So problematic worker surprisingly enough was in a good mood yesterday. I spent the first part of her shift under the Martine’s protocol (only contributing to the conversations when I could add something pleasant, taking an interest in the other participants and politely excusing myself to work on another assignment when I began to feel myself become too anxious or hyper-vigilant). This worked well until the shift change when her clients and peers left and I found myself alone with her in the cubicle.
Thankfully we had a events occurring at our venue later this week and there was a day when they’d scheduled to turn the water off, so it allowed me to concentrate very intently on producing and distributing good signage around the building. After I’d hung about 27 signs on each of the 3 stories, I came back to my desk to determine what other work I could do, but I suppose she was lonely or something, because she whipped her phone out and asked me whether or not I wanted to see a picture of her friend’s puppy (her friend had initially texted her to inform her that she’d planned on going out to get a tattoo and somehow came home with a puppy instead). Then she told me about new phone cases she bought and some other stuff and I made an attempt to appear to be listening while I began to work on my next project because I didn’t expect her good mood to last long.
Then she did something surprising, she complimented me.
I forgot that I’d mentioned I’d bought this little bauble on ebay only it turned out to be much larger than I realized, so it felt kind of gaudy to wear daily, but I’d paired it with a sand colored shirt layered over a chambray top and topped with a brown quilted vest.
She really liked the fox, to which my response was, “…what this little ole thing? well thank you. It’s so big I wasn’t sure when I would have the occasion to wear it.” Then she complimented me again, but made sure to note specifically that she thought that I also looked “super cute” on Friday, the day of “the clipboard” incident. Apparently she was a big fan of not only the scarf, which had generated a lot of buzz by lunchtime, but also the other accessories I’d paired with it — over my white long sleeve shirt and black trousers.
So I felt pretty good about things, for awhile. I’d overheard that one of the clients who happened to linger a little longer at her desk than usual had just asked her out, so I kind of hoped that would be a good enough distraction to keep her occupied and in good spirits for awhile.
I was just grateful to see that she was making an effort to be nice.
Things even went well into today for the first hour of her shift. I kept up as many social graces and just focused upon rapport building with our clients. She did mention that she didn’t have breakfast this morning and she thought it made her mean when she hadn’t eaten.
Then after awhile, when I redirected the conversation back toward work and opened up a discussion asking her how she made decisions about what she prioritized for cleaning, because we had a few areas that were time sensitive, she got really nasty with me, so I literally just rolled my chair back into the corner and went back to my computer.
Later she tried to joke with me about one of her peers who had given her a Snicker’s Bar last night because he’d told her that, “she got really mean when she was hungry” I responded by saying, “well yeah, I wasn’t really sure how to respond to it, so I just figured it was better for me to find something else to do.” Then she told me a story about how she unnecessarily berated one of her friends over something really petty hoping that I’d understand. But I didn’t. I simply replied, “I suppose we should probably look at keeping some food back here then” and went back to my work.
Consequently, our cubicle right now is dead silent. I’d actually started this post last night because I was looking forward to acknowledging that something positive happened and that perhaps I was being hyper-sensitive. But I suppose when you’re in a capacity where you’re responsible for teaching someone else but you don’t have any real authority over them, sometimes you have to recognize that some people just aren’t receptive to being helped no matter how much you try to take an interest in them.
I would like to be able to say that I have an excellent ability to build rapport with people, and for the most part that is honestly true.
But there are certain patterns of behavior that really hinder that process, and I don’t know how to convey that to any person who knows better but does not respect themselves enough to value their relationships. I know technically by drawing a nonverbal boundary and making it evident that her emotional outburst are not acceptable, goes contrary to the rules of establishing rapport:
So what’s the lesson from all of this?