Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about distractions by coworker who is favored by boss:
We have a receptionist who with the last boss that left had him change her time cards and she was paid for days off – without using sick or vacation. She also sat at the reception desk and cut coupons or watched movies on her computer – giggling all day.After that boss left, I informed management of what was happening – they are 1000 miles away from our office. We now have a new manager. He doesn’t see that now she – being non-exempt-is taking less time for lunch and racking up overtime although she has little to do. She spends time on the phone – when the boss is away – talking with her family and friends – so she definitely wastes time – but still puts in for overtime. She constantly giggles with people on the phone and customers that come to the lobby. What am I to do? It irritates the crap out of me – her constant irritating giggling. I want to tell her to stop giggling and stop putting in for overtime. Help
Signed, Sick Of It
Dear Sick Of It:
I wish there was something easy and certain we could suggest that would make this situation better, but it may not be fixable, unless you can get support from your company and/or the manager of your office.You have four issues it seems:
1.) The apparent lack of awareness and corrective action by managers, about things that seem to you to be obvious office problems.
2.) The distraction of seeing a coworker not spending time appropriately when others are required to do so.
3.) The frequent and distracting giggling or laughing by a coworker.
4.) The feeling of unfairness when the coworker gets overtime pay because she fails to do her work during regular work time.
The first problem is the most important one, because it will probably require managerial intervention to improve any of the other issues, and that may not happen.We don’t know the type of work you do, how many people work in your office (and if they have the same feelings you do) or the dynamics of the work. All of those can have an impact on the situation. You can consider some of the following as you think about what you can do, what you are willing to do, and how much you will tolerate before you can’t take it any longer.
1. If the coworker has been giggling and laughing for years, she’s not going to stop now, unless someone with authority insists upon it. She might tone it down if every coworker (or many coworkers) tell her it’s distracting. But, if she doesn’t respond to that, they will need to go to the manager as a united group, to request assistance. If that doesn’t get any action, there is nothing much left to do, except to use informal sanctions by the group; and that can start looking like bullying or just being nasty.*It may be too late to encourage better relationships in the office, but that is one place to start. People who consider their coworker to be friends, tend to be more sensitive to what they say and do. Those who figure they are not well-liked or who don’t like others, tend to not care about the effect they have on coworkers.*If you’re already communicating with a coworker in a friendly way, it’s easier to make a kind request, such as, “Lisa, for some reason the sound just seems to echo around here anymore. Could you help me by toning down the volume of talk and laughter at your desk? Every time there’s a spurt of laughter, I lose track of my thoughts.”*If you’re not already communicating in a friendly way, or if there is open hostility, it won’t be easy to ask for her to change her behavior; and might not have an effect anyway.*If you have group meetings, perhaps you can bring up the subject and say that you’ve noticed increased noise levels. You wouldn’t have to mention someone specifically, but could ask for general cooperation. That way, when the laughter starts again you could remind her of the discussion in the meeting. “Lisa, this is one of the situations we talked abut in the meeting, where noise travels and what doesn’t seem loud to the person talking or laughing, it’s loud to everyone else. Could you help me by lowering the volume a bit, please?”
2. Someone has to approve the coworker’s overtime, so your manager apparently doesn’t mind doing it. Your only recourse for that would be to tell him how unfair it seems for one employee to get overtime, if work time is being wasted. If you have a brief list of when t has happened it would help, but don’t make it appear that you’ve wasted YOUR time spying on her.Your manager may not think it is your place to question it and might react negatively. Or, he may genuinely not be aware of the time she is wasting. Or, having someone reinforce what he has suspected, might be helpful. You would have to base your actions on what you know of his apparent willingness to talk to you about problems and how much influence you and she have with him.3. You say you told someone had company headquarters about this, when the last manager left. If you sent an anonymous note, they may not have taken it seriously. Those are usually treated as just someone being jealous or unhappy. If you talked to someone personally at that time, perhaps you can talk to them again and let them know that not much has changed. You’d have to ask them to keep the contact confidential, since your manager would probably be upset to think you went over his head. But, if you’ve talked to him already, that may be all you have left. As I said, this may not be fixable, since it has gone on for so long and is so established as the way the coworker does her work. It will require managerial action, since your efforts as a coworker won’t be enough.Consider asking your manager for a meeting to discuss what you consider to be serious problems in the office. Tell him at the beginning of the meeting that you dislike being the one who complains, but the situation has gone on and on and nothing has been done, so you feel you must take it further. Then, give him a list of the things that are most concerning to you and explain how all of it has an impact on the good work of the office. For example, the laughing and giggling are more than irritating, they distract you repeatedly from your own work and end up making it where work is a miserable experience. Let your manager know that this isn’t just a small little gripe, it’s a big issue. Regarding the wasted time and overtime pay, you can admit that it doesn’t personally effect you. But, you can point out that it isn’t right in an office for one employee to essentially be getting paid more than anyone else, for not managing her time well. You can point out the difference between the skill it takes for you to do your job and the skill required for her job, as a way to show that it’s especially unfair for her to get paid more when she spends the day disrupting work that is more highly skilled. (Assuming that is the case.)What it will probably come down to is how much influence you have, compared to her influence. If your manager sees you as a very valuable employee who is producing a lot of work and behaving in a way that is helpful, he may want to help you feel better about work. If you haven’t had such positive relationships with the manager but the coworker has, the manager may feel he wants to support her.One thing is for sure, you will have to take some definite action of your own, to bring about a change, unless your manager decides to do something one his own. That will be uncomfortable for you and may not be what you want to do. I think it would be worth it to ask for the meeting and be adamant that you’re not just venting, you want something to change. At least then you’ll know you’ve done all you can.Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.
Tina Lewis Rowe