Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about belittling by out-performance:
I feel a little nuts for asking but I have a huge problem here. I have worked for a real-estate company for 4 months now. I was hired as secretary at first and then, within a month, promoted to Office Manager. I got a small raise but did not complain because I love my job very much. I am also about to graduate with a paralegal degree.Less than a month ago, a woman about ten years older than me started working as my boss’s, wife’s assistant. She is nice to me and VERY friendly but she seems to be competing with me hard. When I do something she tries to do it better. When I say something, she has something to top it. She makes sure everyone hears anything she does and looks at me while she says it.
She also tries to do more than needed while filling in for me on my lunch break. She makes it known to me that she is SOOO BUSY and I have it easy even when I have loads of work to do myself. Yet she wants to befriend me at the same time.She claims to have a computer degree only when I mentioned that I almost graduated with a computer degree before I switched to something I liked more. Yet she does not seem to know much about computers. She likes to make it known to me when my boss asks her to do something for him. She claims to have turned down a high paying computer job for this one only after my boss told her that I turned down a management job to work with this “family”.
I am also urged to get my Realtor License to help clients legally (not to sell real estate just help clients). I said yes to this and then she said that my boss is pressuring her to get her license and she will do it too. She thought I was getting the license to sell real estate and when I told her I had no interest in it, her face went from a smirk to a frown. What should I think here? Is this woman trying to get my job or something? How do I deal with this and keep my jobs too. She seems hell bent on trying to out do me in everything. I just want to get along and stop the silliness.
Signed, Don’t Want To Compete
Dear Don’t Want To Compete:
No doubt about it, it can be unnerving when someone seems to be going out of their way to show you up or to compete with you–and this woman certainly sounds as though she has issues about you and feels the need to show you up. You know best about your own situation and the culture of the office, but perhaps I can provide some perspectives that would be helpful.
1. Do a status check of your job and the job of the woman you mentioned. The fact that you were moved into your job after a very short amount of time indicates that your boss was happy with your work. If you have been building on that strong foundation, he is likely even more pleased now. Has anything occurred that would shake that? The woman is the assistant to your boss’s wife. Is it likely that you would be replaced by her–either to be demoted or worse? I don’t know the total situation, but it seems from your description that both you and your work are assets to your organization. It isn’t likely that your boss would want to lose your contributions just to satisfy another employee.
2. I’m sure there is a temptation to focus your energy on defending yourself or trying to strategize about the situation. I think you will help yourself most by avoiding that temptation. You will never know her motivation for certain. You have a suspicion but cannot prove it. Put your focus on your own work. That will accomplish two things: You will be able to avoid so much contact with her and you will solidify your own work position even better.
3. Consider adjusting your interactions with her. I think that would be most helpful. Don’t be so available to listen to her preen. And, if you feel you can do it, put her on the spot somewhat when she tries to put you down a little. If she says something about how much work she does and implies that you don’t, say, “Really? Do you really think I don’t have much to do, or are you joking?” Or, if you want to be really nice about it, you could say, “Well, we all have plenty to do and I don’t suppose anyone fully understands the work someone else has.” (I’d be inclined toward the first response though!)There are some who would advise you to think about the fact that she may have low self-esteem that prompts these actions. My thought is that, whatever is going on in her psyche, she is making you feel uncomfortable and she almost certainly knows it. Limit opportunities for her to do that.If it gets so extreme that you find yourself unable to ignore it, consider meeting with your boss and telling him what you told us…that you have concerns about where all of this is leading. You may want to ask him for reassurance about the security of your job. Or, you may simply want to tell him that she makes you feel uncomfortable and you would like his advice on how best to handle it. The word “uncomfortable” is a good one, in that implies concern rather than anger.
4. Put your energies into establishing or strengthening relationships with clients and co-workers. Be the best employee you can be and the best resource for others. Her focus seems to be herself. Put yours on helping the company, those who work in it and those who work with it. That will be appreciated and noticed far more than her ladder-climbing. I hope these thoughts will reinforce your own or provide some new ideas for your plan of action. If you wish, let us know what develops. You sound like someone who knows what she wants to do and can set goals and achieve them. Don’t let this person pull you off the path that is right for you. She is the detour sign on the road that you want to continue traveling! That may be a good visualization for you!Best wishes as you deal with this challenge. Working together sometimes calls for saying stop saying you are OK and I’m not before WEGO is possible.
Tina Lewis Rowe