Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to control whatever narrative they construct about you. When someone wants to label you as the problem, you cannot behave your way out of that rut, through no fault of your own. Sometimes, we have lousy work experiences and yearn for someone to know what we’ve been through. I definitely urge you to talk to your friends and loved ones but to also consider therapy. Toxic work environments can really affect our mental health and you will most likely find the closure you are seeking within yourself.
A Game of Telephone
I started a new job and a former client, an executive, recommended me for the position. I’ve learned about the organization and what I’m expected to do. The challenge has been with one co-worker in particular. To say she openly hates me would be an understatement. The breaking point happened when I was asked to participate in a meeting for a business she supports. I was on a call with three of my colleagues when I let this problem co-worker know I’d be part of the session so she wouldn’t be blindsided. She had a complete meltdown on the call.
She let me know she felt I didn’t respect her and that I had no business working on her client’s business. She dropped off the call. I immediately wrote to her to let her know I intended no disrespect. She didn’t respond and has been openly hostile since that meeting. I asked my manager if we needed to have an intervention to clear the air so we could find a workable professional footing. My manager responded that this co-worker had apologized to her (my boss) and that if I had any work-related questions, to send them through my boss and she would ask this co-worker to provide me with an answer.
I don’t need to be friends with this person but having to take extra precautions to make sure her feathers aren’t ruffled has created a lot of stress. Have things changed that much since my last full-time position? Is it normal for a manager to address this type of situation in this way?
— Anonymous, Chicago
This situation is absolutely bonkers. I am bewildered by the number of letters I get from people working with really hostile individuals who seem to be given free rein to behave so badly. Now, there is some information missing from this letter. When did this animosity start? Did you two have an argument? Do you know each other outside of work? Do you have any sense of what is fueling this person’s attitude toward you?
Regardless, what she is doing is not OK! It is beyond ridiculous that a grown woman requires a third party to mediate basic professional communication. I do not understand why this behavior is being enabled. She had a tantrum on a business call and apologized only to your manager? This is not business as usual.
I suggest speaking with your manager, clearly outlining your concerns, and asking for a more workable solution than this game of playground telephone you’re being asked to undertake. Ideally, your manager should hold a meeting with the three of you to clear the air, identify how the working relationship will function moving forward and establish consequences if the co-worker (or you, if you’ve done something to antagonize her) cannot behave professionally. I hope you can find some resolution here.
I have been at my job for three months and we are at the point in the year where we set individual professional goals for the next year. My supervisor is also urging me to think of five- and 10-year plans.
I am struggling! In previous jobs, goal-setting has been a box-checking exercise implemented by human resources. Supervisors and H.R. would urge us to be creative with setting goals and identifying professional development opportunities, reminding us that raises and promotions were linked with meeting our goals. I would put energy and thought into developing goals. When it came time to check in on my progress, I was met with a “keep up the good work; we don’t have money in the budget for a raise.”
This bait and switch has left me with little motivation to identify and set goals in my new job. Honestly, I just want to do my job, and do it well. All of this feels like extra work. I’ve told my new supervisor about this past experience and they are supportive, but also insistent since this is a H.R. policy. How do you feel about goal-setting at work? How do you find motivation and creativity in your professional development when both are missing?
— Anonymous, Washington, D.C.
Busy work is tedious and frustrating and yes, professional goal setting is, sometimes, busy work. Clearly, you’ve had a frustrating time with these activities in the past. Sometimes, this kind of work is a bridge to nowhere. But you are at a new job, so maybe it’s time for a new outlook. You seem to have a supervisor who is invested in your future, which is a good start. Maybe this, too, will be a bridge to nowhere but perhaps it is useful to reframe your thinking.