Queen Bee Hates Me.

Question:

I think your site is amazing! I’ve read 3 posted and learned so much already, and that is something that other people are writing too! Thanks for reading, please help. This is a bit long; it’s just a problem at work that is kind of minor compared to what I am used to.

First some background: I recently failed a university thesis. My profs were screaming at me a lot, calling me stupid, etc. It was bad and I’m still pretty shaken up. It seems like every course where I actually had to interact with an older male prof on a regular basis and make presentations, I would do badly. Other profs in other departments really liked me and I did very well. Anyways in my last course, the prof started to call me stupid in the first week! And would get so angry I was afraid to come to school. Another one would humiliate me so badly that even other profs would try to protect me, though I think when his friends found out, they also disliked me and started doing the same things to me, calling me stupid, swearing during meetings etc. Even other students told me to run and drop out of his class and that they couldn’t handle the way he spoke to me.

I’m still pretty shaken up and really depressed. I recently went for an interview in my field and the owner of the business said I was too old, that he didn’t know what I was doing, that I would never finish school (though I told him I was still a student {technically true since I may transfer to a different program} etc. etc. I’ve taught at colleges before as a Teaching Assistant, and worked for a lot of professors, but he seemed kind of demeaning about that and said that he didn’t want to teach because he wanted to do business instead. He even asked me at the interview if I was bored. Since I’m older (30) I’ve had a lot of different types of work experience, I guess this is why he thought I was a job hopper.

I have been afraid to get a job for a long time since I’m just terrified of people now, since “ugh” people were just so bad at school, mostly instructors. Luckily, I got a job from a temp agency and am working in a totally unrelated field as a secretary, to take a break and just recover.

But again interpersonal problems from day one! The most popular and loudest girl at work can’t stand me. She was quite friendly the first day but then suddenly started to ignore me and so have her friends.

I am not sure what is going on. They are still polite and invite me to functions, etc. but never with their clique. I am really worried given the things that have happened to me in the past that I’m being discriminated against because I’m Asian! It’s really freaking me out since I basically live in a backwater/ farming community and am a minority. There are other Asians as my workplace though, even my bosses are foreign but the majority of people are Caucasian. I don’t even dare to talk to other Asians because I feel like she is watching me! This girl is very friendly with them; however, I know I’m not really allowed to go out to lunch who are good friends with her.

She is a very popular person, very loud and funny, and constantly talks about her personal life and makes personal calls during work, etc. I do like her but its gotten me into trouble in the past seeming too sociable or talking too much at work. Also, my boss sits right behind me and I’m worried if I get up a lot and socialize too much that it will seem like I’m not serious or a timewaster. Profs at school have accused me of this before and seriously doubt my competence because they think I am ditzy. I’ve studied at an Ivy League school and am also female.

It gets really tense with this woman, most of the people I work with are mothers, and older and very nurturing so I’m very lucky! They can see things that younger people can’t. Most are very nice and they seem to want me to like it there. It’s too bad it’s just maybe this one clique that seems to dislike me. They are also mothers, but it just feels quite immature to make everyone ignore me. I am at a loss as how to deal with them; they don’t seem to want me to talk to them so I try to keep my distance. I gave them all presents for Xmas but it didn’t seem to help. Things got tense again an hour later, and now even my boss, who is black, is avoiding me! They get a long with her really well though and have all been there a very long time. I wish I were young and pretty. It seemed like in school or at work, if you are pretty, then people will like you and treat you well. If you aren’t, like me (I’m overweight, very tired, have now developed an anxiety disorder), then you will get picked on. Maybe it is because I am too cold at work but I just like to focus on business and basically ignore everyone. I don’t know how to change this without looking like I am wasting time. I find people draining and don’t like to socialize with people much just to make them feel like I’m paying attention to them. I also really dislike office politics.

I am a bit envious of her, however. I have known people who are so popular at work or school, that even if they are in the lowest position in the organization, the bosses will bow down to them for fear of retaliation from loyal friends/ coworkers. I just don’t know how people like that do it, they break every single rule about being professional and not too intimate or talking about your personal life at work, but it works!

Anyway, I am afraid it will all break into a head again like at school, and I have a feeling I will definitely get fired when the tension builds enough and she has a reason to get angry with me though I am always very polite and nice. (A Note from the Workplace Doctor: As you can see I edited what you wrote us.)

Signed,

Hates Me


Answer:

Dear Hates Me:

Your description of graduate schooling is not pretty, nor is description of how you are treated by co-workers in your temporary job, nor is the description of your self. Is there hope that you can keep this temporary job? Of course, that is something no one knows, especially from a distance. Ideally, the Workplace Doctors can provide advice that will enable those like you to cope, and it is good to learn that you have found some of our Q&As helpful. I would be interested in what you have learned from them that might apply to your situation. Of course each situation is somewhat different, but I will list several suggestions that you might draw from a careful reading our site and by re-reading what you have sent us: Composing a question, in itself, can be therapeutic and provide clues of answers to problems posed. In your lengthy e-mail, what might we learn? 1.You report professors, screaming, swearing, and calling you stupid, and you blame older male professors. There is no excuse for such behavior. Did you reflect on possible causes for that kind of treatment and why you failed your thesis? We should learn from mistreatment and failures. You don’t say what provoked such treatment. Did you not confront those who behaved insultingly? Did you reflect on what you did or did not do that provoked humiliating treatment? What subject matter did you not know? You wrote that you did badly in presentations? What were your problems in presentation? Whatever the subject matter, presenting it hinges on clear organization and delivery. And whatever your inadequacies, you need not to take such behavior, either at school or at work. You should not have to ask to be treated respectfully or civility, but when you are treated disrespectfully, you will continue to be so unless you voice your displeasure. If you study more of our Q&As, you will discover ways to stop such behavior. Workplace Doctor Tina Rowe has excellent suggestions for what an individual, who is a victim of verbal abuse, might do to call a stop to such behavior. Look up Q&As in our Archive on verbal abuse. 2.You don’t say what is the subject of you graduate work, but you mention that you might transfer to another field. Might it be wise for you to consider a field that has a marketable skill certificate; such as nursing, dental assistant, pharmacy, interior design, physical therapy, etc.? You are not too old to make a career for yourself. Possibly, there is a technical college near you that offers a program you might find of interest. Your temporary job is not a career but probably is important to you to pay for a job preparation. 3.Not incidentally, another thing you should see in re-reading your e-mail is that you wrote it hastily. It is good to spit out your feelings in a stream of consciousness, but you did not take the time even to capitalize, correct spelling, and to proof it so that we might understand and look favorably on your capability. It will take me a long time to do that if I decide to post this Q&A. Might communicating carelessly in writing be like going for an interview with unwashed clothing? I hesitate to mention this because I know you are already distressed. But how you present yourself affects how you are perceived. 4.You mention discrimination–that you are Asian living in a backwater community, socialize too much or too little, are cold and overly focused on work, are overweight, and not pretty. This list of the way you see yourself is jumbled and confusing, but that is probably the way you sum up yourself. I don’t know if any of these things have caused the interpersonal problem you describe with the co-worker you say was friendly the first day and then not. You do express envy of attractive people, saying they get by with rule breaking. And you say you are worried that not fitting in with this popular co-worker might result in being fired. Possibly you will be fired, but I don’t that will be the reason if you do good work. So what might you do to keep your job and to re-assess your way on a career path? Possibly, even though you are not currently enrolled at your university, I think you could seek the help of their counseling facilities. A personal counselor there could help you think though the many things that have accumulated and cloud your mind and dampen your spirit. And they also might help you map out a career path. 5.On your own, you might list those factors that you have going against you and for you and beside each state things you might do to lessen or circumvent the negatives and accentuate the positives. Also, you might determine a program of self improvement; eating healthy, exercise, joining in individual or group activities that you enjoy such as singing, reading, an investing club, volunteering, yoga, church, or toastmasters. Does this make sense? It is normal to be self-interested; however, I gather that you are all of that and are not other-interested. We need both ego and wego.

Finally, I suggest that you need someone to talk to, but that more than that you need to get a life. Don’t allow a tape of what you wrote us to play and replay in your head or to friends. Rather focus on the positive and a balanced life while, at the same time, sharing your concerns with a counselor or confidant. It is good to spill your feelings to us and you have done that. Now get on with your life.

William Gorden