How to Get Over Workplace Incident

Question:

Lat year I worked at a discount store as a cashier for about seven months. Over the course of those seven months, I got along well with most of my coworkers. There was one coworker who irritated me and so I avoided him and that solved the problem. However, there was another coworker whom I initially liked as a person.

She was friendly and outgoing and we got along right from the start. However, over time, I started to become really annoyed by this individual. I thought her to be loud, overly opinionated, self-absorbed and critical of other coworkers job performance. She was very quick to pick up on other peoples’ mistakes and quite nosy, always interrupting conversations. She seemed to take a sadistic pleasure in trying to torment other coworkers, specifically coworkers whom she felt wouldn’t be quick to give her a dose of her own medicine.

My natural temperament is introversion. I am usually quiet and I don’t smile that often. After a while, I felt like she was targeting me because she felt that I wouldn’t necessarily say something to her in a firm way. I tried a few times to tell her that she didn’t give me credit for the work that I did.

There was one time in particular that she literally started pointing and laughing at the way I kept my work station. She laughed to the point that one of the managers who happened to be nearby heard her laughing and started looking at my workstation to see what the issue was.

That was one situation that got me really ticked off but I didn’t confront her about it because I have never felt comfortable with confrontation. I usually just keep my mouth shut.

However, toward the end of my employment, I had become so irritated by her that I ended up using sarcasm on her in one instance. It could have turned into a huge confrontation but she just laughed at me.

I felt bad about the incident. I also felt frustrated because I felt that no matter what I said to this coworker, she just wouldn’t take me seriously. She had a way of smirking and dismissing my feelings if I tried to say anything to her about her lack of respect. And because of her big mouth, she was very good at sticking up if she felt that she had been ridiculed.

After the sarcasm incident, I wrote a letter to the managers, letting them know about this incident and what had caused me to get to this point of frustration. It has been almost a year since I left that job and I still feel bad about the whole thing, not just the sarcasm incident but just the whole 7 month experience with this attention seeking, tormentor of a coworker. I don’t usually get over things easily so this has weighed heavily on me.

Signed,

Still Feeling Badly


Answer:

Dear Still Feeling Badly:

Feeling badly about how things have turned out in work situations is common and normal. Feeling bad about a really unpleasant situation can last for years or a lifetime for some people. However, the most emotionally healthy people work to find a way to move forward and move on, putting old things behind them and committing to learning from problem times and preparing for better times ahead. I hope you can do that as well.

Let me share some thoughts and see if they can help you think of a different approach.

1. Give it time. I don’t expect you will ever have great feelings about the whole thing, but time really IS a great healer in relationships—even work relationships.

If you haven’t already done so, in a few weeks..or now, if you want to try it…try going back to the store and see how things are working. Just be a customer and gaze around.

You will find that some people are no longer there and those that are may look different. Life is different for all of them, as it is for you. That will be a reminder that life really IS like a stream and you never step in the same situation twice. You begin to see that you are holding feelings about something that doesn’t even exist anymore.

2. Think about how some of the people there might feel. What if some of them told you they feel terrible about allowing themselves to be victimized by your coworker and they are sure you view them badly because of it?

What if one of the managers wakes up in the middle of the night and wishes he had been better about dealing with things while you worked there?

You’d probably tell both of them not to worry about it and to just do better next time. That is what they would tell you, too.

3. It sounds to me as though you responded well, no matter what the final outcome. You spoke up directly to the coworker and also talked to a manager. Many people would not do that. So, you can point with pride to being willing to take action instead of only complaining.

Make that the abiding memory. Some people could only remember that they did nothing and slunk away. You can remember that you did something and finally decided there was a better place for you to work. You have a lot to be proud of.

4. You apparently have another job now, so the key question is—will you let this happen again? Knowing what you know now, you likely will be more alert to signs that a coworker is not pleasant to others and will distance yourself sooner. You also will be more likely to be a bit more forceful about telling someone to stop being pain in the neck to you and others. You may even be more likley to talk to managers sooner. You may be stronger about providing leadership in including everyone and being pleasant to everyone.

You probably are much more aware of your own reactions to things and will be more careful about your responses, and that is what personal growth is all about.

5. The best way to change focus is to focus on something else. The best things to focus on are work, family and healthy activities. You won’t have time to think about the past when you are busy with the present and planning for the future.

I hope you will purposefully look for things to do away from work, to put work in its rightful perspective. I also hope you will have a leadership role in your current group. You don’t have to talk a lot to do that, you can do it by being the one who is dependable, credible, and a good communicator.

Because you wrote to us, I know you are aware that you will be more happy when you look forward instead of backward. If you’re going to look backward, look for the best memories of the best people and situations there, and that’s all.

Best wishes as you continue to be the best you can be, in every work situation.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.