Today I came into work and found that my problematic worker had collapsed in front of my desk. The person who was covering the shift before me thought that it might be a low blood sugar issue or dehydration since they were on a sports league together and the coach had been pushing them pretty hard. But when I offered her assistance, she pretty willfully refused even though she couldn’t even hold herself up. So next came the dilemma. It is my responsibility, if she was in as bad a shape as she seemed to be to notify someone and get her medical attention. If it turned out there was a problem and I didn’t intervene, that had one set of really daunting consequences.
But if it turned out that she was not that bad off but just using it as an excuse to be willful and melodramatic (which was plausible since her refusal of medical attention communicated to me that she was not in the state of mind to make decisions that best reflected what was in her best interest), there were another set of unfavorable consequences associated with making the call to force her to take medical attention and would divert resources away from people who really needed it. So I quickly made a decision and pursued a third option. I went and got someone else (someone that she trusted from management) to attend to her so that they could make the call.
Three sips of water and a snickers bar later, she was fine and I went off to do work in another part of the building. When she saw me coming around the corner, she took off. She came back to work later still in a pissy mood; only this time, she had an audience.
She’d brought another woman from her sports league. I noticed that many of them had started acting weirdly around me at the gym, so I knew that my actions had been misrepresented by some form of malicious gossip, and they were constantly looking for some indication or behavior to confirm what they heard was true, but alas I hadn’t yet given them that satisfaction mostly because I just kept behaving consistently.
The worker camped out at a post in front of my cubicle and I sat back in the corner, which faces the wall and worked on something quietly. Behind me I could hear discussion taking place about the impending deadline for labor contracts. Rather than ask the person on duty, who she’d had a clash with, or any of the other people standing around on her shift where she could find the form (they were due that afternoon), she called across the cubicle to me. I should probably note that I have nothing to do with that process, don’t receive input or emails regarding that aspect of our business, so any information I have I simply overhear. …and I had just happened to overhear the person who coordinates the labor contracts tell the person on duty that he would be left with the forms to distribute to any workers who hadn’t yet submitted their forms.
So when I answered, “Bob has them,” it was about exactly the same time that “Bob” also replied to her that he was in possession of the forms. And she didn’t seem to hear either one of us so she asked again in a much more forceful tone. To which I calmly replied “Bob has the forms” to make it clear that I was actually addressing her question because I didn’t want to see the situation escalate. Silly me.
At this point, the sports league friend had also overheard what was happening and told her “I think she said that Bob has the forms,” and the woman got out of her seat and started to lay into me, unprovoked, and for no reason. ” NO, I’M ASKING where to get the labor contract FORMS.” I could feel my eyes widen and I looked at her friend who also seemed a bit startled and perplexed at the quickly escalating situation. I felt just a brief spike of adrenaline, followed by crippling exhaustion and I replied again quietly and calmly (and everyone could tell from the tone of my voice that I had grown pretty tired of this but also didn’t want to invite any further conflict). “Bob has a clipboard, that has the labor forms on it. You can get one from him…”
Bob also chimed in with bewilderment. “Hey, I told you, I have the forms right here…” Then she looked around. Her friend looked horrified (and a little bit guilty). I felt a small twinge of relief (and possibly dopamine) that she’d just made an ass of herself… followed by my own guilt.
I don’t want to pattern myself to feel rewarded when someone fails at displaying good character. I can’t condone being cruel at another’s hubris even if they deserve it or they’ve earned it by being rude
I skimmed through several articles about corporate hubris and workplace bullying, but realized that it isn’t really a topic that’s discussed very often even though it seems to be (from what I understand from discussions I’ve had with entry level millennials) to be a pretty real and reoccurring thing.
I’m always wary of acting as a perpetrator of Queen Bee Syndrome, which is why I try to focus more so on performance metrics and upon equipping my workers both male and female to build their capacity for leadership because I know how it feels. My last boss (don’t worry, it’s not chronologically aligned with what I have listed in my resume) was a bit of a queen when it came to his treatment of female workers. And I’d worked for another who would take down half the hive to get back at one bee that fell out of line. So I am not exactly thrilled about having to watch the safe space culture I worked so hard to build dismantled. But because I am not her supervisor and there will always be suspicion that I’m not assessing her equitably since I’d raised concerns prior to her promotion it kind of leaves my hands tied. My options include, but are not necessarily limited to the following:
a) I can address the issue with her directly (I’d need a tape recorder before I tried anything that risky)
b) document her behavior and my attempts to get upper management to get them to issue a stop order (which has its own set of risky ramifications)
c) do nothing (which seems only to escalate the situation since she seems to interpret that as some form of complicit behavior).
d) egg her on silently and let her tire herself out until she either crosses the line or experiences a breakdown publicly
e) research the matter more (although frankly I find the whole thing exhausting. Once upon a time, in another job when I was allowed to fire people, I would have let her go and the entire staff would have totally backed me).
As you can imagine, I’ve made the decision to go with option e… although there are many moments when I wonder whether option d would be the most effective option. I’d prefer to build a culture where we build each other up, so I hate to focus upon this one person when I have a lot of incredible workers who are just a pleasure to work with. It just sucks that it’s so easy to let the actions of one person disrupt my ability to remember that, which in turn only makes me angry with myself. Perhaps there’s an approach I can pursue that incorporates forgiveness….
I know that there have been a few other initiatives to end workplace bullying and create inclusive cultures that reflect the desire to advance workers equitably, but I am not sure yet of the best way to navigate through this, I just understand that it’s not only causing me to lose sleep, but it also takes away my focus from creating the best customer and workplace experience for our employees. What are some ways that you’ve approached this in order to remain accountable to your staff but also eradicate the problem without incurring the liability yourself of being misrepresented as a workplace bully.
I checked for reading recommendations for how to manage someone w/ poor self management/ emotional intelligence. Do you have any resources you would recommend for how to manage these toxic and unhealthy behaviors (when firing is not an option)? Otherwise I may have to start taking advantage of this boss tracker.
In the meantime, in the spirit of lightening up, I thought I’d post a few “I would rather … than …” jokes that I can mentally refer to the next time one of my workers refuses to take advantage of something that would rationally and reasonably serve their best interest.
(Just to spite you) I would rather … than to receive your medical attention
Suck the hairspray out of Donald Trump’s comb-over
Vacation at Abu Ghraib
Sit on my glasses — naked
Gulp every last pill in Liza Minnelli’s medicine cabinet
Lose my Social Security card and identification in Arizona
Pogo-stick across I-75
Move to Crimea
Base jump off a wind turbine
Eat a 48-oz. breast-milk cheeseburger
Re-watch media coverage of Justin Bieber getting arrested
Listen to Kanye West talk about himself nonstop for 72 hours
Sleep on a bed of used NFL jock straps
Convert The Godfather to 3D
Direct Breaking Dawn
Chew the head off Iron Man 2‘s evil cockatoo
Handwrite all of the dialogue to every Police Academy movie, up to and including Michael Winslow’s voice-sound effects
Adopt a derilect drug addict
Smoke a menthol cigarette through an asbestos filter
Clean up after one of Hugh Hefner’s parties
Drop my smartphone in a toilet
Be stranded out in backwoods Mississippi
Tumble down a flight of stairs
Cancel baseball season
Yodel the Ten Commandments
Appear in drag on Chatroulette
Dethorn the entire White House rose garden with my teeth
Stare into an atomic explosion
Convert to Scientology
Lose my house keys
Perform a bris
Go on tour with Milli Vanilli
File for bankruptcy
Re-enact the Phantom Menace (including Jar Jar Binks character)
Wash, dry and detail all the taxi cabs in New York City