A Coworker Thinks I Don’t Like Her

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about coworker feeling disliked:

I’ve been asked to attend a meeting with HR and a co-worker from another department who does not believe that I like her. I say “good morning” to this individual daily and engage in occasional “small talk” with them. I truly have very little in common with this person and she would not be a person that I would choose to be friends with outside of work.When I spoke to HR about the meeting I told them that I tend to keep work and friendships separated. I also told HR that I’d be willing to attend a meeting as long as the co-worker’s behavior did not involve her yelling or swearing at me.

The work environment is an Emergency Department–I am an RN and the person having the problem is a registration clerk. My history with this co-worker has been difficult at times due to her unprofessional behavior–socializing instead of doing her work which makes it impossible for me to document my care, her loud inappropriate laughing when a patient has just died across the hall from her office and family is hearing this as they go in and out of the room trying to process what has just happened to their loved one, inappropriate comments to patients about their weight, barging into rooms and interrupting patient care to verify demographic or insurance information, and behaving inappropriately and unprofessionally (yelling and swearing at me) at a meeting she “crashed” (she was not part of the work group–her manager was in the room and asked her to settle down but this did not stop the behavior).Initially I would address these problems with this worker a few times and if the behavior continued I’d go to management or file an incident report.

Following the meeting incident, I chose to deal with management or incident reports instead of confronting this person. The latest incident that I believe triggered the request for the meeting involved my incident report for a perceived potential violation of a federal law (which my director has clarified).

I am not sure how to deal with this other than to attend the meeting and remain professional with the intent of resolving this problem. I worry that there may be disciplinary action involved against me for “not getting along” with this person. My reports have been made in good faith with my concern being about what is best for the patients and the organization. This has nothing to do with whether or not I like this person. It is about appropriate professional behavior and getting the job done. I understand that you’re only getting my side of the story and I cannot speak to what is going on with the co-worker. Does it look like HR wants to discipline someone, is trying to foster a better working relationship, or something else? Should I be considering employment elsewhere? I’ve been with this organization in excess of 20 yrs and have always had excellent performance reviews. Thank you.

Signed, RN Feeling Threatened

Dear RN Feeling Threatened:

Sure you have sent only one side of the story, but I predict you will weather this threat. Twenty years with your organization has earned you the right to be treated with respect. Of course it is the responsibility of Human Resources to investigate and to make decisions in the best interest of your workplace. Take with you a log of efforts you have made to work with this complaining individual and of the incidents you have reported. If the performance of this particular clerk is as you report, you should be able to assert your willingness to cope and to continue to remain professional. “Not getting along” is a generalized term and should not be sufficient to charge you with bad behavior. You can request specifics and pledge to make a reasonable effort to work within the rules of your department.

From here it seems HR and the managers of your Emergency Department should show that they have taken corrective action of this clerk. You should be prepared for charges of discrimination that sometimes accompany such complaints. If any such charges are true, you can apologize and pledge to stop doing what is discriminatory, but likely if such is made, you can request an investigation.

Should you hunt work elsewhere? I know coming to work where you are seen as unfriendly is uncomfortable, but the history you paint indicates that you can survive. Set forth evidence you have of good performance and talk about the efforts you have made to deliver that to clients. My signature sentence implies that a worker-friendly workplace is not a given and takes special commitment: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. In your situation that likely means it will take special effort to tolerate behavior you think is unprofessional. It, however, doesn’t mean you have to be a cheerleader of one who complains you are not friendly. Remember such a meeting will be uncomfortable, and you can stand your ground about what you know is the kind of performance needed in your department. Possibly you can approach this meeting as a collaborative effort to make your department the best possible; that would be what I call Wego.

William Gorden