I share a small office with someone (I am the editor and she is a writer) and we have a very hostile relationship. I have to edit her stories, which are poorly written, which may be the root of the hostility. I actually got her a job here because she was a friend of a friend. The situation has escalated to a hostile point — we don’t speak (haven’t for weeks) so there is the horrible, palpable tension — like five elephants in the room, which makes me feel stressed and on edge everyday. But I have to work with her on stories — which need major editing. When I do she is hostile, confrontational and rude. She has also turned my coworkers against me (sneaking out to lunch without me and doing stuff after work), I don’t really care because I have a great social life, but I feel very isolated and uncomfortable. It’s making me physically sick and I hate coming to work everyday, even though I really like my job duties (writing and editing).We’ve had three managers over the past five months, and no one has addressed the situation although I have gone to several managers and in-house HR. Not the University big HR department yet. We are getting a new manager again on Monday, who will supposedly deal with this. But I have my doubts based on past experiences. I just got a great review, and she is a contract employee (not full-time like me). She is a tough, rude and stubborn person who tries to intimidate me, where as I am a softer, more gentle and friendly person. So it works. She stonewalls me and then is hostile when I do try and talk with her about her work and rewriting, which I end up having to redo most of her stories. She refuses to discuss the situation. I think she might even like it because she knows it makes me miserable. I wrote my letter of resignation today. I feel like I can’t take it anymore. I cry all the time and it is affecting my family life with my husband and young son as well as my physical and emotional health. Yesterday I felt like I was going to snap. I can’t take it anymore.She has become very good friends with my other coworkers (it is a small group) and I am very isolated and I know they talk about me all the time. Now the art director (her good friends) is increasingly bitchy to me and I have to work with her all the time. I don’t think I have the strength to make it through another issue of the magazine. All I want is to remove myself from the environment. It feels poisonous and drains all the energy and spirit out of me every day. I am exhausted and depressed.Should I just quit and move on? I really can’t go on like this much longer. I am taking tomorrow through Monday off, but I plan to resign next week. Thank you so much for your time and advice,
Done With It
Dear Done With It:
Right now I can well imagine that you are feeling very sad about work and wondering if you are doing the right thing to leave. One way to consider it would be to use your analytical skills to look at the current situation and what would be needed for you to feel better about work.*Would it require the coworker to change her feelings about your editing? ..to improve her writing? …to submerge her feelings and behave in a friendly, professional way? *Would she and others need to start including you in work place conversations? *Would her friends need to change their behavior? *Will the new manager have to immediately start tackling this problem and stop the things that have been going on? *Would the coworker need to be fired or quit, or do you think she could be ordered to behave pleasantly and professionally and she would do it?If it would take some of those things, in a very short amount of time, it probably isn’t going to happen.Also: If you were told to change some aspects of your own behavior, would you be willing to do that, if you didn’t agree? What if you were told your editing was faulty, would you be able to accept that? If you were told to start talking to the coworker, no matter how she responds, could you do that?Sadly, your situation seems to involve much more than an infrequent problem with one or two people. It seems there are no positives to hang onto!So, I’m inclined to think it may be too late to make any major improvements in a reasonable time frame. Given that truth–if you agree that it is the truth–it seems you are doing the best thing for yourself to quit and move on with your profession and your life. Dr. Gorden refers to that as “voting with your feet.”Whether you leave or stay you should ensure that you are clear with someone at the highest levels about what the situation has been as it relates to the quality of work being done by the writer and the negative responses you have gotten to your editing tasks. List the times you have tried to get help with the problem and what has resulted.For example: Collect several examples of the writer’s work before you edited them and afterwards, to show what you have been doing. Collect any emails you have exchanged, since you say you aren’t talking to the other person. Include the names of those who might have witnessed any harsh confrontations. Collect the emails you have written or received when you went to HR about it.That way, you can have an exit interview that maybe will lead to something positive for the next person. And, you will not be making this only a personal conflict, you will show there is a general dysfunction in the office.Usually we would counsel about trying to improve communications with individuals and the team, but it seems to have gone past that stage for you and your work group. Dr. Gorden will be seeing this and may want to take another approach.My thought is that you are probably well-educated and skillful and there will be other work for you in a place where you can be more successful and where you can find satisfaction and fulfillment.Best wishes to you with this situation. I’d be interested in knowing how it works out for you, so if you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what you decide and how things progress.
Tina Lewis Rowe