Nurse Co-worker With Problems Blames Me!

Question:

I have worked at my current job as a nurse for 4 years. Three years ago we hired a new girl, and we quickly became work friends. We had a great time and had a lot in common. We did some stuff together outside work, but the majority of our friendship was at work. She was new in town then, but still does not have friends outside of work.

About 6-8 months ago she started acting different. She was defensive, easily emotional and sick a lot. She had stress colitis, dental problems, and it progressed to female problems. She was constantly talking about her personal health problems at work. It was fine at first and everyone wanted to lend an ear, but now it is past being okay. I am so tired of hearing about all her problems. She wants to have a baby and can’t get pregnant, she wants a nicer house, etc, etc. She ended up taking a vacation, then having surgery to try and get pregnant, then taking 2 more weeks off because she was having a hard time recovering from a laparoscope’s.

When she is at work she really cannot focus. She is making a lot of major mistakes and causing problems for everyone. About a month ago she admitted to be in a strong depression. We all told her to seek professional help. Meanwhile she was difficult to be around I was finding myself avoiding her so I would not have to listen to all her problems. I just want to work. She e-mailed a couple times telling me I was cold and she needs me now more than every. I responded with I am sorry I come across as cold, but I cannot help you the way you need help. She cries all day at work and tells all of us she can’t sleep, she is having stomach issues, she can’t concentrate, and she is depressed. (she is also a pot user and drinks a fair amount of alcohol).

She finally made an appointment to see a psychiatrist last week. The next day at work I did not ask her how her appointment went because I did not want her to cry, and I did not want to hear about it. I truly want to just do my job and not hear all her problems. When I got home I sent an e-mailed saying I hope your doctor appointment went well. I wish you all the best. Later that night I got an e-mail that said I was the problem and she is now on (curse word) drugs and seeing a (same curse word) therapist and it is my entire fault. She wishes things were like they were and she hurts so bad and it is all because of me. She said I never ask her how she is doing and I have never been there for her as a friend.

The boss is well aware of her mood swings and personal venting, but feels bad for her. I want to totally distance myself from her, but I work in a small work place of 7 people. We work very closely together. I feel I am now in a hostile environment with a person blaming me for their problems that is now on psychiatric medication. I am talking to the boss again tomorrow, but what do I do?

Signed,

Co-worker of Obsessed


Answer:

Dear Co-worker of Obsessed:

Not being able to see the situation hands-on is a challenge for outsiders. In general though, your details provide information that permits me to make the following observations, but I will preface these by stating a few questions, which will help you work through these comments and possibly give you alternative means to solve the issue.

? Does your workplace of 7 have an individual who deals with issues in the workplace? If not, is the “boss’ you refer to responsible for behavioral employee issues that affect the workplace? If not, is the business owner? Who hired this employee? Who trains her and who reviews her performance?

? Does your job description include handling behavioral employee issues? If it does, you need to consider this. Simply, keep it in mind, while you read the following.

Most important, you state that your boss is aware of the behavior. I have to assume for the moment that “the boss’ should be handling this. The employee had nearly 2 years of fairly acceptable working behavior, excluding her many personal and physical trials and tribulations, which you were patient enough to support her through. The last 6-8 months have been worse for all of you in the office. Your note stated “we all told her to seek professional help.” Now, she finally has, but only to blame you for her situation. It would be prudent, give it thought, that the others who told her to – document it as well.

Whoever hired her and whomever reviews her performance should be handling this issue: As I often remind my self when crisis or stress kicks in: think rationally, not emotionally! 

You are not her boss, you are not responsible for her situation, even if you were her boss, you are still not responsible for her situation! 

You are her friend, you are not responsible for her situation, if you feel like you contributed to the problem than you’ll want to reflect on that on your own. 

You are a co-worker! Depending on what your job description entails, you will aid & support team members no doubt, in effort to obtain goals of the office.

REGARDLESS, YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR HER SITUATION!

Review the note you sent in to us. Confirm that these incidents/issues have been added to the personnel file on this employee. Again, assuming your ‘boss’ is doing this, it is in her best interest to document all of these things, now, this includes the e-mails, especially the ones which (yes, unfortunately) include curse words, admitting to drug use, and even the accusations that YOU are responsible. Okay, that is the professional side of it.

You may be taking this far too personally, if it is not your responsibility, take the big step forward – tough as it is for nurturing individuals in this work environment. Tell the boss, or person you define as responsible, that you need their action on this issue. Why? It is impacting you: every single work day, it also impacts those in the workplace, which ultimately impacts the service you provide for the physician and more importantly the service to the patients: your revenue stream!

You are concerned and conscientious! Good for you! Now be conscious about your job and what it means to you & your career!

Think WEGO. Act WEGO. Second Opinion: With Obsessed Co-worker: I shared the advice provided by our first guest respondent with another guest respondent, the husband of a nurse. Here is his summary of his wife’s reaction to the advice: She wasn’t overly impressed with the advice sent you, saying Nurse 2 seemed a fair weather friend. Now that Nurse 1 needs someone she doesn’t want to fool w/ her. She suggests that Nurse 2 make certain that the Boss is aware of the extent of the problem. Nurse 1 was apparently a good employee at one time and management may not be totally aware of things as they are now. Sara suggests that the three of them, N1, N2, and Boss sit down together away from the daily routine and put it all on the table. It may be messy but needs to be done. Boss may want to start w/ one or the other and then invite the 3rd to join them. Sara faults Nurse 2 w/ abandoning her former friend. Her key question is does Nurse 1 carry out her duties? If so, she should receive a more sympathetic ear from all involved. If not, the Boss needs to deal with it for the sake of all concerned.

Barry Hester Those of you in the medical field know how important and sometimes conflicting are two opinions. Weigh them and use them to inform your own action. That is one of the meaning of WEGO–evaluating, collaborating and finding what is best for you and your workplace. Feedback: Thanks for all the advice. I truly appreciate all the time you have given my problem.

Here is the update: The boss had a meeting with my co-worker yesterday and she was put on a leave of absence. She admits to having some problems, but said she did not realize all the mistakes she had been making and problems she is causing. She did admit she can’t concentrate. She has been giving wrong directions to patients; she is unable to write up records, etc. She spends her lunch breaks venting about me. She wishes we were friends like we were. The boss does not want to have a meeting with all of us because he cannot even speak to her without her crying a lot. For some reason she really became dependent on my friendship. I need to comment on this statement: Nurse 2 seemed a fair weather friend. Now that Nurse 1 needs someone she doesn’t want to fool w/ her. I have been friends with her for a long time. I have tried to make things work. I do not feel that a friend that has turned to lashing out and exaggeration is healthy for me. My co-worker does not react rationally. I tried for many months, but it is now becoming stressful for me.

I was a good friend, but I am NOT responsible for her. I do want to have a civil relationship and do my job.

All my co-workers are concerned about her, but no one is friends with her. I do not know if she will ever be able to handle coming back to work. She need a lot of help.

Thanks again.

Kamila Cooprider