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Author Topic: Returning to work and toxic co-worker soon.  (Read 3327 times)

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Farwood13

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Returning to work and toxic co-worker soon.
« on: August 20, 2015, 02:25:02 PM »
I work for a small local business with no HR department. When our manager left about 2 1/5 years ago and I took over many of his duties (computer record keeping, payroll, and ordering) but others were given to another staff member (scheduling and hiring- with the owner's approval).  I also continue to do my previous job which involves the front desk.  I have been out for two months following the birth of my second child and will soon be returning to work. There is one front desk staff member who has been there longer then me- Betty.  Betty is an older woman and, while polite to the customers, is really rude and abrasive.
Not too long after I found out I was pregnant she started singling me out for her abuse. For example:
    Betty knew I was going to swing by on my day off to pick up something and so she promised a customer I'd call them as soon as I got in- KNOWING it was my day off and the issue would take awhile to resolve, instead of letting them know I'd call them on Monday.
    She would wait until I started my shift then tell me the repair man had to be called because the washer wasn't working but then ignore my questions and leave before telling me what it was actually doing.
    Over the holidays we would switch the sirius radio to the holiday station. When someone requested the station Betty mentioned she didn't know which number it was. I was there and told her it was station X. She then snapped at me "Well *I* don't have sirius at home."
    Constantly moans how she is the only one who does any work around the building and that the customers tell her what happens at night so she "Knows everything that goes on."

I tried to ignore it and soldier on but it got so bad (after two+ months) I eventually went to the owner with the issues.  Betty then convinced the owner that her treatment of me was because I'd been being rude to HER. I considered quitting even though I didn't have another job lined up and was visibly pregnant. Then I started talking to other staff members and found out I wasn't the only one who had issues with her.  (Apparently the old manager left in part because of her behavior and her being able to convince the owner she was the one wronged.)

So I'm soon to return to work and DON'T want to let her walk all over me again.  I would like to know how to handle:
When she request I do something that she can easily take care of herself (like calling the repair man who's number is posted up front).
When she makes promises to customers that I'm not able to do or that would be really inconvenient.
When she makes comments that she is the only one who does work (I usually ignore her and walk away).
What to respond with, if anything, to "I know what goes on here at night." (shall I cheekily reply: "wonderful! please make me a list of issues so they can be addressed!)

Really just advice in general would be lovely. Last time I returned from maternity leave I'd have panic attacks when I had to leave for work. I REFUSE to let the situation degrade to that point again.

I hope that was clear. I wish I could provide more examples but the file I was using to document her behavior prior to leaving can't be pulled up on my home computer.

Really?

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Re: Returning to work and toxic co-worker soon.
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2015, 02:33:27 PM »
Now that you are returning to work, will other workers go to the owner also about this other employee?

camlan

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Re: Returning to work and toxic co-worker soon.
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2015, 02:58:09 PM »
I work for a small local business with no HR department. When our manager left about 2 1/5 years ago and I took over many of his duties (computer record keeping, payroll, and ordering) but others were given to another staff member (scheduling and hiring- with the owner's approval).  I also continue to do my previous job which involves the front desk.  I have been out for two months following the birth of my second child and will soon be returning to work. There is one front desk staff member who has been there longer then me- Betty.  Betty is an older woman and, while polite to the customers, is really rude and abrasive.
Not too long after I found out I was pregnant she started singling me out for her abuse. For example:
    Betty knew I was going to swing by on my day off to pick up something and so she promised a customer I'd call them as soon as I got in- KNOWING it was my day off and the issue would take awhile to resolve, instead of letting them know I'd call them on Monday.
    She would wait until I started my shift then tell me the repair man had to be called because the washer wasn't working but then ignore my questions and leave before telling me what it was actually doing.
    Over the holidays we would switch the sirius radio to the holiday station. When someone requested the station Betty mentioned she didn't know which number it was. I was there and told her it was station X. She then snapped at me "Well *I* don't have sirius at home."
    Constantly moans how she is the only one who does any work around the building and that the customers tell her what happens at night so she "Knows everything that goes on."

I tried to ignore it and soldier on but it got so bad (after two+ months) I eventually went to the owner with the issues.  Betty then convinced the owner that her treatment of me was because I'd been being rude to HER. I considered quitting even though I didn't have another job lined up and was visibly pregnant. Then I started talking to other staff members and found out I wasn't the only one who had issues with her.  (Apparently the old manager left in part because of her behavior and her being able to convince the owner she was the one wronged.)

So I'm soon to return to work and DON'T want to let her walk all over me again.  I would like to know how to handle:
When she request I do something that she can easily take care of herself (like calling the repair man who's number is posted up front).

"I'm very busy right now. Why don't you handle that? I won't be able to get to it for hours/tomorrow." Or, "Because you know what the problem is, you are the best one to call."

Or--maybe there should be a designated person to make repair calls?


When she makes promises to customers that I'm not able to do or that would be really inconvenient.

"Betty, you should have checked with me before committing me to something I cannot do. You'll need to call the customer and explain." Then walk away. Also start documenting this, so that you can bring this up to your boss as an issue.

But the main thing is that just because Betty committed you to something does not mean you have to do it. You might want to let your boss know immediately, so that you are covered. "Boss, somehow Betty committed me to calling a customer on my day off. I'm not going to be able to do that, so I'm letting you know so that you can make sure the customer is taken care of."


When she makes comments that she is the only one who does work (I usually ignore her and walk away).

"I'm working over here. Sue and Bob are working. What is it that causes you to think no one else is working?"


What to respond with, if anything, to "I know what goes on here at night." (shall I cheekily reply: "wonderful! please make me a list of issues so they can be addressed!)

"That's nice. We worked hard last night, so I'm glad all our work is being appreciated."

Really just advice in general would be lovely. Last time I returned from maternity leave I'd have panic attacks when I had to leave for work. I REFUSE to let the situation degrade to that point again.

I hope that was clear. I wish I could provide more examples but the file I was using to document her behavior prior to leaving can't be pulled up on my home computer.

The general advice that I would give would be to document the work-related issues. Then bring them up to your boss, not in a "Betty is really causing issues here," way, but in an "This situation keeps occurring and it is affecting how I get my job done," sort of way.

But if your boss isn't going to have your back here, may I suggest that you start looking for another job? Because it seems as if your choice is get another job or deal with Betty.

Sometimes  you see behavior like Betty's from people who like to get a rise out of others. The less you show you are bothered by the behavior, eventually the behavior will stop. It might escalate briefly, but if you appear absolutely unphased by any of it, it might stop altogether and Betty will move on to her next victim. Channel Spock; raise one eyebrow (even if only mentally) at the strange behavior of some humans.

The other thing to do is call these people out on their statements. When Betty says no one is working but her,  mildly point out that you and several others are working, and ask her why she thinks no one is working. When she says she knows what goes on at night, mildly and calmly point out that *work* goes on overnight, and ask her why she thinks anything else might be going on. Your attitude should be that of someone mildly, vaguely curious, about to walk away from the whole conversation because you find it a tad boring.
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


LazyDaisy

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Re: Returning to work and toxic co-worker soon.
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2015, 03:06:36 PM »
There is no reason that you are obligated to fulfill any promises that she makes to the customers on your days off, or any requests that aren't a part of your regular job. Just don't do it and if questioned about it, respond that Betty knew it was your day off/not your responsibility and of course you wouldn't be able to do that task. Keep repeating that. When she tells you that she told a customer you'd do something on your day off, just look confused and say, "But Betty, you are aware that today is my day off so it won't be possible until Monday. I have to go now."

If she's requesting that you do something that is part of your job, and during your shift, but would be more convenient for you if she did it, well, that's not really harassment or abuse. It sounds like you don't like that she is telling you what needs to be done but IME, that's just part of working with people. It's rude of her to walk away but better than prolonging a conversation with someone you don't like -- check the washer yourself (I'd do that anyway even if she did tell you what was wrong, just to verify with your own eyes).

If there is nothing going wrong at night, there is nothing to get upset about. Just look blankly at her or shrug and say, "OK." It sounds like she knows that makes you upset. As soon as you take away the "reward" by refusing to get upset, she'll probably move on to someone else or give up. The rest of her comments you are handling correctly...ignore and walk away.

If she's says she's the only one working, I'd respond something along the lines of, "You sound overwhelmed," or "I'm sure if you can't handle your tasks, we can get you some help."
"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools." — Douglas Adams

wheeitsme

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Re: Returning to work and toxic co-worker soon.
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2015, 05:27:44 PM »

So I'm soon to return to work and DON'T want to let her walk all over me again.  I would like to know how to handle:

1.  When she request I do something that she can easily take care of herself (like calling the repair man who's number is posted up front).
2.  When she makes promises to customers that I'm not able to do or that would be really inconvenient.
3.  When she makes comments that she is the only one who does work (I usually ignore her and walk away).
4.  What to respond with, if anything, to "I know what goes on here at night." (shall I cheekily reply: "wonderful! please make me a list of issues so they can be addressed!)


1. "That's sweet of you, but I'm sure it's something you should handle."

2.  Don't do it.  To her "I'm sorry if it wasn't clear that it won't be possible for me to do right now" to the customer "I'm sorry, I can't imagine her promising something like that.  It's not possible right now"

3.  Walk away as usual.  Keep a hidden tally sheet.  After the 5th time, think Yahtze! and treat yourself to chocolate.

4. Possible Replies:  "Good?"  "Tell me you haven't set up hidden cameras. That would be creepy. (laugh)" "That's nice?"

 ;)

Zizi-K

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Re: Returning to work and toxic co-worker soon.
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2015, 07:02:52 PM »
That last two on the list, about her doing all the work and knowing "what goes on", are to me just weird and annoying. I would roll my eyes, or just make some offhand comment like "Yeah, the rest of us are just sitting around twiddling our thumbs!" or "Oh yes, this place would just collapse without you."

But the first two are more serious. Does this woman have any power over you, can she issue orders to you? If she tells a customer that you'd do something on your day off, I'd throw it back in her lap. "Oh really, Jane? But you know it's my day off, why would you do that? In any case, you'll have to call that customer back and let them know I'll be with them on Monday, since I'm not working today."

And if she pulls some shenanigans like giving you an order without the information to do it, I'd throw it in the boss's lap. "John, Jane just told me that the washer was broken, but she refused to give me any details and then left. Do you know what's going on with it?" Or just tell her no. "Actually Jane, since you're already familiar with the situation, I'll let you go ahead and do it. My morning is really busy anyway."

Just be teflon. Act confused about why she's acting the way she is. Calmly deflect what she throws at you, and definitely don't allow yourself to be railroaded into working on your day off!

mime

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Re: Returning to work and toxic co-worker soon.
« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2015, 12:58:06 PM »

Hmmm... here are my thoughts:
1.  When she request I do something that she can easily take care of herself (like calling the repair man who's number is posted up front).
   *give look of sympathy* "Sure... are you uncomfortable handling this yourself?"
2.  When she makes promises to customers that I'm not able to do or that would be really inconvenient.
   I already like the others' responses along the lines of "you'll have to call her back and to tell her that you forgot I'm unavailable today"
3.  When she makes comments that she is the only one who does work.
   *with look of concern and curiosity* "You say that a lot. It seems to bother you-- have you talked to Boss about it?"
4.  What to respond with, if anything, to "I know what goes on here at night."
   *with uninterested air* "uh-huh. So do I."
   or just repeat the #3 response: "You say that a lot. It seems to bother you-- have you talked to Boss about it?"

Or is the false concern rude?

I kinda like the suggestion that she take her problems to the Boss. If he/she has to listen to more of it, Betty will start to lose credibility.



FauxFoodist

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Re: Returning to work and toxic co-worker soon.
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2015, 01:48:05 PM »
Since it's a small business with no HR, would it be bad for the rest of you to go to Owner as a group and state the issues you're having with Betty or would that be poor form?

bopper

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Re: Returning to work and toxic co-worker soon.
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2015, 03:16:24 PM »
Try searching on "rude coworker" at askamanager.org

TabathasGran

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Re: Returning to work and toxic co-worker soon.
« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2015, 08:12:46 AM »
I have had success in standing up to people like this.
I'm nice and polite and then one day I make it clear that I'm not tolerating it any longer.
It's wild to watch how drastically their behavior can change.

I think you just need to decide you are not going to tolerate it, and then don't.

She tells you to do something she could do, without details needed (like call the repair man):
"Betty, I'll need you to take care of that since you have all the details about the problem."

She tells you to do something on your day off:
"Betty, you had better call the customer and explain you were mistaken since I'm not working today."

She says no one works but her:
"Betty, what exactly do you mean by that? It's really not true, and it's a really awful accusation."


Farwood13

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Re: Returning to work and toxic co-worker soon.
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2015, 03:01:41 PM »
If she's requesting that you do something that is part of your job, and during your shift, but would be more convenient for you if she did it, well, that's not really harassment or abuse. It sounds like you don't like that she is telling you what needs to be done but IME, that's just part of working with people. It's rude of her to walk away but better than prolonging a conversation with someone you don't like -- check the washer yourself (I'd do that anyway even if she did tell you what was wrong, just to verify with your own eyes).

If there is nothing going wrong at night, there is nothing to get upset about. Just look blankly at her or shrug and say, "OK." It sounds like she knows that makes you upset. As soon as you take away the "reward" by refusing to get upset, she'll probably move on to someone else or give up. The rest of her comments you are handling correctly...ignore and walk away.

If she's says she's the only one working, I'd respond something along the lines of, "You sound overwhelmed," or "I'm sure if you can't handle your tasks, we can get you some help."

LazyDaisy this helped me look at the situation another way and really solidified something that has been bugging me since I took on the computer end of the old manager's job: what tasks have actually been delegated to who.  There was no clear: Betty you are in charge of ABC and Farwood you need to take care of XYZ beyond a few tasks. It is possible that Betty thinks she can't call the repair person where anyone can. (I usually check with the owner if it is a "It might be a good idea to have this looked" at vs. "CRUD MONKEYS! grab a mop!!")  I think I will double check with the owner and then the next time this comes up let her know she is able to call the repair person when warranted.  If anything similar comes up then I will check with the owner on those as well.
If I return to work with the mindset it was a communication/delegation failure it makes me feel much more favorable towards Betty!

Side note: Betty usually has someone in her cross hairs. In the past I've been "Thank heavens it isn't me!" but recently I've realized that if it is happening it isn't good period and I end up feeling guilty for not stepping up and helping defuse the situation.

Farwood13

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Re: Returning to work and toxic co-worker soon.
« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2015, 03:11:55 PM »
Thank you everyone. I'm going to have to start practicing these responses in front of the mirror so I can sound confident when I return to work next week. It is so easy to cave when you haven't defined to yourself what your boundaries are.
I will also continue to document everything; and this time ensure I can access them on my computer at home!

Really?

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Re: Returning to work and toxic co-worker soon.
« Reply #12 on: Yesterday at 12:13:21 AM »
Hope all goes well and look forward to a hopefully happy update.

Margo

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Re: Returning to work and toxic co-worker soon.
« Reply #13 on: Yesterday at 04:00:20 AM »
Quote
So I'm soon to return to work and DON'T want to let her walk all over me again.  I would like to know how to handle:
When she request I do something that she can easily take care of herself (like calling the repair man who's number is posted up front).
"As you are familiar with the problem, it would be best for you to call him. His number is posted up front. Could you also make a note of the specific problem so that if you are not here when he comes, whichever iof us deals with it know what the problem is" or a more general
"No thanks, you go ahead. I'm sure you can manage" (which makes it harder for her to not do it without implying that she can't in fact, manage.
Quote
When she makes promises to customers that I'm not able to do or that would be really inconvenient.
Don't do it. To her, say "Oh dear, you need to call the customer back and let them know that isn't possible - did you forget that this is my day off?"
Do whatever it is at the appropriate time. If a customer says that she promised them you would do it, then you reply to the customer ""I'm so sorry, I have no idea why [name] would have told you that I would do that, that was never a possibility as Monday is my day off (or whatever). I'll mention it to her, as of course she should have called you back to let you know she had given you incorrect information"
 
Quote
When she makes comments that she is the only one who does work (I usually ignore her and walk away).
I'd try to respond with something light "Oh, I wish that were true. I could do with the break!"
If she continues than I would actually call her out on it  "What an unpleasant thing to say. Why would you want to insult all of your colleagues like that?"

Quote
What to respond with, if anything, to "I know what goes on here at night." (shall I cheekily reply: "wonderful! please make me a list of issues so they can be addressed!)
[smile] Well of course you do. So do I, so do we all. It's pretty much the same as what goes on during the day. Of course, if you mean that you think something goes on which shouldn't, then of course you need to let [whoever is in charge at night] know, so they can address it.

I would also stsart to document her behaviour and encourage your colleagues to do so, and condider spekaing to the owner together, so it is harder for them to claim / suggest that it ios you, rather than she, who is the problem.

Redneck Gravy

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Re: Returning to work and toxic co-worker soon.
« Reply #14 on: Yesterday at 08:42:53 AM »
Many great ideas from others.

You might try the active listening response, "so what I'm hearing Betty is that you promised a customer I would call them on my day off is that correct?  Why would you do that?"

"So what I am hearing you say Betty is that no one else works here?  Hmmm I'm sure everyone else would find that an interesting assumption."

"So what I am hearing you say Betty is that the washer needs to be repaired, please write down exactly what it is doing and tape it to the washer please.  Then when the repairman gets here he will know what is going on too."

"Betty what I am hearing is that you know what goes on around here at night, is there something going on that the rest of us should know?"

Repeat what you heard and deflect back... usually a few times of this and the problem stops.  If not, as you said, document, document.