I’m hoping you can give me some pointers on how to deal with a situation that has evolved in my work place. I started working for a publishing firm about a year ago as an assistant editor. At that time the editorial department had gone through a lot of employees because the publisher is a very moody and demanding woman who desires complete control and yet drops the ball on getting things done. As a result, those who have stayed learned how to maneuver under the radar, and at first, I liked my job and co-workers and learned how to work under the radar of the publisher as well.
One day, the publisher blew up at the managing editor who then a few days later gave her notice stating she was going back to school. The publisher talked her into staying on but reducing her days to 2 days a week, and she then hired another editor to take the place of the managing editor’s responsibilities.
Here’s where the problem comes in. The new editor has a need to be the center of attention all the time, reading aloud all of her e-mails, drawing attention to herself, particularly when someone writes in praising her or the magazine. She talks in a “little girl” voice to the publisher, being very submissive to her, then behind her back discredits her. She has also spoken against the others in the office behind their backs, always on a one-to-one basis, never in a group. I’ve come to distrust this woman and dislike her, particularly since she has decided that I’m not a “full-blown” story editor, but just a “Calendar of Events” editor. When I have asked her for direction on the recent re-design of my Calendar section, (which needed to be defined) she blew me off and said she didn’t have time for it. She makes it a point to exclude me from conversations and after-hour events that she and the others will go do.
I’m not looking for a social life with my co-workers, however, I don’t like the hostile atmosphere she is creating with me. I find myself being interrupted by her whenever I’m speaking to someone else, and she insists on knowing what we are talking about. I have spoken discreetly to the other two editors (whom I’ve known longer and trust), and they don’t say much about it except that in the publishing world the Editor is the “be-all to end-all”. Regardless, I’m finding it impossible to work in this type of environment.
I recently gave my resignation to the publisher and it prompted her to ask me what she could do to persuade me to stay, as she valued my hard-working attitude and she stated she noticed that I did not engage in all the chatter in the office, that I stayed out of it and continued working. I let her know that I found it difficult to work in the office where so much talking went on constantly despite my requests for her to keep it down, particularly when I’m on the phone and can’t hear the person I’m talking to, and that I felt the editor went out of her way to discredit me at every turn. She acknowledged that the Editor is a loud person and that she is not being respectful, however, at that point she offered to allow me to work from home for 3 days a week and work in the office for two, as she didn’t want me to leave. I agreed and so now I’m in the office only two days a week which I thought would resolve the situation, however, disrespect is disrespect, and this woman makes it a point to show her disrespect at every opportunity. I’ve taken to throwing a comment back in her face, which shuts her up for a while, but to take this to the publisher would be viewed as “petty”, I’m sure, as the publisher has larger problems to deal with. I’m usually a very assertive person, however, this is boiling my blood under my skin, and I fear that I will go for the jugular one day and then I look like the heavy.
Please advise me on what I can do to resolve this. Being friendly with her doesn’t work, this is definitely an issue about being the “center of attention”, which I never considered myself the center of attention, however, everyone has always been very complimentary of my work and team-building efforts. This woman stumps me because I feel like I’m back in junior high school again and the popular girl doesn’t like someone else having the attention, so she will “dis” her at every opportunity. I thought I knew how to deal better with this, but I don’t. Help!
Thanks and regards,
Edit or Exit
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY FRANKE JAMES
Dear Edit or Exit,
My first response when I read your letter is that you have to rise above this. I know that is easier said than done, but with a little attitude adjustment, you may just find the strength. (I know what it’s like to be in your place. One of the reasons I started the Office-Politics site five years ago is because I was bullied in high school mercilessly. The first rule in dealing with bullies is do not give them power over you.)
Let’s step back and analyze who has the power in your office and also reflect on what your goals are. The Publisher obviously has more power than either you or the new editor (we’ll call the editor, Janice). Janice is not the big cheese. She is not the Publisher. She is not the Owner. She is an Editor. And a new one at that. What little power she has, she is using to make you squirm. She derides you by calling you the Calendar of Events Editor. Well, if she knew that you are going to be the Publisher one day of a magazine, do you think she’d speak to you that way? Of course not.
You can laugh at that thought. Maybe it sounds ridiculous to you. But dreams of your future goals and success is exactly what you have to keep in mind to make you strong and indomitable. If you could see into the future, and you knew for sure that you were going to achieve your dreams in the Publishing world, would you let yourself be knocked down by Janice? No way!
To do battle with Janice you need to keep your emotions in check and your head on straight. Otherwise your career could get sideswiped. Are you going to let this annoying loudmouth derail your career? I don’t think so. Publishing is a hell of a tough industry to break into. You deserve credit for getting your job — and being such a hard worker that your Publisher is doing cartwheels to keep you!
Perhaps this little incident will mean something to you — I was out for a walk today and I passed a young boy (maybe eight) and a young girl (maybe seven). The boy was repeating loudly to himself over and over again, “Whatever you say sticks to you. Whatever you say sticks to you. Whatever you say sticks to you.” And the girl was following closely on his heels whispering insults at him. I don’t know why the Nanny wasn’t breaking up the fight but she wasn’t. She was ignoring them both.
It all sounds so juvenile, and yet, it’s very similar to what is happening in your office. The difference is that unlike the little boy, you are letting Janice get under your skin. Publishers — and Bosses of all types — are so busy they don’t want to get involved. Just like that Nanny, they are tired of the fights and they really expect you to sort it out yourself.
My advice to you is that there are four skills you need to hone to survive in that publishing office:
1. Ignore Janice
Imagine her saying something to you that is hurtful. Close your eyes, and let it roll off your back. Smile, because you have the power to rise above her selfishness and pettiness. You don’t have to be unkind to her, but just step back and look at her as the pitiful creature she is. Feel sorry for her. She has to live in that body and personality for the rest of her life. While you are going to zoom past her and achieve your dreams.
2. Be Your Best
The Publisher values your contribution or she wouldn’t have let you work from home. Her life would be easier and more pleasant if you were around. Concentrate on doing your job to the best of your abilities. And find ways to quietly and firmly tell your Boss, and your friendly coworkers about your accomplishments. Keep a written record each week of your achievements. And if you get praise, write that down too. Read it to yourself to give you strength.
3. Be Social
You mentioned others in the office whom who know and admire. Invite them out to lunch, for coffee, whatever. If Janice barges in — don’t say no — remember she is an annoying ‘flea’. Direct your attention to the others and ignore Janice. People hate to be ignored. You may find that this technique gets under Janice’s skin and she actually starts being more respectful of you. But you don’t care, because Janice is not worth the time of day.
4. Find your Burning Desire
I don’t know what your burning desire is, your big dream in life. Perhaps it is to be a Publisher or a Writer? If it is, then you need to visualize it, and understand how this job can be the first step towards achieving your dreams. There is a terrific book that I strongly recommend you read:
My last thought — Janice is not worth burning your career bridge over. How can you even think of letting her have that power over you? Adjust your attitude and you will find success. And read Dreamcrafting.
Thanks for writing to Office-Politics. Let me know if this helps.
Franke James, MFA
Editor & Founder, Office-Politics.com
Franke James, MFA is the Editor & Founder of Office-Politics.com. She is also the Inventor of The Office-Politics® Game a dilemma-based social game that teaches you how to play, and laugh, at office politics. It’s used by HR departments, and corporate trainers worldwide. The Office-Politics Dilemmas have been inspired by the hundreds of letters submitted to Office-Politics.com.