How Can I Overcome Resentment Of My Co-worker?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about coworker irritation: She is always on the phone with some family member or a doctor’s office or someone and it sounds like a crisis. She is very loud and dramatic.

I work in an environment where we work in cubes. When we seated, we cannot see the person in the next cube, but we can hear them. For the most part, people talk on the phone about work related issues. At times, personal calls are made to family members or to handle personal issues. I’ve done it and others have, but in moderation. However, there is one co-worker whose middle name is “Drama Queen.” She is always on the phone with some family member or a doctor’s office or someone and it sounds like a crisis. She is very loud and dramatic.

She is chatting on the phone all day with matters unrelated to work. What she is doing is wrong. There is nowhere for anyone to go. We are stuck in our cubes and subject day-after-day to listen to her unending personal problems. She’s abuses the phone. I try to ignore her and don’t engage in any conversations with her about her personal problems.

We are even allowed to listen to radios and CD players, so I have my headphones on and try to tune her out. But if I am waiting for a phone call or need to make a phone call, I cannot have the radio on.

I guess what really bothers me is that her life seems to be a chaotic mess and I do not want any of it to rub off on me. I try to be calm, rational and in control of my work and personal life. Then comes along this person who just doesn’t seem to have it together. She pollutes the air and doesn’t have a grip on her life. I resent her at times, but, I want to respect her as a person and as an employee and I do not want to jeopardize my job by saying something out of place.She’s on the job like me to work and collect a paycheck. Is it my right to tell her to shut up? I don’t know. And will she listen to me to quiet down or will this just create animosity on the team? I am trying to avoid conflict this year. Do I approach the Manager to say she’s a disturbance? How do I not feel such resentment towards her and what can I do about the situation.

Signed, Sick Of The Drama

Dear Sick Of The Drama:

As you know if you scan our Archives, those who work in cubicles must cope with a number of noise, odor, and isolation problems. Just this past week one told us: “My coworkers are nice, but they’re all very busy & the type of group that eats lunch at their desk each day, so it’s a little bit of a challenge to get to know people around there. There is a section in your Archives on noise & music, and the woman that works next to me definitely has an interesting taste in music. I think one day I got to listen to about three hours of bagpipes! I leaned to bring headphones after that. :-)”And if you also looked at that section in the Archive you probably saw such Q&As as How Can We Solve A Noisy Problem? http://workplacedoctors.com/wpdocs//archive/q119.htm

Might there any additional advice to wearing earphones be given to you who is annoyed about the individual you label Drama Queen? I will list several options you might consider:

1. Don’t brand this co-worker with a mean name. You say you want to respect her. Labeling her “Drama Queen” does not do that.

2. Weigh whether her abuse of phone privileges prevents you from doing your job or is simply annoying. If her incessant personal use of the phone is so loud and/or distracting, that is a productivity problem for you and one that should be addressed by either you confronting her about that politely and firmly or by you engaging your manager to address that problem. Dealing with her directly or complaining to your boss will not satisfy your desire to “void conflict this year.” So if you choose this option, you should expect some discomfort, and will need to weigh if it is worth it.

3. At a staff meeting, raise the issue of productivity and noise. This is to ask your work group about the reason you are employed: What are we hired to do? Are we adding value or simply doing what little we can to earn a paycheck? If you owned the company, what might you do to work as a team to make your internal and external customers pleased with your work? What are our numbers; satisfied customers, defects, calls made or whatever you do; and how does that translate to money made? If you were on a basketball or soccer team, a coach and team members would review what went well and what mistakes were made in the game just played. And more importantly, how you might help each other to play their roles more effectively? That means skill improvement and a cheer-each-other behavior. Your complaint obliquely mentions being distracted when waiting for making a call. You have a productivity issue if overhearing the talk of your co-workers makes doing your job more difficult. Apparently, you pretty much work on separate tasks and at this time there is little or no attention to the productivity of your work group. That can change. Most managers would welcome questions about: How well are we doing this week and What can we do to improve what we are doing?

You say that you do not want to “create animosity on the team.” The way to avoid all conflict is to bite your tongue and continue to be irritated by misuse of the phone. Complaining to the boss about a co-worker’s misuse of the phone inevitably will get back to her. So you must weigh that against an alternative option; jogging up your whole work group’s attention and commitment to improving the quality of work. Are you up to that?

Do face up to the problem. Ask yourself if you are simply jealous of this co-worker playing when she should be working. If so, admit that and decide if confronting her and/or your manager is the way to solve that. Don’t gossip about her to your family or friends. That does not solve or confront your annoyance. Pretend that you are a creative committed person who not only wants to do your job, but who would like to work on a team that is excited about making a difference. Repeat my signature line and think about its deeper meaning: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden