probably going to get fired soon (but not soon enough!).



When I saw the tales of Pot-Luck Terror in the last update, I knew this would fit right in.

I'm a Customer Service Rep. at a food delivery service. There are about 15 people in my office, including dispatchers. Summers are slow, summer weekends are extremely slow. About a year ago, we decided to hold some Saturday Night Potlucks. My boss sent e-mail asking who was going to bring what. My answer was deliberately vague. I ride 2 busses to work, and I racked my brain for something that traveled well and didn't require refrigeration.

I ended up bringing hummus, tabouleh, and pita bread. It went over well, especially with the (mostly middle-eastern) dispatchers. Aside from a potato salad that included ham (most of the dispatchers are Muslim), the potluck was a success. Another e-mail went around the next day, thanking those who participated and planning another potluck for the next month.

The day of the next potluck, I still hadn't figured out what to bring. I was running late, so I dashed into the supermarket on the way to the (first) bus. I bought a box of store-brand wheat crackers and some gourmet cheese. I made my bus, got to work on time, set my food up in the kitchen, and started my shift. The cheese and crackers went over well, and the potluck was a success, or so I thought.

In all my years at my job (with average turnover), there have only 2 people I didn't get along with. One of them is "Max". He's proud to be a thug, and likes to brag about his barhopping adventures, fights, slashing tires, and "borrowing" a friend's kid for the tax deduction. He's a big believer in getting "respect", but not giving it.

I work days during the week. One morning, I found used tissues on my desk. After 3 days of this, I checked the seating chart on the office bulletin board. Max sat at my desk nights, so I sent a (polite) email, asking him to throw away his used tissues. That Friday, I worked late. He walked in, turned on his computer, walked over to my desk, and screamed at me for daring to "disrespect" him. I reminded him that he's not my boss, and I will e-mail him as I see fit. He never apologized, and I haven't spoke to him since.

The day after the second potluck, another e-mail went around, asking about the next one. Max responded, to everyone, "Let's find out what people are bringing. Last time, someone brought Triscuits."

We haven't had a potluck since.



This happened earlier today. It is two days before Christmas and our last day at work before the long holiday weekend. My Co-worker, (we'll call her Joan) works with another co-worker (we'll call her Sybil). Their immediate supervisor is "Mandy". A few weeks ago, Joan and Sybil agreed that instead of buying gifts for each other, they would both contribute $$ and buy a joint gift for Mandy. Earlier this week, Sybil approaches Joan and tells her that she owes $13.00 toward Mandy's gift. Joan gives Sybil the $13.00, no problem. A day later, Sybil comes to work and gives Mandy her gift but also gives Joan a gift, a stuffed bear and a card, even though they had agreed not to exchange gifts between the two of them. Joan puts the bear on display at her desk.

Earlier today, Joan steps away from her desk and when she returns, notices that the bear is missing. She looks for it and happens to ask Sybil if she has seen it. Sybil pulls out the top drawer of her desk and there is the bear with a post-it note on it that says "being held hostage". Sybil then slams the drawer shut and tells Joan that her bear is being held hostage until she (Sybil) receives a gift from Joan. Joan was shocked and didn't know what to say except "you're kidding me". After lunch, Joan also came back to find the card that accompanied the bear was ripped off the side of her desk, where it had been taped up. The poor bear is now spending a lonely Christmas in some crazy woman's desk drawer.



I was relatively near the bottom of the food chain at my job, but was psyched to be given a "manager" type task in which I (a few years out of college) was delegating data design and collection work to two brand new college grads. I'd assigned the work out, one of the junior analysts peppered me with questions and was producing great work.  The second junior analyst (the "I live and die for my job" type) seemed busy with her work, but did not ask questions.

One Wednesday, I got the phone call that my grandmother (who had lived with my parents all my childhood) had finally died after a nasty battle with cancer.  I put my stuff in order at work, got into my car, and booked it 300 miles home to attend her funeral that Saturday. The data design and collection was due to my boss the following Tuesday. Imagine my horror while I was getting dressed to go to the funeral, to hear my cell phone ring, and see an unfamiliar number in my office's area code show up.  I figured I'd listen to the message - it was the second junior analyst calling me at 8 AM on a Saturday saying "Well, you haven't been in the office for the past few days, and I am trying to get this done for YOU, so please call me back.  I am confused and you are stressing me out!"   Two hours later leaving the funeral, I turned my phone back on, to see I've missed two more calls from the same junior analyst DURING THE FUNERAL.  One of them: "I know you're at a funeral and I'm sorry your grandmother's dead, but we have a deadline.  Please call me back!"  I got maybe about four other phone calls that day...  Keep in mind, I was not the only one taking a Sunday to attend this funeral - with all the doctors, lawyers, and high level executives there, many of whom had maybe met my grandmother a dozen times - only I, the insignificant, mid-twenties numbercruncher who had lived with this woman for 18 years, got urgent phone calls from my office.  I had my family looking at me like "what the hell is wrong with your coworkers" and even over heard my 20 year old cousin say, "See Dad, THAT'S why I never want an office job!"



A few months ago I started a new job at the same company I'd been at for a year. I switched to a new department where it was just me and two other girls. It's a very small department, needless to say. A couple months into the new position I missed a few days of work due to back pain. I had no idea what was wrong with me and I was in such pain that I couldn't even walk so I made a doctor's appointment. Turns out I had to have some minor back surgery and they scheduled me for the end of that week on Friday.

In the meantime I couldn't go to work so I explained to my manager what was up and she said that was fine and she didn't have a problem. She just felt bad I was missing out on valuable learning time, but that things happen.

I had the consult with the surgeon and said, "So I'll be back to work on Monday or Tuesday right?" She kind of laughed at me and said that it was more likely it'd take me about a week before I'd even want to move. I figured I'd see what happened.

To make a long story short - it ended up taking me until the NEXT Friday to get back to work and even then I should have taken one more week. It took me two and a half months total to heal after the surgery. I could barely sit yet when I went back to work. But I did it because I am a loyal person and I thought of my two co workers as my friends and I didn't want to let them down so I went back early.

Immediately I could tell things had changed. The girls did not want to answer any of my questions (we all ask questions at work as we are all new) and they just generally did not want much to do with me. They would go out to lunch and not even tell me they were going. They also had "meetings" that they went to without me and left me alone to handle the job we were all supposed to be doing.

A couple weeks ago I found out the reason for it. The girl who trained the three of us on our new job (she left for a new one in the company) is still in touch with our manager and she is also a bridesmaid in my upcoming wedding (that's how close she and I became during the training). She informed me of what I sort of suspected anyway (though not to this level) - that the two girls I work with had tried to get me fired shortly after I came back from surgery!! They thought the team would be "better as a two person team". Thank goodness my manager had the sense not to fall for this. They were unhappy since they had not gotten their way.

Things continue to be stressful even though I used to give one of them a ride home every day when she didn't have a car and I always offer both of them support when they are on-call for our job. However, when I try to call one of them if I'm in a bind their cell phones are conveniently turned off. I'll continue to try to kill them with kindness. I can only hope it will work.



I'm afraid I have a co-worker who is essentially clueless. While she does many things that are kind, she completely renders them null and void with tactless, thoughtless actions from time to time. The creme-de-la-creme came one day when the bad news went around the office that a couple of layoffs were inevitable. During a meeting, the two lowest people at her level--newer and therefore lower in seniority--were informed that their positions would almost inevitably be cut. Without a bat of an eyelash, she quickly snapped at our boss, "Well, I hope you're not expecting me to do their part of the work! I'm busy enough as it is!" Well, our boss "Bob" took this misguided co-worker aside and told her that her response was inappropriate and offensive, and that two of her fellow workers (one for ten plus years, who just happened to start a couple of weeks after her) were about to lose their livelihoods, a far bigger problem. I heard not too long after that said-co-worker approached both fellow employees to apologize. She simply stated, "Bob told me to tell you I'm sorry." You can't imagine how well that went over in the office!



Right out of college I had gotten a great job at a major bank working as an Administrative Assistant to a great guy, one of the department heads.  Well, one of the other department heads was this woman named "Claire."  She was from an upper class family, had married well, didn't have to work, but was good at what she did.  Plus she could come and go as she pleased as the bank President liked her and thought she did a good job (which, again, she was good at).  Now, I realize that as an "Administrative Assistant" I was pretty much on the low end of the business totem pole so to speak, but her treatment of me and my fellow admin assts was beyond tacky.    

First of all, Claire was on a different floor of the building from us, but would stop by every now and again for business purposes, especially since her boss' office was by me.  Well, we had a separate mini kitchen on our floor with a refridge and microwave and sink so we could bring our own lunches and whatnot.  Claire would basically go into our kitchen (even though she had one on her floor too), and help herself to our stuff!  Now this is not only wrong because it's mine and not hers, but, again, this is a woman that can more than afford to buy her own drinks and snacks as opposed to us especially right out of college and making minimum wage essentially.  I even went as far as to bring my own soft drink in a personalized 'huggie' from my house to denote that it belonged to someone.  She took the drink, still in the huggie and proceeded to walk around with it.  When I asked her about it, she stated that she thought the drinks in our fridge were for everyone (there were only 2 drinks in there and mine had my name on it!).  When I told her it was mine, she just said "Oops." No apology, no offer to replace it.   

Claire did not have an assistant of her own so when she needed something faxed, typed, mailed, etc., (which seemed to be everyday) she relied on her boss' admin to help her.  This admin was a very sweet woman who did not mind helping at all.  When Administrative Professional's Day rolled around, Claire made sure to get something for her boss for his 'letting her use his assistant' as she put it, but nothing for the actual assistant.  He gave the gift to his assistant anyway.   Then one Valentine's Day, she came up to my floor with a box.  She then proceeded to pass out cupcakes to the Department heads right in front of me and the other 4 admins.  When I asked her what she was doing, she stated that she had made cupcakes for everyone.  I said "oh that was nice" and kind of stood there waiting.  She then stated that she didn't have enough for the 5 of us, sorry!  That's fine, but don't pass them out in front of us.   Thanks for letting me vent about one of the biggest brown nosers I have ever met!  At least I can thank her for showing me how NOT to treat those that help you, especially now that I have my own admin asst.  



Many years ago, I worked as an Accounting Clerk for a non-profit youth services organization.  I can’t mention the name of this organization, but I can tell you that they known for their annual cookie sales.  I was employed there for almost five years and in that time I worked with some of the rudest, most inconsiderate people I have ever come in contact with. 

There were a few incidents that happened to me while I worked there that literally left me in tears.  I won’t go into those, but I can tell you about a few things that happened to me that I still laugh about.

One day I came to work wearing a short-sleeved summer sweater in a rust color.  I was walking down the hallway when one of my lovely co-workers stopped me and said, “ I’m sorry, I just have to tell you that you look terrible in that sweater.”  Needless to say I was a little shocked, and being that I was still young and a little shy, I simply smiled and walked away.

One other time there was a Board meeting in the conference room.  It was one of those “We’ll have lunch, so everybody bring a dish to pass” type meetings.   When the meeting ended and the Board members were cleaning up, I was on my break in the break room.  One of the Board members came in and asked me if I knew were the trash bags were kept.  I apologized and said I did not know.  She began looking around for them.  A moment later, another Board member came in and asked me the same question.  Before I could answer, the first Board member replied, “Don’t ask her. She doesn’t know anything!”  I exited the break room and left them to their search.

Finally, the coup de grace.  One year we had our annual Christmas lunch.  It was another “Bring a dish to pass” type things.  Now, I am probably the world’s worst cook, however, there are a few things I can bake pretty well and one of them is a cake which, while it’s actually quite easy to make, takes quite a while to prepare.  I brought this cake in for the party and was quite pleased that so many people seemed to enjoy it.  When the party was over, there was still a couple of pieces of cake left.  Another of my lovely co-workers asked me if she could have another piece.  I said, “Of course, help yourself.”  While she was busy stuffing her face full of the cake I made, she said to me, “Gee this is great cake.  No wonder you’re so fat.”



I recently resigned from my job, which is a story in itself....anyway, my department loves, I mean LOVES, to throw parties (often at nice restaurants), take up collections, buy gifts, etc.  In the  2 years I was there, I attended 4 farewell parties, 4 baby showers (one 2nd, one 4th and 2 5th babies!!!) and was asked (often guilted into) to contribute to different "causes."  Being on a very limited budget, I had to take a stand and gracefully say "no" on the many occasions I was approached for cash.  This was met with much gossip and some taunting.  Unfortunately, I have a bleeding heart and did not take my stand often enough because I forked over too much dough in my time there. *Sigh*.   

As my final weeks were approaching, I was told there were no funds left for a going-away party for me.  I was not too bothered by this, but I thought it was ironic that they ran out of money when my time was due. :) Well, they did find some money, I thought, because they soon announced that they WERE going to have a (pizza) party for all staff interested.  The party was supposed to be a surprise, but one co-worker with severe jealousy issues told me about it.  BUT the real kicker was the fact that they were charging staff to eat at my party.  I guess funds WERE low?  It gets better...quite a few employees who had not paid asked to eat (there was a lot of pizza left) and were told, "No pay, no eat."  And they really didn't let them eat!!!  I did not know this until after the fact, which is probably a good thing because I am sure I would have finally exploded!


Page Last Updated May 18, 2007