My Co-worker Is The Boss’s Favorite!

Question:

I need another opinion. I work in an office in which the boss is an ass kisser and so is the boss’s favorite. This person comes to work in sneakers everyday, is rude to customers, and thinks that because she is the favorite can call into question anything and everything even when it has nothing to do with her. She has even gone as far as talking to an elderly employee with total disrespect. My issue is that “the favorite” recently threatened to leave the organization, and they gave her a 10K retention bonus to do the same work that we all do and was just given a 2K bonus for what I cannot figure out while the other hard workers were given time-off award, myself included.

Recently our supervisor had a birthday, the “favorite” suggests that we all get together and do something for him, and then proceeds to add the comment “with all they have done for us, he can have anything he wants”. I immediately thought, “what do you mean us when you seem to be the only one reaping any benefits”. The supervisor, always compliments me on doing great work and how appreciative he is, but I feel like he just says all of this all in an attempt to “blow smoke up my a#$”.

My concern is this, how do I continue to work in a place where no matter how hard you work, if it will never be enough? Please help…I feel like I am forced to deal with a bunch of vultures.

Signed,

Between a Rock & A Hard Place


Answer:

Dear Between a Rock & A Hard Place:

You are jealous and angry with your co-worker and boss. From what you describe, a favored co-worker’s nosy interventions annoy you and others with whom she works and her disrespectful behavior to customers harms your business. This is one problem. The bonus given to this individual hurts your sense of fairness. That is your second problem. How do you deal with these two problems without allowing them to turn you bitter and destructive to yourself?

First, Problem One: You must make sure your information is fact. Rather than just a general impression of the favorite’s nosiness, can you recall specifics of her interference, criticism, and rudeness (what she did, when, where, and to whom) and might you log these past times and other instances that occur over a week or two? You may also note that she comes to work in what you think is not business attire. However you may ignore the sneakers if that does not really affect job performance or defy company protocol. Especially, you need examples of times she has behaved badly to you. Now, what is the best way to respond to her in these instances? If done to you, you can immediately respond in an assertive, positive manner or an angry, defensive way. You can think through which of these tacks will be more effective. You can also think through how you have or will react to times she noses into other’s business. Will you speak up telling her to mind her own business or find words of appreciation for her concern, when what she noses into is helpful? Is any of her nosiness, criticism of others or rudeness to customers justified?

Have you reflected on what might be the cause of these behaviors you judge as bad? We humans are a complex mix of training or lack of it, and possibly our breeding (as some dogs are bred to be mild mannered and some are pit bulls). No matter what the cause, most of us do what works for us, and we continue to kick the machine that does not responds as we wish (as some do to make a vending machine spit out a soda or pack of cigarettes) when we have found in the past that kicking it gets results. See my point? Ms. Nosy Rude Kissass (Is not that the first, middle and last name you have given her? For short we might call her NRK) behaves as she does because it has and is working to her advantage. Only showing her that such behavior has resulted and will result in displeasure with her can modify and possibly extinguish her bad behavior.

From what you say, apparently so far you have observed, but not voiced your displeasure in her rudeness or nosiness. Once you have logged these hurtful instances, you can decide if and when you will voice your displeasure. Will you speak to her publicly or privately criticizing her criticism, nosiness and rudeness? Or will you report these actions to your superior? Or will you only gossip about them? Or will you allow them to boil inside of you until you explode? These are questions that your e-mail poses even without any mention of the favoritism and bonuses.

Since obviously your e-mail requests an outside opinion, by my raising these questions, I am suggesting considered action rather than hasty behavior on your part. Will one-on-one interaction with NRK correct and/or transform her pattern of behavior? Habits of criticism and rudeness are not easily changed. But firm, yet kindly stated, displeasure with her bad behavior, at the very least, will cause her to weigh the fact that one person does not like the way she kicks the machine. And possibly she will hesitate the next time she is inclined to follow her impulse to kick the machine.

I think talking candidly with her is a start, but probably one such confrontation will not change her. I think a better approach is indirect–what might be understood and a Quality Improvement Team Building Effort. This entails prodding and persuading your boss that your work group is not working together as effectively as it might and moreover some behaviors (such as rudeness and indifference) are harmful to customers rather than delighting them. To prod and persuade your boss to serious enjoin your work group to behave as a Quality Improvement Team, you will need to create a list of behavioral dos that you and others do that foster good working relationships and a list of don’ts that hurt working together and are destructive to customers, such as those of Ms. NRK, minus her name. Also it will help if you can think like a boss thinks–such as helping him see how transforming a work group to a team might motivate collaborative commitment to cutting wasted supplies, time, money and finding ways to work enthusiastically together rather than to be annoyed with each other.

Problem Two: Let me make this short. If you know for a fact that Ms. NRK got a big bonus and others also deserve a bonus, especially yourself, might it be wise to inquire what must be done to earn a bonus? The fact is that when a valued employee has an offer or threatens to leave a job, bosses sometimes do match or increase their salaries and perks to keep them. And rather than kiss ass, would it not be more effective to present a statement of your accomplishments? And then only if you know for a fact that Ms. NRK got a bonus or is rumored to have gotten a bonus or more, raise the topic of what does she do that is better than you and the other co-workers. Favoritism is destructive and bosses sometimes need to be reminded of that. If bosses want to motivate by rewarding individual exceptional behavior (Something that many do, but I don’t. Rather, I believe in rewarding the team if it works exceptionally well as a team.), then they should realize that that individual exceptional behavior should be acknowledged and specified rather than to be secretly rewarded. A frank talk with your boss about this matter is something I recommend.

Now you have the opinion you sought. Answer the questions posed and weigh the advice. If it makes sense, act. If not let it provoke you to other more creative and effective solutions. Or you can simply continue to allow Ms. NRK to annoy you. Please feel free to up date us on what transpires. Earning the right to work in a harmonious, productive, and even an enthusiastic workplace is not God given, but a down to earth matter of individual/collaborative effort–what I call WEGO. I am copying your question and my advice to our team of workplace doctors, should either of them wish to add to or argue against my advice. One of our team is attending her daughter’s wedding or I might have sent her question to her instead of answering it myself.

William Gorden