As a newcomer at my workplace I was helpful and actively participated in activities. Slowly I was included into the group. I didn’t realize it, but before I was hired, there was a serious rift between the other employees and a close aide to our boss. I found out about this as my coworkers started opening up to me more and discussing the aide in front of me. I went along with it and said some negative things about the aide, but then realized, on my own, that I shouldn’t backbite since I don’t really know that person. I also realized my coworkers could be wrong in their judgment.After I realized I shouldn’t make negative remarks, I talked about it to a person who is part of our group and like me, does not want to get involved with gossip. Unfortunately, while we were talking about it, our boss overheard and asked about it. I don’t know why I said anything, but for some reason I told my boss everything that had been said and how negative our group feels about the aide.My boss assured me that my remarks would be kept secret and the problem would be handled. However, about two months later my boss called a meeting and yelled at everyone for how they had been talking about the aide. My boss later thanked me in front of one of the members of my group! That is the moment I felt my life was shattered. I asked my boss “Why did you thank me in front of someone from my own work group?” My boss said everything would be alright.Within a few days everything changed at work. All of the people in my group who were senior to me stopped talking to me. They became even more close but I was isolated. Work became a nightmare for me. When my boss found out what was happening she started looking out more for me. She told me the reason she disclosed my name was because she didn’t trust me completely at first, but she regretted that and would look out for me to make sure I wasn’t treated badly.At that point she started meeting with me regularly, sending me text messages and being more supportive. That lasted for about three months. In the meantime the aide who had been disliked was given a different position in the office. Suddenly my boss started ignoring me. After ten days of no communication I went to my boss and asked about it. She said there was nothing personal about it and that she was just busy with other things. However, I could see by the look on her face that something else was going on.Through all of this I was slowly rebuilding my relationship with my coworkers. I went and apologized to them and after three months or so, one by one they started talking to me. Ironically, the relationship between the other employees and my boss became better quickly. For me, it took a long time and here I am going through the same thing again.I’m resigning this job in two months and have told my boss my intentions. I don’t want to leave the job on a bad note. This was my first job and I have learned a good lesson from it. I will be more professional in my next job and less personal and emotional. But, for now, should I ask my boss one more time about her ignoring me or should I just leave it?
Ignored and Unhappy
Dear Ignored and Unhappy:
This whole situation was a tough thing to experience if it was your first job. Whatever your age, I can imagine you have felt confused about how to handle things.I don’t think you should talk to your boss about why she is ignoring you, since she may view it as an accusation and resent it.Even though she created a big part of this drama, she probably has been frustrated and sorry she made you look bad in front of your coworkers. She tried to make it up to you by giving you some extra support and encouragement. She probably got tired of devoting that much attention to any one employee and felt it could create problems later. She probably was also telling the truth that she is very busy. So, she decided to go back to a more traditional role, which involved less personal communication.None of this was solely your fault. Sadly, it often is easy to shift the blame to others, as your coworkers did to you and then as your boss did. I think you are wise to move on to someplace else where you are not continually trying to live this down and where you are not a reminder to others of an unhappy time when they didn’t deal with problems very well. I also think you can find a workplace that functions better! In the meantime, stay focused on doing your work well and let your boss be the one to decide whether she wants to improve the relationship or not in these final two months.About two weeks before you leave, write a memo or email to your boss, in which you say you have learned a lot from working there and will apply it wherever you work next. Thank her for her support and encouragement during difficult times. Give her your private email address in case anyone needs to contact you about work issues after you leave.That’s about all you need to write. Make it sound professional and positive. She may want to talk to you then or not. But, at least you will have ensured that you left in a positive way.If the group says goodbye to you over coffee or a social time at work, take a moment to thank them for their help. You can say something like, “Thank you for this get-together. I really appreciate it. I just want you to know that in spite of some rough times, I will always be grateful that I had a chance to know all of you and I hope you will stay in touch. Thank you.”Combining the message to your boss with the thank you to coworkers will help you leave on a positive note. Your next job may be a better workplace and there won’t be problems like this one created. You’ll be able to establish yourself in a new way and move forward without any of this over your head. Much nicer! Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.
Tina Lewis Rowe