Controlling Co-worker

Question:

I have a co-worker that I have worked with for over ten years. She has a tendency to get mad at people and not speak to them for long periods of time. It could be months or even years. She has done this to me on several occasions even for two years straight along with another associate of mine also. She has been mad and not speaking to another co-worker for the past couple of months and she told me that if I spoke to this person that she would not speak to me. I did not obey and she hasn’t spoken to me in over two weeks. This is petty and ridiculous and I do not want to continue to play these games with her. What should I do? I tried saying Hi and Bye at least, but she will not respond. I am tired of the on again. Off again relationship and I have to work with her regardless.

Signed,

Off Again


Answer:

Dear Off Again:

Then get off her “Off Again” list. Your concluding sentence states, “Off again relationship and I have to work with her regardless.” Apparently that sentence contradicts the story; that you have worked with her for 10 years and Ms.Off Again will not speak for long periods of time. Was work with her efficiently and effectively accomplished by nonverbal communication? What did do when you spoke to her about assignments that needed her response? However if in fact you have to work with her, demand that she communicates civilly. Tell her either she responds accurately and quickly when needed or you want her to come with you to your boss. If she will not respond to that, go to your boss immediately and describe Ms. Off Again’s lack of cooperation.

You have correctly characterized your coworker. She is controlling and demands that her enemies must be your enemies. It is a form of ostracism use by some teenagers and by some religious groups is a shunning. She was hired to work effectively. She was not hired for incivility. Ms. Off Again is creating to a hostile work environment. Soooo even if you can do your job with Ms. Off Again shutting you out, that is not the kind of work environment your employer wants for her or you. Is it not past time to change the dark clouds that she has brought between you and others? Is it not time for light and sunshine?

Suppose individuals in your work group were a volleyball team. What would the coach do if he knew one of you would not speak to another? The coach would pull that individual to the side and say, “Sally, effective play demands that you communicate and communicate with all of your teammates politely and effectively. If not, you sit on the bench now and if you don’t have a different attitude it’s bye, bye. Coaches hold skull sessions after, before and sometimes call for huddles during a game. They engage their players in discussion around such questions as: “How well are we communicating as a team?” and “What can be do to interact more effectively?

Workplace bosses should coach. They can be taught to coach if they don’t. If you genuinely see Ms. Off Again’s shutting you and others out as petty and ridiculous, you will tell your boss he or she needs to have regular skull sessions. You will say she/he needs to call a coworker to the side who is creating a hostile work environment. Do I need to spell this out any more clearly?

Change takes courage and persistence. There is no quick fix to a hostile environment. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and now you don’t have big Wegos where you work. I think the hostility you describe indicates that you are “tired” enough of pettiness to see it as an opportunity for engaging your boss and coworkers in a series of conversations about what it can be like to have big WEGOS at work.

William Gorden