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tjika

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strange colleague
« on: December 13, 2013, 01:50:59 PM »
I had a very strange conversation today which I would like your opinion on.

the situation. I work in a call center. we can't leave our desk unless on break. when there are few calls coming in we are free to talk to each though of course can't leave our workstation.

yesterday I was sitting next to Mary and on the other side of Mary was Sarah. Mary was reading an internet site and I started talking to Sarah. we pulled our chairs back a little so we looking at each other behind Mary so as not to speak over her. Mary then suddenly turned to me, said something and started to point to something on the website. I responded by saying I was talking to Sarah just then. when we finished our conversation, I turned back to Mary and asked what she wanted to show me and we started a conversation.

anything strange here?

this morning, Mary came up the me and said she didn't like what I said yesterday. I asked for clarification and it turns out she didn't like that I said I was having a conversation with Sarah and would i make sure to never say that to her again. I was rather baffled and said that if I was having a conversation with somebody and she interrupted I might very well say the same thing depending on the circumstances. she repeated what she said and I told her I could not do that.

I thought that finished, but no. about an hour later, I passed her on my way to the bathroom and she repeated what she said again.  saying i had told her twice she was interrupting in the last few weeks and she didn't want me to say that to her again.  this time I told her it was completely normal to tell somebody if they were interupting . I then quickly left to go to the bathroom.

was there anything I did wrong? it was just so strange.

artk2002

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Re: strange colleague
« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2013, 01:55:35 PM »
Although the physical layout makes it a bit awkward, I don't see that you did anything wrong. Mary interrupted a conversation and you pointed that out to her. If she doesn't like what you said, she can avoid interrupting conversations.
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SamiHami

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Re: strange colleague
« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2013, 02:07:17 PM »
Mary sounds snowflakey. Is there a history with Mary or is this the first time she's acted odd?

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TootsNYC

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Re: strange colleague
« Reply #3 on: December 13, 2013, 02:15:50 PM »
maybe it's the way you're saying it?
Maybe she's oversensitive?

You could consider the first idea, since it's the one you can do something about--and, even if you weren't actually insensitive, you could conceivably try a different wording/tone/gesture combo that might help her cope with the second.

So, "just a sec, let me finish with Sarah" instead of "I am talking to Sarah right now." A more casual word choice (formality sounds scolding sometimes), a warmth in your voice, etc. Something that indicates she is welcome, but you have to postpone, instead of the full-on "shutoff."

Anyway, you might think of a phrase and delivery that is welcoming even as you say, "hang on a minute, I can't ignore this person I'm currently talking to."

Quote
saying i had told her twice she was interrupting in the last few weeks and she didn't want me to say that to her again.  this time I told her it was completely normal to tell somebody if they were interupting .

I'd have been tempted to say, "Well, then, Mary, stop interrupting me. Sometimes I talk with people who are nearby, and you might need to wait for a pause in the conversation, or be willing to wait for me to finish my sentence."

But I will say, if Mary pops up, you should be willing to wind up w/ Sarah pretty quickly--given the open workplace, etc. When someone who is not a stranger indicates that they'd like your attention, you should give it to them pretty soon--even if it's to say, "I can't give you my attention."
   Which of course you did--but given that this was a -social- conversation, you should shift to the new convo relatively soon.

EllenS

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Re: strange colleague
« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2013, 02:23:13 PM »
It sounds to me like Mary is trying to pick a fight, or perhaps she is just very sensitive to being included, and you talking past her makes her feel "left out". That's pretty childish, but it happens.

I might just start mmm-hmmm'ing her.  So when she interrupts, don't explicitly tell her so, but just mmm-hmmm and don't derail the other conversation.  It's possible you are coming across as needlessly confrontational when you call her out on interrupting.

I think it's tough for a person to be talked past and try to figure out how to fit in, but it's also odd to keep harping on it.

MrTango

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Re: strange colleague
« Reply #5 on: December 13, 2013, 02:27:26 PM »
"I'll give your request all due attention."

(Which in this case is none, but you don't need to tell her that part.)  >:D

tjika

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Re: strange colleague
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2013, 02:22:05 AM »
Mary is definitely super sensitive. other colleagues have also observed this.

she seems to have very low esteem of herself as well.

its true that she really wants to be included but she makes this really hard for us. we already worry about what we say to her as she often comes back to the conversation a week later. its usually her apologizing for something she said a week ago or that she didn't like what we said. after a week I have little recollection of the details as we don't have very serious conversations. usually we're just goofing off.

at this point, I'm starting to think of making sure I never sit next to her again, but she'll probably have something to say about that.

citadelle

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Re: strange colleague
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2013, 02:49:37 PM »
Mary is definitely super sensitive. other colleagues have also observed this.

she seems to have very low esteem of herself as well.

its true that she really wants to be included but she makes this really hard for us. we already worry about what we say to her as she often comes back to the conversation a week later. its usually her apologizing for something she said a week ago or that she didn't like what we said. after a week I have little recollection of the details as we don't have very serious conversations. usually we're just goofing off.

at this point, I'm starting to think of making sure I never sit next to her again, but she'll probably have something to say about that.

She probably thinks she's exercising her spine. I'd be polite but try to avoid conversation.

bloo

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Re: strange colleague
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2013, 05:09:00 PM »
She sounds like a handful.

I think you did fine and she is looking to take offense. Some people just do.

Back when I was 19 or so I was waiting tables at a diner in PA. It didn't take long to get the hang of the job, but on my first week it was a little overwhelming because there's quite a few details that I needed to know 'now'. Training took the form of putting on an apron and getting on the floor and being told occasionally, 'We do it this way, bloo,' or 'Don't do it that way, bloo'. Within a week or so I was basically a veteran.

Then they hired Maryann a few months later. We all pitched in to train her, but her second day on the job the dining room was slow and I noticed she had placed the bus tub on a bench seat (a no no). So I just said, 'Hey Mary, please don't put the tub on the bench, okay? We either place it on the table or hold it.'

She just said, 'Okay' and removed the tub. I didn't think anything of it until 15-20 minutes later when she cornered me in the kitchen and asked me not to correct her in front of anyone again. I explained that I would not be able to do that as there were a lot of details to the job and I wouldn't be able to effectively wait on my own customers if I had to keep bringing her into a corner of the kitchen to let her know how to do something or not to do something. I also explained that this is how all of us are/were trained. She said, 'I see.' I went back to work and didn't think anything of it.

She quit over it, complaining to the head waitress and the owner. They apparently (with eyes rolling) accepted her resignation as they didn't plan on correcting me. My coworkers were glad to be rid of her and I could not have cared any less. It's been over 20 years and I'm guessing (hoping?) she's grown a thicker skin by now.

katycoo

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Re: strange colleague
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2013, 06:26:08 PM »
I wonder if its HOW you said it?  Perhaps she felt chastised.

WishUponAStar

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Re: strange colleague
« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2013, 10:21:58 PM »
You were totally fine.

I was in a similar situation where the other person took it a step further. I was giving a tutoring lesson  and teaching adults. I was helping one woman when a man interrupted and asked me a question. I said, ''Excuse me, I will help you as soon as I finish helping her'' and just kept right on talking and acting as though he should get the attention and not have to wait! I told him twice more that I would assist him after I had helped her and he just kept right on talking and ignoring me. I had to stop myself from saying some very unEhell approved things.  >:D  He then sat there sighing and looking angry while I assisted the lady with her question.

Unless you told her in a rude manner to wait (which I doubt), then it sounds to me like she is just being childish.

JenJay

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Re: strange colleague
« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2013, 11:15:13 PM »
I think you were fine and she's being over sensitive.

When I worked retail I was taught to make eye contact with the interrupting customer, smile and say "I'll be right with you." and then finish my transaction/conversation with my current customer, ignoring further attempts to interrupt (if the person was being obnoxious and pushy). I think that would work here.

Goose

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Re: strange colleague
« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2013, 06:55:24 AM »
I believe there is really nothing you can do to appease Mary in this situation, other than brightly smiling and immediately giving her your full attention and dropping the convo with Sarah.  I would continue doing exactly as you're doing, as you did absolutely nothing wrong.
Well, maybe find a way to sit directly next to Sarah to make conversation easier.   :)

Some people just don't like being told "no", no matter how nicely or politely you say it.  They will always make you out to be the rude one if you don't give them exactly what they want.  I know a person like this.

For instance, I was watching a TV show that I was very interested in.  "M" comes in and starts trying to talk over the show.  I turned to her, smile, and say, "Hey I'm really interested in this show.  Could you please wait a couple of minutes for commercials?  We can certainly talk then.  :)"
Her response:   Storm out of the room looking angry, and coming back five minutes later red-faced angry and crying!  She then proceeded to rant about how awful and rude I was.  She was extremely upset, simply because I told her to wait a couple minutes.  By the way, this person is not three years old.  She is in her forties.
(edited for spelling)
« Last Edit: December 17, 2013, 08:13:57 AM by Goose »