Can I Stop Embarrassing Teasing By A Co-worker?

Question:

Every time I have to visit the executive office downstairs the head exec’s secretary dials my Ex. Everyone in the workplace knows he left me and moved to one of our international offices. She then proceeds to talk loudly pretending she needs a report or response from him with “Hi, Roberto…. Oh Roberto stop it, now Roberto”…saying his name like 20 times in the conversation.

I’ve observed her conversation with other male managers on the phone, and she doesn’t say their names repeatedly, which tells me she is doing this on purpose. I’ve already emailed my Ex since we are on friendly terms and told him anytime she does this it’s probably because I’m there. The thing is I’m really getting tired of this, not because I’m jealous but because it’s plain annoying. I confronted her nicely a few months ago, and it stopped, but it started back up again when she needed something and I didn’t drop everything and do it right away.

I’m the type that I hold things in for along time and then blow up which I’m afraid is what will happen soon if I don’t do something about it. Thanks for your help.

Signed,

Annoyed


Answer:

Dear Annoyed:

You seem to have taken some good steps so far. Confronting this person nicely and emailing your ex to check in and explain what you think is happening on your end were positive moves. You also appear to be centered and a good communicator, or else you wouldn’t have the confidence or skills to have confronted this person nicely and get it to stop for a spell. Apparently there is some need this in person that is not getting met, otherwise she wouldn’t be using this manipulative behavior to get you to do something she want. Your previous confrontation may have been about her annoying behavior, but did you learn anything about why? Perhaps if you confront the person again, you could ask what she needs from you so that you can relate professionally and have a productive office. In other words, you may want to get curious and get down to the root cause of this behavior in order to figure out what is at work. What is it that you didn’t drop and get done right away. Explore that situation more deeply because that is what caused the pattern to begin again. You may also try talking to your ex to explain how you feel and encourage him to get the secretary to end this behavior on her own initiative. It must be annoying to him as well. It certainly helps that you still talk and are on good terms. A few skillful steps may keep you from blowing up and becoming way beyond annoyed. Your self-awareness is strength. Confrontation can be productive when it becomes a give and take encounter making explicit what is needed to make each other’s jobs productive and easier. That kind of assertive communication is what we call WEGO. To accomplish this, may require a one-on-one private session in which you present in writing the dos and don’ts of how you want to her to speak to you. And to ask how you might make her work more effective and less annoying. Also you two would be wise to agree on a follow up time to review how the dos and don’ts are working. This kind of confrontation can lead to collaboration and that can transform working antagonistically to working as teammates that cheer each other on. It’s worth a try. If this doesn’t work, the next step is to seek the help of your superiors or your people in Human Resources.

Ian Heisey