ALPHA FEMALE

Question:

I work with Satan! Okay, that was harsh. We have a girl in our office that torrents everyone. She’s rude, mean, hurtful, and disrespectful. She’s just down right nasty at times. She treats everyone like this except the boss. When he’s there, she’s a total angel to him and turns around when he’s not looking and her horns come out.

We have tried to keep a positive atmosphere in the office: Motivational icebreakers, spirit cheers before we open. Nothing touches her; she just sits and mocks us and tells us we are stupid.

It’s come to the point where half the girls in our office won’t even walk by her desk to make copies.

I have tried confronting her as an adult and ten years her elder and she just laughed at me. Told me I needed to sit my old butt down and mind my business. We have tried approaching our boss, but he “doesn’t want to be involved in office drama” I love my job and for the most part I really enjoy the woman I work with. I try and help the other girls deal with their frustrations over her by telling them to just ignore her. Deal with her only on a professional level when need be.

So know what? We have tears at least once a day, and we have been through almost four girls in the last six weeks because of her. It’s like being in high school all over again. She’s twenty-three going on 15. It’s sickens me to see that she’s so manipulative and so crude to not only myself but also to others in the office.

Is there anything I can try???

Signed,

Anything?


Answer:

Dear Anything?:

You haven’t tried everything with or without your “Keep me out of it boss.” Here additional try-its you might consider: 1. Toughen up. Be assertive. You have asserted yourself, but have you and others done that enough and consistently? Assertive repeated remarks may be required at the moment her rudeness, such as, “Jane, that is rude and uncalled for.” “We need your help, not your hurtful remarks.” Jane, we’re here working together, both you and we will be happier when we cooperate civilly.”

2. Log rude incidents; what, when, who, and hurt feelings. This log can be used in several ways such as confronting her, confronting your boss who should be handling this, and/or going over his head to his boss or Human Resources. Such confrontations are most effective when they focus on what frustrates and makes for effective, productive work. 3. Hotseat. Physically encircling Ms. Alpha by all co-workers and each tells her how you feel about an incident in which she was rude. No doubt Ms. A will respond angrily but that kind of heat has the potential for surfacing the hurt she causes. It will also challenge all co-workers to speak their minds. The goal of such a confrontation should be making explicit what is and is not acceptable interaction. It may take several such sessions to transform spiteful talk to problem solving; the problem of how we might work together more productively.

4. Video or audiotape what transpires within your office. You probably will need to confer with your boss and or Human Resources about this. But making this request should alert those above about the problems caused by Ms. Alpha. 5. Engage your boss in a quality improvement team-building effort. This entails regular, at least once a week, time-out sessions for all those in your office to address questions such as: ·What have we accomplished this past week that deserves applause? ·Who are our internal and external customers? What measures do we have of their satisfaction/dissatisfaction? ·Are there things we might do to better please them? ·What are ways we might cut wasted supplies, time, duplicated work, and energy? ·Are there new and creative ways to make our office a profit center? ·What are the signs we are working as a team? ·What might we do to make each other’s jobs easier and more effective? ·Are our assignments and distribution of them maximally effective? ·What rules of communication can improve our productivity and working relationships; dos and don’ts of how, when, and why we should communicate? ·Are there things we might do to make this office more beautiful and configured for the kind of work we do? ·Are we having fun? Are these not more than enough try-it suggestions to prompt you and your co-workers to not allow one disgruntled co-worker to create a hostile environment? Or to prompt you to creatively cope? More importantly, are not many of these suggestions ones that should make your working group more effective even without a problem co-worker? Possibly you might share my response to your query with your boss and/or co-workers. It should make for a fruitful conversation.

Will you get back to us on what you elect to do and how it does or doesn’t work? Putting your faith in civil, respectful, assertive and result-minded communication is what your office should be about; what I call WEGO.

William Gorden