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Five years later, I am in a living hell... I have tried everything possible to try to have a friendly professional relationship with her to no avail...
Fortunately, or so I thought, a position opened up in a local government office that needed someone to replace the top person’s administrative assistant of twenty-some years. I applied and immediately interviewed.
When I arrived for my interview, I asked for directions from the girl in the first office I came to on the floor. I received the most scornful dirty look anyone has ever given me in my life. She did not say anything, rather pointed to the next office. The interview went well, I was immediately asked to accept the position, and I named my own salary.
During my brief training period with my predecessor, I noticed that this same girl in the next office would not speak, only give dirty looks. I asked my predecessor if there was a problem and was told that this girl had come in from a part-time position in the organization, trained for my position but was not able to do the job, and subsequently was rejected. She was left on as full time to help me out initially since my boss thought there was a lot for me to learn and I would need help with phones, and etc.
Five years later, I am in a living hell. I am in next office from this girl with an open door in between us. I have tried everything possible to try to have a friendly professional relationship with her to no avail. The unfortunate thing is that she is my back up for phones and times when I must be out of the office. She constantly withholds information from me and does not give me phone messages. There have been so many times that my boss (also her boss) has asked me a question or for something that I have no clue what he is talking about, only to find out it is something that occurred while I was out and she has not told me. Then she will get up from her desk go into his office and save the day giving his the information he was looking for and I end up looking like a complete fool.
She used to actually step in front of me to interrupt my business conversations with visitors or co-workers and proceed to take care of their needs while I was standing there with my mouth open in amazement. However, now that people trust that I know what I am talking about and not the “new” person they pretty much ignore her knowing that I can effectively take care of their needs.
I was told early on that she was also rejected for another position working for another official in our government office. He said she did not speak to him for two years when she did not get the position.
I do have a B.A. and a degree in management technology. I should be able to handle this, but I cannot. The problem has been addressed to my boss on two occasions. She initiated the first complaint because I “politely” told her I was not going away and I would appreciate it if she would be professional and not withhold information I needed to try to make me look bad The second time I went to my boss because it of the same problem and she was told that she was lucky to be working full time and to knock it off or she would be fired. Of course, this only made the problem worse.
Have you ever heard of a worker that will sit at an empty desk “clear of all paperwork” all day cracking her gum so that people will see she has nothing to do? I am pulling my hair out. She readily admits to everyone that she has nothing to do. I have asked her on many occasions if she would do me a favor by helping with a specific task and she refuses and continues to sit with an empty desk. I feel that she dislikes me so much she would walk over me laughing if I were in dying on the floor.
I offer her help. I have bought her gifts as a thank you if I am off on vacation or in one case I was off because of surgery. I have washed her dirty dishes in the break room while washing mine. Yet if there are nine coffee mugs sitting at the sink she knows which one is mine and will wash eight mugs and leave mine sit.
We have a very busy office. My boss does not want to hear of this problem nor should he. However, I know that he is aware of it because he does a double take every time he walks by her desk and sees it is completely empty. He shakes his head but he never says anything.
I am wondering if I have too much professional background for this position. I was so used to a working atmosphere where people joked around “worked hard and played hard”. There was a common goal…..work together to make $ money for company and get more money in our pockets. The government sector is much different, as I have learned. Not much motivation for teamwork only to get those retirement benefits at the end.
I am not sure if I am out of water or if this is just a case of jealousy, lack of manners and/or formal education. I do not want to leave this position. It is ideal for my life at this time and I love the work. I keep hoping that she will go elsewhere for employment or accept the fact that I am not going to be bullied out. I have no one to share this frustration with besides my poor husband and he cannot understand that with my background I cannot solve my own problem.
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Dear Frustrated Reader,
It sounds like you have taken reasonable steps to make this relationship work including making your boss aware of the difficulties. I would recommend that you make an appointment and sit down with her one more time. Make it clear that something must be done if you are to meet the expectations which you and the employer have of you. Don’t accept a half-hearted response. If your boss is not willing to act I would suggest that you approach her superior or the Human Resources department and take your concerns to them.
One caveat that I would suggest is that you make sure that you can document your concerns about this person’s performance. This may require that you keep track yourself of incidents of non-cooperation with you, times you have seen her sitting at an empty desk and other instances of failing to fulfill her duties. A simple log of such incidents, with dates, should be sufficient. This may feel like spying, but it is necessary for senior management to have if they are to take disciplinary action.
I wish you well in dealing with this situation. Thanks for writing to
Dr. John Burton
Dr. John Burton LL.B. M.B.A. M.Div. Ph.D. is an ethicist, mediator, lawyer and theologian whose passion is helping people and organizations create better relationships and stronger communities by being clear, committed and collaborative in their approach to ethics and conflict. John is currently located in Prince Rupert, B.C., Canada, working with Canada's aboriginal communities.
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