Senior Casual Bumped Out

Question:

My friend is a senior casual worker with OPSEU. A casual from another district is going to bump her out of her position, and she is very bitter. I find her constant negativity to all she does at work grating. She appears to be venting to me instead of those who can help her.

Signed,

Not A Sponge


Answer:

Dear Not A Sponge:

People, who feel threatened and/or frustrated, need to get that off their chest. Some of them, rather than confront the cause of their dismay, mumble and replay what is on their mind over and over. Talking to themselves doesn’t satisfy their need for comfort and support. You bitter coworker has decided that you are “it”. She’s turned sour and pours out her bitterness to you. What might you do to shut her up other than to firmly say to her, “Susan, honey, shut your mouth?” You don’t say if and what you may have tried to free yourself from her depressing attitude and chatter; therefore, my few suggestions may echo what you’ve already attempted: 1. Schedule a timeout session with her. Actually, hold up a mirror to her. Tell her what you see and hear day after day; a coworker who does not smile and laugh; one whose talk is complain, complain, complain; one who distracts from the work that needs to be done; one who rarely thinks about anyone other than her own pending plight. Say, “Susan, do you realize what you have become and its consequences? I don’t like to see you and hear your miserable talk. It depresses me. You have become so obsessed with your pain that you have become a pain to whoever is near you.” Straight talk such as this should lead to her thinking about what comes next; being someone that no one wants to be around or generating ideas about what options, if any, are available. 2. Ask if you can record her for a day. Even asking for permission will open up the topic for you to tell her how “grating” it is to hear her “constant negativity”. You then can coax from her what she might do if in fact she bumped; such as meet with her boss and seek her/his opinion about why she will be bumped and what she might do to prove she merits that job or something more. One of the best ways to face up to how we come across is to record our talk, and she just might take on your request. 3. Suggest she see the company’s psychologist, personnel people, or meet with the powers that are and can shape her future. Help her build a case for what she might do to find alternate career paths. Such a tact might involve you with her more than you want so this might not be a good choice for you, but you could propose she enlists the help of her boss or some other mentor in an assertive way. Good bosses are quietly interested in their employees’ careers. They learn their dreams and anxieties. When they don’t, employees are wise to seek out their advice. This approach is implied in your comment: “She appears to be venting to me instead of those who can help her.” You are fed up with cloudy and stormy weather. So it may be past time for you to tell her how she makes you feel. You can say that you hope she can confront this and think through scenarios of what and where she will go if she is bumped. It is good to be empathic, but coworkers foster codependency unless they draw boundaries.

Feel free to keep us posted on what you elect to do and how all this plays out. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. How might my signature sentence apply to your situation?

William Gorden