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Part I: No one else has the guts to stand up…

Dear Office-Politics,

Here’s my job situation: I work as a subcontractor for a government agency, who I’ll refer to as Alphabet. There are about 15 subcontracting companies on this project, but one is considered the ‘prime’ since they have the most people here, and I’ll refer to them as the Company.

Now here’s the problem: the top 2 folks on the ladder for the Company on this contract are likely having an affair. They are both around age 30 and are very political, and spend all of their free time together, although the male is married. Most people in the office assume there is an affair going on. Both of these people are quite rude to most of my coworkers, too.

Obviously none of us can complain to the Company, because it’s pretty easy to see where that leads: they will just take the complainer off the project. And we can’t complain to the government project leader at Alphabet, either. Why? Well because she’s BEST FRIENDS with the rude female who is at the top of the Company ladder! Complaining to Alphabet will result in the same outcome: removal from the project.

Anyway, this female (‘Denise’) from the Company is very condescending and rude to myself and coworkers, I guess because she feels protected. One of the government Alphabet workers likes to poke fun at her in meetings and embarrass her, usually by bringing up someone who this female has bad-mouthed before. She gets very nervous when this Alphabet guy makes light of the fact that he knows she badmouths people.

In a meeting this week I was the latest victim of these shenanigans. There was an empty seat next to the female at the table when I came in, and the Alphabet guy jokingly told me to sit there, saying “Go ahead and sit next to Denise, we all know how much she likes for you to sit next to her.” Of course ‘Denise’ nervously smiled at me and said “You don’t have to sit here.”

Of course I sat somewhere else. I would have anyway. I have always suspected that Denise didn’t like me because she was not polite to me, but to me this was confirmation that she had indeed been badmouthing me behind my back to Alphabet folks, and I don’t think it’s right that this should be an ‘open secret.’ (Six months ago I was forced to sit next to her at a lunch, and she appeared uncomfortable, so maybe she said to folks afterward that she can’t stand me sitting next to her. I’ve done nothing wrong to this woman in the three years I’ve been here.)

The dilemma is what can I do, if anything? It seems there is no one to complain to, since she and her ‘boyfriend’ are at the top of the contractor ladder here, and Denise is buddies with our Alphabet boss too…she’s very political! I’ve thought about making an anonymous complaint to the Company HQ, going over Denise and her boyfriends’ heads.

I guess the only real solution is to leave. No one else has the guts to stand up to this woman, but I don’t know how to proceed. Thanks!

Hostile environment

christine comaford-lynch

Dear Hostile environment,

While reading your question I felt transported back to junior high school… yes, not even high school. The behavior of your colleagues seems adolescent, pubescent, downright bizarre. And the really odd thing is that everyone seems to know it, and yet they tolerate it. Hmmm.

I see only 2 paths for you:

1) See these people as teachers to you. Every day they teach you about the importance of:

Patience: for their prolonged maturity process.

Appreciation: for all the fabulous people in your life outside of work.

Tolerance: of their silly behavior

Strength: to take the high road and not dive into petty behavior too

Hey — just noticed that the first letter of those 4 words spell PATS. Give yourself a few, on the back, right now for keeping your cool in this absurd environment.

2) Your second choice, of course, is to see if you can get transferred to another department in the event that changing your attitude doesn’t work. If this is impossible, it may be time to move on. Wasn’t going through junior high once enough?

Thank you for writing to Office Politics.

Best regards,

Christine Comaford-Lynch, Author, Rules for Renegades

cover of Rules for RenegadesNew York Times bestselling author Christine Comaford-Lynch is CEO of Mighty Ventures, an innovation accelerator which helps businesses to massively increase sales, product offerings, and company value. She has built and sold 5 of her own businesses with an average 700% return on investment, served as a board director or in-the-trenches adviser to 36 startups, and has invested in over 200 startups as a venture capitalist or angel investor. Christine has consulted to the White House (Clinton and Bush), 700 of the Fortune 1000, and hundreds of small businesses. She has repeatedly identified and championed key trends and technologies years before market acceptance. Christine’s popular column on www.BusinessWeek.com/SmallBiz launched in January 2007.Christine has led many lives: Buddhist monk, Microsoft engineer, geisha trainee, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist. Her triumphs and disasters are revealed in her New York Times (and USA Today, Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, and Amazon.com ) bestselling business book: Rules for Renegades: How to Make More Money, Rock Your Career, and Revel in Your Individuality. The book is available at all major retailers, the Office-Politics bookstore, or via www.RulesForRenegades.com.

Christine has appeared on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, FOX Business Network, PBS, CNET and is frequently quoted in the business, technology and general press at large. Stanford Graduate School of Business has done two case studies on her and PBS has featured her in three specials (Triumph of the Nerds, Nerds 2.0.1, and Nerd TV ). CNET has broadcast two specials covering her unconventional rise to success as a woman with neither a high school diploma nor college degree. Christine believes we can do well and do good, using business as a path for personal development, wealth creation, and philanthropy.

(Video bio at: http://www.mightyventures.com/bio.php )

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