The last two days at work have been a little stressful to say the least. One coworker has complained to another that I’ve been away from my desk too often and she thinks that I’m picking and choosing my tasks, doing only those that seem interesting to me. She also claimed that another coworker was equally dissatisfied with my work. Of course, she said none of this to me, she’s nothing but courteous when I’m around. The other coworker, supposedly dissatisfied with my work, technically my supervisor, barely ever speaks to me and until this morning I had no clue that she was upset with me.
The coworker who told me all of this did so in confidence. Yesterday she told me she had been reprimanded for taking me away from me desk too often. This morning she told me the rest of the story.
I’ve been working so hard at not rocking the boat, at letting everyone find their footing, I couldn’t believe that I still managed to upset people. Even more surprising was how upset I was about the whole thing. After I talked to the friendly coworker I called my old boss, the one who moved to Texas six months ago. It was while I talked to her that I started crying. To say that that worried her is as an understatement. I haven’t cried in front of her or even on the phone with her in four years. She calmed me down and told me that I should talk to the head of the department. He’s been insanely busy this last month and isn’t really aware of the tension that has been floating around.
Not too surprisingly, about ten minutes after I got to work he called me on my cell, wanting to know if everything was ok. He let me know he’d be around in the afternoon if I wanted to chat. I couldn’t tell if the call was sparked by a call from my Texan friend or because the complaining coworker had talked to him yesterday. In any case his call was friendly and sweet. His compassion almost made me cry again, and strengthened my resolve to talk to him about everything.
As the day went on my friendly coworker had a chance to talk with the department head and swore up and down that she hadn’t talked to me about anything, leaving me with nothing concrete to complain about. “Coworker X is bitching about me to Y and I know about it because I’m psychic.” Somehow I didn’t think that was going to go over too well, which left me with one option; telling him about everything else that was bothering me. (Oh good idea! Let’s talk about what’s really going on instead of joining in on the high school drama everyone else is caught up in!) For the last four years I’ve been an integral part of all programmatic decisions pertaining to our department. Since my Texan friend left I’ve been shut out of everything, effectively demoted back to a regular administrative position. It’s a problem.
I met with him and explained my issues without getting emotional or hysterical. I made my points clearly and simply. We used to be a team, but we aren’t even pretending any more. We used to all work well together, now we hardly even talk. He agreed that it was time to stop pretending that things were going to get better by leaving them alone. He was concerned and compassionate and I truly felt heard.
I doubt that my complaining coworker thought that her attack on my friend would lead me to talk to our mutual boss. I doubt that she thought it would lead to me making it back to the place I was before. She was hoping to strong arm my friend, to bully her into feeling that she was somehow inferior. She has been working for the past six months to make me less her peer and more her subordinate. She messed up, and I am so very glad.
I may have to work for a living, but I don’t have to hate it, and I don’t have to debase myself to do it.