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For over two decades, Ask the Workplace Doctors, the site developed by William I. Gorden, Ph.D., of Kent State University, School of Communication Studies, has been a workplace communications resource for thousands of people, from around the world. You can still count on us to provide practical, reasonable, useful and compassionate advice.  Here are ways to make this site more effective for you—and for others:

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Saying My Supervisor Was a Fu&3ing wa€#er

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about badmouthing your supervisor:

So I had a meeting with a condescending supervisor. I got angry and was in the canteen, I wasn’t shouting but I said loudly that the supervisor was a fu&3ing wa€#er. There was another manager around the corner who heard. I’m sure this will go back to my manager. I did apologise to him for the way I behaved. What do I do in this instance? I told my manager I was angry in the canteen. But didn’t tell her what I said.

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Fixing Workplace Hostility

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a toxic environment:

I finished university just over a year ago and applied for a finance position at the head office of one of the UKs top firms. One of the managers (my future line manager) came across as a little odd in the interview. I kind of brushed it off as just him putting his foot in it awkwardly. I got offered the job and started a few weeks later.

So, I turned up on my first day and straight away there was hostility from two of my work colleagues (we are a team of 5) and that manager. From receiving the evil glares, to being abrupt with me, to laughing whenever I talk despite the fact my comments are normal, to trying to isolate me, giving me the silent treatment, gas lighting about having favourites, abusive comments just ambiguous enough for me to have nothing solid to complain about, trying to bait and antagonise me, to co-opting other people into the games against me. I have been enduring all this for a year with no improvement in my circumstances.

The position is not a internship, its a regular job. Due to the comments dropped I know that part of the problem is my manager see’s me as a threat (I’m not even interested in his job). And the two colleagues joining in the torture have been their over a decade with no promotion. So I think I kind of upset their ambitions.

I’ve been looking for answer on how to fix this for a while with no luck. The comments all seem to assume I have the problem and usually say I’m an arrogant know it all graduate. It couldn’t be further from the truth. I am friendly, cooperative, willing to learn, a hard worker, respectful to others, and humble myself. How do I get on with these people in a way that won’t send me to an early grave through stress?

After a year of this with no improvement is it time to find a less toxic company to work at? I would really like to stay here if possible as the wages and benefits side of the job are superb. I was also a mature student (not a kid) and have held several jobs before going to university. I have never ever encountered this type of reaction out of people before.

Signed, Not Ready For An Early Grave

Dear Not Ready For An Early Grave:

First, I congratulate you for being hired by one of UK’s top firms. Whatever transpires, you should feel good about that–that this firm saw your credentials meeting their standards for the position for which you applied. I regret that your first year adds up to so much toxicity that you wonder if you should seek work elsewhere.

Yes, life is too short to endure a toxic work environment for long. Can you fix it? Possibly, but in light of the description you provide regarding your manager and two uncooperative coworkers, probably not. Yet, rather than resign, doesn’t it make sense to make a reasonable effort to change that environment? At least it makes sense to continue doing the best you can, until you have another job offer in hand.

Assuming that you want to try to “fix it”, I am suggestion some approaches you might consider. Numbers 1-6 are suggestions you should do on you own, as if you were an investigator of what has transpired from your own perspective this year of employment:

1.      Don’t assume you can fix it. What you describe is an interpersonal and it usually takes two to tangle or to tango. Learning to dance in a new situation might not be you who are making the wrong steps although as you say “all seem to assume I have the problem and usually say I’m an arrogant know it all graduate.” Incidentally you write clearly, but I have not corrected some of your grammar. The mistakes may be hasty, but some I noticed are: a internship should be an, see’s for sees, their instead of there and some missing commas.

2.      Before blaming yourself, manager or coworkers, reflect on what is good about your job in addition to its wages and benefits. What do you do that you like about the job?

3.      Also what do you do well? Can you list projects completed successfully? Such a detailed list is something you will want to have ready if and when you meet with your manager or someone within your firm who might listen to your story and assist you in coping, correcting and/or transferring to another position within the firm.

4.      What about it are problems, other than the two coworkers’ and manager? Has your manager or coworkers criticized what your do or don’t do? How have you responded? Were those complaints justified and/or corrected?

5.      Your descriptions of difficulties are generalizations, rather than specific language they used and non-verbal signals that bother you at a particular time and in reaction to something you did or didn’t do with which they seemed to disapprove. (“evil glares, to being abrupt with me, to laughing whenever I talk despite the fact my comments are normal, to trying to isolate me, giving me the silent treatment, gas lighting about having favourites, abusive comments just ambiguous enough for me to have nothing solid to complain about, trying to bait and antagonise me, to co-opting other people into the games against me). So can you recall and log those occasions and interpret what provoked them?

6.      Have you confronted the coworkers regarding any specific time they expressed displeasure? Or if you did and were not pleased with their response, did you invite them to go with their complaint and with you to your manager? Especially if you thought their criticism was unreasonable or a pattern, would it not be wise to get your manager advice regarding how to do the job as is desired? I don’t know the firm’s protocols for evaluation or for seeking advice of a manager, but have you met with this manager and asked “How well do you see my performance? What do I do well and what needs improvement?  Do you know what going on between my coworkers and me? And what do you recommend might minimize the toxicity?” Should we meet with you about making our work more productive?” What resulted from such a meeting or meetings?

7.       Probably a meeting with your manager is now in order and depending on what you learn will help you determine if there is a way to improve your working relationship. Apparently, your work group doesn’t have regular staff meetings that makes explicit who does what and when? Seeking your manager’s guidance and clarification about how he sees your performance will help you know what to do next. Perhaps this will be a time for you to suggest that such staff meetings would help or at least checking in from day to day with him about assignments.

8.      Request your manager’s help in making your career successful. If you learn you there is hope, develop a plan and schedule a meeting to review progress. If you determine that he thinks you don’t fit, ask about a transfer within your firm. Meanwhile quietly begin your job search while maintaining doing the best you can to cope with your coworkers and to maintain your own performance.

9.      Realize that finding a job fit sometimes is a process of elimination. Soak up all you can from this firm, however toxic. Know that interpersonal relationships sometimes require extraordinary patience and some never are harmonious, but that you can work well even with disagreeable people.Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS is my way of saying you can’t fix it, but with the help of your manager together you might be able to fix it, and if you can’t you will cope at least until you are transferred or find another job.

William Gorden

 

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Can My Last Employer Take Action About A Racism Accusation On My Last Day?

Question:

I have been accused of being racist on my last working day at my previous employer. To my knowledge I haven’t been racist but they’ve taken whatever I said to heart and portrayed it as a racial comment. I do not work for the company anymore. Can they still take action and if so what could it be?

Response:

You do not say if the racist actions or comments were said to have happened on your last day or if you were told about it on your last day, but it had happened previously—or if you were asked to leave over a number of things, racism being one of them, or if you were leaving with good feelings until the accusation was made. Those factors would make a difference in how you were viewed by managers and coworkers.

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Boss Expects Me To Carpool and Clean Houses With A Person Who Threatened Me. What Can I Do?

Question:

I clean houses for a living and my boss recently hired a person to help me, as the houses are large. This person has showed up to work visibly high and smelling of alcohol on multiple occasions. I have reported this, as well as many other issues to my boss, to no avail. Tonight I asked this co-worker to stop doing illegal things in my car as we carpool, as a result this co-worker began threatening me, calling me names, and chasing me down a hallway shouting, all while I was on the phone with our boss. However, despite all this, my boss still refuses to fire them and still expects me to carpool with them. Do I have any options other than finding a new job? Also, if it makes a difference, my boss is the owner of the company.

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What Can I Do About Remarks About Women Servers By Restaurant Co-Worker?

A Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about how to deal with a rude co-worker who makes negative remarks about women.

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Question:
I am a 47 year old female server with 30 years of experience, employed for three years at a locally-owned restaurant. I am the only female server. There are two 22 or 23 year old young men who started as busboys at age 16 and have been serving during college breaks for three years, working there six-seven years, on and off. One has joined a union and had been just filling in when needed. The other flunked out of college. They both are now working full time at the restaurant. One of them constantly makes derogatory comments, such as telling the boss him and the other one have been here for longer and should get more tables, they are better servers than me so I should get less tables, comments like “This restaurant needs to go back to male servers only. We don’t get periods.”

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What Can I Do About A Co-Worker Who Called Me A Bitch?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being called a bitch:

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Question:

I go to work today like any other day, gave my manager some chocolate from Belgium and things were fine. A coworker went to lunch, came back, and told my manager her tire looked low. I called my husband because we have a pump and live 5 minutes from the office, while the manager grabbed her phone. I opened the back door said the employee’s name, heard nothing and shut and locked the door thinking she was in the restroom or something.

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How Can I Find Out If My Manager Is Attracted To Me?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about flirty talk between a manager and a much younger employee.  How can the employee find out if the manager is really interested?

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Question: I’ve only worked with my manager for a little over a year, but the past couple of months he’s been really flirty with me. (I work in a restaurant.) Let me start off by saying its not bothersome to me whatsoever I just kind of want to get an outside opinion to see if it’s just me or if there really is something weird. First off, he is flirty in general with a good amount of people we work with, however sometimes I think he is more flirtatious with me than anyone else.

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How Can I Stop Romantic Feelings For My Boss?

A Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about how to deal with romantic feelings toward a boss who says all the right things to encourage a relationship.

Question:

My boss is very nice to me, unlike to other staff. He has a bad attitude, is hot-headed and is very tetchy to others. He is married but separated and currently has a girlfriend. He is 6 years older than me.

In my first month as his EA he invited me to eat out with him, which I didn’t think I could refuse. I found him very attractive from that day on and day by day my attraction to him has become deeper. One night we went out and had some drinks. I’m not into alcohol, so I became weak and drunk and things became blurred to me. When I came back to my senses, he told everything that happened. I did things I shouldn’t have done, but he didn’t take advantage at me. I felt very weak but I remember him asking me to sleep while he cleaned me with a towel. We decided to keep it to ourselves but after that night we become more closer. We chat till midnight and talk a lot about work, life and even personal stuff. He always says that he doesn’t want me to go and that is why he allowed me to enter his life, like he sold his soul to me, which I really don’t understand.

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How Do I Overcome A Blacklist or File Discrimination?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about not being promoted and feeling of discrimination.

I work for the federal government and took a change to lower grade to work in another section to build on my skills. I was told that it was a training position and we would learn this job to prepare us for advancement. Five years later I am still in same spot. I have trained others who were selected in same field of work who were then promoted over me. I spoke with my bosses, I have had several and have to prove my worth each time, but they select others to train and work towards promotion.

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Accused Wrongly, But Feeling That I May Be Fired After Years Of Good Work!

Question:

I asked a coworker if she had the information I needed that was sent to her in an email. She said she didn’t know anything about this. When I asked her if she had she read her email or talked to another person about this matter, she yelled at me to not speak to her that way. I was totally shocked at her response that I said “What???” while holding my hands up. I never expected this response. She then screamed at me several times with a raised arm and pointed finger to get out of her office. I said “What?” again and proceeded to defend myself. She then yelled at me again to get out with a raised arm and pointed finger.

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