Co-Worker Calls Me Names & Supervisor Defends Her

Question:

I recently had a situation where a fellow coworker called me a street walker that does drugs. When this happened I was helping with the board she was doing and she just blurted it out. I did not understand why and I was shocked she stated this. I told her I was offended and to never call me that again. Due to the fact this was not the first time this coworker called me a name and not the first time I told them to not call me any type of offensive names, I took this to my supervisor.

My supervisor defended her and told me that she talks this way at home and with her husband and that she didn’t mean anything by it. Also, my supervisor told me to go talk to her and let her know that I really do not appreciate being called names and to never call me any other name except my birth name. I went up to my coworker and asked in a soft way if it is possible for me to speak with her for a minute. She stated not right now, possibly later. I asked about one hour an half later and she stated not really she needed to make some phone calls. I waited to ask her after she cam back from lunch and she snapped at me an told me this was not a good time and she will talk to me tomorrow if it is not account related. During all this time, when she was talking to other coworkers, she was fine, not a problem, even laughing with them.

Since I could not talk with her one-on-one, I emailed the issue of her calling me something I am not and have never been. She snapped again and told me that she is not going to cater to my feelings and that she was not going to grovel at my feet. I didn’t understand where that came from, because I never treated her like that at all.

I copied my supervisor and the department manager, and the manager told me if she needs to step in she would. All I wanted to do was talk but she didn’t and I believe she truly knew why I wanted to talk to her because later on that day the supervisor told me the coworker came to her earlier that day and told her what she had did, but the supervisor did not let me know she knew about it when I was talking to her. The supervisor protected her, and kept protecting her the whole time.

I don’t know what to do. There is a clique of people in my group and I thought once new upper management was established it would stop, but it didn’t it just changed hands. I’m a single mother and I need the job but I know from past experiences that my superivsor wants me out of the company and would be happy if I left. I’m tired of trying to get along with people that only want to have a negative attitude or say rude things when it’s not necessary, just to be mean. I don’t know what to do? Any and all advice would be kind. I’ve been at this job for 4 1/2 years, and I feel as if the supervisor and the coworker she is defending has the upper hand in this and will continue to do this kind of thing, until I’m so stressed out I leave. I feel like I shouldn’t have to leave because some of these people do not want to be professional and courteous .

Signed,

Feeling Shut Out


Answer:

DearĀ Feeling Shut Out:

It sounds as though there are a lot of things going on in addition to this one situation. Apparently you have felt there was a problem between you and the supervisor and some co-workers for a considerable length of time and this recent incident is just one more event.

You know your situation best, but it would seem to me it is not doing any good to talk to your supervisor, or to attempt to reason with the co-worker. Frankly, your supervisor was wrong to tell you to talk to the co-worker about something that was apparently as offensive as the remark she made. I can imagine someone jokingly saying such a thing to a very, very good female friend, but you say you are not friends and you have asked her before to not make remarks like that. The supervisor should have used better judgment about it.

On the other hand, your manager should have been more concerned as well. That extreme lack of action makes me wonder if there have been events that make her believe things are not as bad as you describe. Or, that you have been more sensitive than most about conversation that was not meant offensively. That may not be the case, but it does seem strange that this matter is viewed as a personality conflict between you and a co-worker rather than a genuine issue of impropriety. That is what makes me wonder if they would disagree about what was said and how it was meant.

You have three options at this point: You can either make a formal complaint right now, or you can wait until something else happens and use this most recent situation to reinforce a complaint at that time. Or, you can try to hold on as things are now and keep a low profile to avoid further issues.

I don’t know the size of your company, if there is an HR section, or how many managers there are. But, if it is big enough for you to have a supervisor and a manager, it is probably big enough that those at the top would not like this going on. There is bound to be a negative affect on work when employees are having problems and supervisors don’t intervene.

If you want to make a complaint you should write down the situation that occured, exactly as it happened. Say, word for word, what the co-worker said and what you said. Write about what you told your supervisor and what your supervisor told you to do. Then, describe how you tried to talk to them employee and what she said. Essentially write what you wrote to us, only be more detailed and list witnesses if you have any.

At the beginning of your letter say that you want it forwarded to your manager and you want an investigation done about the rude and harassing behavior of the other employee. Or, you may want to send it to HR directly. That would be a last resort if you feel you have no other choice. You may not want to make your complaint deal with the actions of the supervisor, since you have to keep working for the supervisor. The fact that the incident happened, the supervisor was aware of it, and no action was taken, will speak for itself.

If you decide not to compalin now, write down the situation anyway, so you have it when another event occurs.

If you decide to not complain at all, you will need to find a way to get along in spite of your feelings. If you are doing good work, it seems odd that your supervisor would want you to quit, which makes me think there have been some problems in the past. I’m not saying you are in error and they are right–but suggesting that you may want to closely examine why a good employee would be pushed out.

If you decide not to complain formally, make a promise to yourself right now to avoid the co-worker who causes you problems. Be civil but not overly friendly. Always be courteous and speak when necessary, but don’t try to have a conversation about this or anything else.

Check your work to make sure you are getting to work on time, doing your work without excessive assistance, being a good employee in every way. If you are doing overall good work you likely have some friends there. Maybe they can tell you if there is some viewpoint you are not seeing.

Take care of your own business and try to avoid being part of theirs. You say there is a clique. If that is the case, just let them do what they do, but you focus on good work. If the co-worker says something very offensive again, then you can decide if you want to complain. But, keep in mind that if you really need and want your job, you may want to go the extra distance to not complain unless you think your co-worker deliberately wished to make you uncomfortable.

Or, if it happens again you may wish to go to your manager and say that this time you WOULD like her to talk to the co-worker.

Focus on your work, be so good that the supervisor and manager would not want you to leave. But if you think that isn’t working, consider either going to HR, or on your own write a complaint and insist it be investigated.

Best wishes as you attempt to deal with this unpleasant situation. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe