What Might Happen after a Complaint to HR that I Raised my Voice to a Coworker?

I had an argument with a coworker and he complained that I raised my voice. HR told me that numerous people said I raised it, but I know those people were actually friends of my coworker. Now HR is doing an investigation and has asked me to take a couple of days off and they will let me know what the next steps will be.

This is my first time ever meeting with HR. Do you think I could get fired? Any suggestions or ideas or experience would be appreciated to help me with this situation.

The decision about what will happen as a result of your loud argument will depend upon what it was about, what words you used, what was being said by your coworker, and how valuable you are to the company.

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Co-Worker Is Obsessed With Her Dislike of Me!

I’ve worked for my company for about 1 year now. I was promoted 2 months after I started. My old boss is now my colleague as we share the same boss. I was promoted to a trainer position on her shift. Any new employees that comes in, I am responsible for their training and development.

The first day of my new position she came up with the idea that I was trying to take her job. She is known for being extremely rude and unbearable. Plenty of people quit because they couldn’t deal with her behavior. She has loud outbursts on the production floor, she yells at people and cries at the drop of a dime. I’ve always been cordial to her and tried to help her as much as possible.

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What To Do About A Problem Group of Coworkers?

A question to Ask the  Workplace Doctors about workplace conflict. 

Note to the author of this question: We sent our response to the email address you provided, but it was returned as invalid. We’re hoping you will come back to the site to see our advice about your workplace concern!

I recently became president among the workers in our unit. The rest of our colleagues (whom we dubbed the Red Sparrows) are always sucking up to whoever new administrator comes to our unit. They badmouth our admin to us and if we agree with them, they report it to her. They expose our flaws which are already personal and has nothing to do with them. We tried to settle it personally face to face and they agreed but they still work underground and I still hear whispering of rumors. Worse, our new admin is a manipulative one and uses our faults to control us. What do we do? Please help.

You are the president of your employee group, which means you have a leadership role. You obviously care about the well-being of your group, as shown by the fact that you took the time to write to us to ask for some assistance. I hope you will use your leadership role to encourage and enable everyone to feel as positive as possible about being at work. Any work is tiresome enough without having upsetting situations on our minds.

I’m not clear about whether or not the colleagues to which you refer are part of another group or part of the group of which you are the employee president. If they are part of another group and have their own president, perhaps you can work with that person to build a better workplace. If they are part of your group, you should be careful to not take sides, so you can represent everyone in your president role.

You said that you and others on one side of the conflict, refer to a group of your coworkers as “The Red Sparrows”—referring, I assume, to the movie starring Jennifer Lawrence, in which Sparrows are female Russian spies who use sex to get information. If some of your coworkers have lied and tried to get you and others in trouble, I can understand your dislike of their behaviors. However, as the leader of the group, you shouldn’t participate in that kind of labeling and you should stop it when others do it. If those other coworkers find out about the name and decide to go to managers about it, you and your group would rightfully get into trouble. The group you dislike would look like the victims and your group would look like the bad guys, which is not what you want!

The next thing you mention is that sometimes a coworker in the other group will say something negative about the administrator. If one of your group says she agrees with the critical remark, the person making it goes and tells the administrator. So, the person who agreed gets in trouble, but not the person who started the bad-mouthing. My first thought upon reading that was that a person would have to be very foolish to engage in a criticizing conversation with someone they don’t trust. Even people you trust will sometimes repeat things that get to the ears of the person you’re talking about. That is another reason why you should use your leadership role to help your team focus more on work and less on negative talk.

You were wise to try to help resolve the conflict by talking directly to the other group, even though it seems the good outcome didn’t last very long. However, positive efforts like that are never wasted. It could be that one or two or more of the group would like to get along better with the rest of you and will be more encouraged to try to make that happen. At least, if the administrator talks to you about the situation, you can say what you have tried to accomplish. Even the other group will have to admit that you and others tried to improve relationships.

Your group will be much, much better off if you make a commitment to each other, to set an example of courtesy, civility and cooperation. You’ll feel better, people will see you in a better light, and your administrator will notice it too.

That brings us to your comment that your administrator uses the faults of employees to control them. I don’t know exactly what that might involve, but perhaps you mean that once she identifies a problem with an employee’s performance or behavior, she focuses on that problem and uses it as a reason to watch and wait to criticize and make the employee feel badly. Or, perhaps she threatens them with sanctions or being fired and keeps them worried about it all the time.

You may be correct in your opinion that your administrator is devious and controlling. I’ve met a few managers—and employees—who fit that description and I know how frustrating and depressing that can be. However, if each of you fulfill your job descriptions, follow the rules and are pleasant to work with, your administrator will have nothing to manipulate anyone about. It might not make her more likable, but at least it will take away the ammunition she has used to make employees feel anxious.

Keep in mind that the role of an administrator is to see to it that work is done correctly and on time, in a work environment that doesn’t represent a problem for the business. Ideally, supervisors, managers and administrators are concerned about the feelings of employees and will try to create a positive workplace. But the reality of work is that, although we can’t require bosses to be nice, they can require us to do our jobs correctly. It’s what we were hired to do and unless we are being asked to do something illegal or humanly impossible, it is what we should do, every day. That kind of focus on good work and good behavior, is the only way to be sure we’re not the ones creating the problems.

I also want to remind you of this: Quite often people who are chosen as leaders of employee groups feel that their primary job is to stand up for the employees, no matter what. After a while, every issue becomes “us versus them” and the leader feels he or she has to lead the fight. But, it doesn’t have to be that way—and shouldn’t be. For one thing, the employees aren’t paying your salary, so your first responsibility is to do your job. For another thing, you will wear yourself out trying to keep everyone in your group happy and trying to resolve every conflict in favor of your group.

If you are working in a professional environment (and the fact that you have an administrator leads me to think you are), each adult is intelligent enough to work through their own problems. Your job is to represent them to management, if they can’t seem to solve problems themselves, then let management take action if they choose to do so.

You are in an ideal situation to suggest to your administrator that all employees could benefit from regular meetings, with her participating, to talk about organizational goals, new equipment, new procedures and solutions to common work problems. At the same time, there could be an opportunity to talk about the best examples of teamwork and cooperation since the last meeting and to discuss issues that may be caused by misunderstandings or miscommunication.

If your administrator doesn’t want to have those meetings, you could lead the way in talking about those things at break time or during casual conversations. You can help the whispering and rumors be replaced by smiles, good cheer and looking to the future. There will always be the occasional gripe or frustration, but there shouldn’t be active hostility and resentment of people or the work.

At the end of your description of work, you asked, “What do we do?” When there is a conflict, it is human nature to hope for a way to stop the behaviors of others. But, as you correctly expressed it, the only thing you and your group have control over are your own actions and reactions. Take control of your role as the president of the group and don’t let your desire to help, drag you and them down into an unhappy pit of anger and despair. The other employees don’t have the power to ruin your daily work or get anyone in serious trouble, unless you and your group give them that power, through your own behaviors.

Help your group think of ways they can respond to conversations that have led to problems in the past. For example, if someone else criticizes the administrator, a good way to respond is to disrupt the conversation and say something like, “Oh well, I don’t have any control over any of that, so I just focus on work and think about the weekend. Do you have anything fun planned?” (That may sound completely unrealistic, but you get the idea.) It is very helpful to have a few scripts you can use, when you may not normally be able to think of a quick and useful response.

Another thing that may help is to think and talk about the value of your work to others, to your community, to your families, to each of you as individuals. Having a job is about more than the salary, although that is the most important part for many people. Having a job is about providing a service or a product or supporting someone who is providing a service or product—and we have a lot of years to do it in.

As the years go by, do you want to be involved in a workplace with unhappy drama like this all the time? Or, do you want to be able to come to work, have a good time, do something worthwhile and go home? The only way to have that good outcome is to see the squabbling, gossiping and picking at each other, for what it is—useless and time-wasting behavior that accomplishes nothing good.

I’m not implying that the hurt and anger you and others sometimes feel is completely unjustified. But, based on your description, I would guess that some of the colleagues you are upset with, feel that they have been wronged too. Now is a good time to stop all of that, by focusing more and more on the work of your unit, whatever that is. If there was a crisis right now, everyone would need to work together and they would find a way to do it. Find the way when there isn’t a crisis and all of you will enjoy work much more

Best wishes to you in your leadership role and in your work and life. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know how you work through this situation.

Tina Rowe
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Conflict Between Daughters Has Created Conflict Between Parents At Work

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a conflict at work that
began with a conflict between the daughters of the coworkers.



Hi, I have worked side by side with what I considered a friend, not only coworker, for 25 years now. I am the office manager. Our daughters are both in middle school at the same school and do not get along well. In May, my coworker quit speaking to me unless she had to, where once we would talk quite often.

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Is This Unpleasant Comment a Threat?

A Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about remarks that were inadvertently recorded.  Should they be considered a threat?


I am a niche employee that at times must follow two different chains of command. Following one side I recently completed a task we do every month. As a result, a manager and supervisor responded by calling my office. The recorder picked up and taped the conversation between the two of them saying a different supervisor was going to “Rip her a new one” and continued with some other derogatory remarks.

I answer to this general group one day weekly, but in my permanent position I am instructed by headquarters to train and correct the supervisors also. What kind of threat is this? I played this for the manager’s boss but he seemed less concerned than he did at first.

I talked to upper management here about five months ago about problems with the supervisor group. I also had expressed to the head of our entire organization the fact that actions by our local management had put us in situation where the supervisors were allowed to question our permanent job function and the credibility of the position. This made them believe they could treat us with disrespect.

Is a verbal threat just as serious? How can I get management to correct this? At no time did either official in the recorded conversation say “this is wrong “or “we can’t do this.” What if one of the supervisors made good on this threat the manager said was going to happen? Please advise.

Our response:
You did the right thing by taking your concerns to the manager of the two supervisors who made unpleasant remarks about you, behind your back—not realizing they were being recorded. At least the higher-level manager knows the two people lack good judgment about their conversations and you have proof that there is hostility between the offices outside of headquarters and the headquarters functions you perform.

It nearly always creates at least a few problems when an employee reports to two chains of command—and having a headquarters component and a field office component tends to require that kind of arrangement. For example, an employee may be housed at a field office but actually report to the IT section at headquarters. One day a week, the employee performs work specifically for the field office and devotes the day to getting work done that they have requested. The rest of the time, the employee is directly working for headquarters and is responsible for training and certifying field office employees, getting various forms from them and in other ways representing the needs of headquarters. This can cause resentment, especially from supervisors who dislike thinking there is an employee in the office who is not directly subordinate to them.

The negative effect on the employee is that he or she doesn’t have a work “home” either at headquarters OR in the field office and may not get much support from either managerial levels. I’ve heard many employees in situations similar to yours say they feel disrespected and resented.

That may not describe your exact situation, but will help our readers see what a problem it can be to put an employee in that situation. When it’s a necessary part of doing business, the situation has to be handled very carefully by everyone involved, especially the employee, with the help of that employee’s direct supervisor and manager.

I’m sure the higher-level manager of the two people who made the unpleasant comment has told them they were recorded and that you complained about it. He may have “ripped” THEM “a new one”, which would serve them right. Whether he chastised them or not, he apparently feels it is over and done with and doesn’t see a reason to do more. (You say you played the recording, but he did not seem as concerned as when you first told him about it.)

One reason the higher-level manager may not seem as concerned now, is that he doesn’t think of the recorded conversation as being a threat. The term “rip a new one” is crude, but it is a common phrase for referring to reprimanding someone verbally or berating them for a mistake. It would be the same as if the supervisor had said, “Greg is really going to yell at her for this.” That would be unpleasant, but it is doubtful it would involve actually yelling or using profanity–and certainly would not involve a physical threat.

If you haven’t been reprimanded about anything by the supervisor the two people mentioned, they now realize they judged the situation incorrectly. If you have, in fact, been reprimanded about something, they were correct in their expectation—even though they expressed it in an uncouth way. But, the comment itself is not a threat of anything harmful physically, if that is your concern.

You don’t mention what conversations you have had with your direct boss about it—the one who signs your performance evaluations and to whom you report directly. This would be a good time to ask him how he thinks you are doing in your work and let him know the comment you overheard is bothering you. You will either get some verbal support or your boss will suggest ways to improve your work. If you don’t know why the supervisor mentioned in the conversation would be upset, perhaps your manager can find out and help you clear up any problems.

If you are the kind of person who feels comfortable confronting a situation directly, consider talking to the supervisor who was supposed to be so upset with you and ask him about it. You said all of this happened after you completed some regular work. Maybe you can figure out the problem on your own and find a way to explain it better to the supervisor.

For now, I think you should just move past this and keep trying to improve relationships when you can. Don’t confront the two employees, just let this slide into unpleasant history. They may regret having said it and the other things they said. Work at being a credible and valuable person for those who may wonder about your work and your link to headquarters. Rather than keeping the focus on this unpleasant situation, put it on finding ways for the field office to better accept your dual-role.

I often give three steps for having influence–and you certainly could use some influence, it seems! To have influence you must be credible (know how to do your work very well) and valuable (be a needed resource and someone others want to have as part of their network). And, you must communicate directly and effectively with the people you need or want to influence (conversations need to be engaging and worthwhile for the listener).

That puts more of the burden on the person who wants to have influence, but the payout can be huge. For one thing, it can prevent the kind of ongoing unpleasantness that seems to be taking place at your work. Perhaps you can work with others in your situation in other offices, to find ways to show more value. If nothing else, maybe all of you can share ways you have been able to break down barriers and mend fences.

However, whether or not you are able to establish a better working relationship (and I hope you can), I don’t think you need to worry that the comment was an actual threat. It was just a mean-spirited way to say, “She’s going to get in trouble!”. As long as you are being supported by headquarters and as long as your own boss knows you were doing the right thing, even that kind of remark doesn’t have any power to hurt you and your work.

Best wishes to you as you move forward and past this unpleasantness. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know how things work out.

Tina Rowe
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How To Deal With An Overbearing Colleague Who Pulls Rank In An Inter-Office Team Project?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a colleague who pulls rank
in an inter-office team: How can I handle this in a way
that doesn’t reflect badly on my work? 


I have had some tension with a female colleague (herein after I refer to her as “T”). I think T. is getting more and more overbearing and I would like to know how to deal with or handle this conflict professionally so as not to affect my work product. I work for a large multinational organization and I have been working here for a little over two months.. I interviewed for a Vice President of Implementation role but was offered the role as an Assistant Vice President, with the promise of promotion to VP next year, which I am completely fine with. T. has worked here for 10 months and is a Vice President, but I do not report to her, although I work on a project team with her and another colleague, “N.”

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Manager Being Unfair and Asking For Complaints About Me

A workplace question: Should I go to HR about my manager,
who treats me in an unfair way and recently
asked a contractor
if she wanted to complain about me, in violations of the rules?




I work for a large company and recently we hired a new manager, Ed. Increasingly, I am noticing unfair treatment. Example: For 1-on-1 meetings, Ed asks me to arrive by 6am (none of my colleagues are at work at this hour). He asked me to send him a meeting request for a major project and then he did not reply. The latest example is that he brought to my attention that a person in my work area told him that they noticed a contractor crying and attributed it to me. He asked if I knew anything about it. I replied no. I asked for details but he said he had none.

He then told me that he asked the contractor if she wanted to raise a complaint! First, this never occurred and the person who reported it didn’t witness anything. Secondly, contractors raise any issues to their staffing agency by our company policy and not to our company’s manager. He said that he just wants people to be well treated.

I am now wondering what I should do. Do I discuss with HR? I also think that the contractor is being a bit manipulative as I have observed her chatting people up and jumping in on a colleague’s work without being asked. This is the same manager who said he hasn’t replied to my emails/meeting requests because he is busy, but he has time to meet with a temporary employee. At the same meeting, he told me that I should have no concerns about my job security as he ‘has heard nothing bad’.


Hello and thank you for your question. It sounds as though you and your manager are not getting along at all!  It also sounds as though he has used poor judgment about several issues—especially the one-on-one meetings and his lack of responses to your email requesting a meeting about a big project. That does sound unfair. Add to that, this situation where you don’t feel good about the contract employee and a coworker of yours is aware of it and thinks you would—and did—do something to make the contractor cry. The coworker tells the manager, who asks the contract employee about it, then asks you about it.  There must be quite a bit of conflict or at least discontent and a lack of harmony in your workplace for all of that to be going on.

Regarding your question of whether or not you should go to HR about the issue of your boss being unfair, you would know your company best, as far as culture and what the reaction would be about going to HR.  Weigh that against what you could accomplish. I think you would be better off waiting for a bit to see if something significant happens that has an impact on your ability to do your work.

The only thing HR might be concerned about would be the issue of Ed asking you to have a one-on-one meeting when no other employees are present.  I don’t think you should agree to do that again, if that is before your regular work time and there are no others around.  That seems like a poor decision on the part of your manager, to even suggest it.

You may be thinking that you could complain that is was unfair for your manager to solicit a complaint from the contractor, but I don’t think HR would find that he did anything wrong, or at least nothing to merit more than a casual warning.  You don’t know what your manager actually said or suggested. He might have told the contractor, after asking her if she had a complaint, that if she did, she should go to her staffing agency and he would investigate it in the office. (At least that is what he could say.)

If he had what he considered credible information to make him think you and the contractor had an emotional exchange of words or that you said or did something that was hurtful, he was right to not wait to find out if she went to her staffing agency about it. And, as I pointed out, he apparently didn’t tell her he would take her complaint, he only asked her if she wanted to make one. To whom, isn’t clear. It doesn’t sound as though she made one.

I think HR would tell your manager to be mindful of the contractor situation and that would be the end of it. Worse, they might contact the staffing agency, ask if a complaint had been made, and stir it up there.  It just doesn’t seem to me that HR will do much good at this point, and may cause you problems. As I said though, you certainly know your full situation best.

I think you are at a decision point in your work relationships. The manager probably will not be leaving any time soon, unless he does something very wrong.  You think he is treating you in an unfair way and he may be. However, if you want to stay there, and I assume you do, you will probably have to find a way to make peace with him and learn to work within his preferences for an employee or make peace with yourself about tolerating him. Those decisions may need to be made about several others you are frustrated about as well.

Your manager said you should have no concerns about your job security because he has heard nothing bad. That isn’t exactly a wildly supportive statement! I’m hoping that as time goes on, he will be able to say, “You certainly should have no concerns about your job security, because I don’t know what we’d do without you! You’re the one person who everyone gets along with and who always has a smile. Don’t even suggest leaving!”  (He may never be that effusive, but hopefully he’ll be closer to that than he is now.)

The time may come when something occurs that HR would view as a serious managerial violation. When that happens, if it involves you, you should write up all of the details and let HR know about it. If that doesn’t occur, you will probably find it easiest to put your focus on your work, be courteous and pleasant to everyone and look for things that you can like about your manager—or work to put a Teflon wrap around yourself and let the frustrations of work roll off you, until you can go home and relax.

Best wishes to you as you deal with this. If you find a solution or if something dramatic happens, please let us know. Not only are we interested, we also may benefit from hearing how this was resolved or not resolved, so we can share some insights with others.

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Defamation and Sabotage Campaign

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about conflict with coworkers:

I previously wrote about a very uncertain situation with me changing departments and an ex-classmate coworker “Brad” who seemed out to get me. I also said there was a coworker who seemed to strive to be professional and helpful despite the situation, let’s call him “Chris”. Well, I have a clear picture of what’s going on now. . . Helpful, professional and holier-than-thou Chris has been doing the following things: a) About three weeks ago. A communication problem between Chris and another coworker caused a mistake in our budget composition which would have taken a lot of work to correct. In a conversation with him and his supervisor I came up with an alternative way to correct it which saved us all that work. I told Chris to meet with the boss we have in common to clarify the situation and let him know what we were going to do – then I went to the bathroom.

I come back from the bathroom and Chris is already at our boss’ cubicle. I sit with them and ask Chris if they are discussing the subject we’ve talked about and he ignores me – then goes on to explain on “how he got the idea that solved everything”. Chris actually stated my idea was HIS three times lest there was any ambiguity. . .

b) About a week later Chris called me yelling that he was having problems with a process I had implemented for the new ERP in 2011. I was busy with something else and there’s a whole other department (I left behind) in charge of that process but since I’m regarded as an expert in the matter I discussed with him a few ways round that problem. The problem had arisen because the consultant working with us either dismissed or denied an issue we tried to look at months ago. We then agreed to follow the matter up later with the consultant in question.

I’m working and sharing a cubicle back at the other end of the office with a young manager (about my age) who is not officially my boss but whose indications I follow anyway – let’s call him “Nathan”.

Not long after meeting with Chris, Chris storms in our cubicle and brings up the whole issue with Nathan. Again, stating about three times that the ideas I gave him were his own. Nathan and I make eye contact. This time, in replying to me, he added “maybe you didn’t understand the process quite well” – which is terrible because I’m the only one in the department who understands the process; in fact, Chris had just then asked me to explain it to Nathan when he himself found out he couldn’t (this is a process that uses about 200 accounts to re-distribute expenses from about 30 “departments” to about 30 “projects” in a convoluted multi-step sequence).

c) Nathan and I are working on a project for which we’ve been staying late for a while now. I do the bulk of the “hard” work while Nathan compiles it, lays down the schedule, corrects errors and is our nexus to the higher management. A woman came by our cubicle when Nathan was away, asking who was in charge of the project because she needed some info. Not acquainted with me, she spoke with Chris (whom she ran into). Chris did not introduce me nor let me get a word in; seeing me, he stated that the project was being done “a little bit by everyone” and pointed away to his cubicle.

The woman was charmed by Chris’s talk on how we are all facing new challenges and so on. . . but had to walk away empty handed as Chris could not really help her. When Nathan came back I took the risk of escalating things and succinctly told him what happened. d) I’m finding out now that Brad stared at me most likely because Chirs prodded him. While Brad is also competitive and backstabbing, he’s too sloppy, his reports contain egregious mistakes and, when he tries to show off, it backfires because he misunderstands things and basically states them the other way round than they really are.

During February things eased between me and Brad as I helped him with a number of things. This is when Chris shed his facade. One day when I was helping Brad find the answer to a problem by actually going through the numbers. Chris arrived, interrupted, stated he had spoken with someone who promised he would find the answer for him, then shook hands with Brad while giving me a strange look and saying “See brad, I’m the one who solves everything for you”. e) Chris seems scared or angered (I can’t quite place it) if I’m not isolated. When I walk in a social setting and greet everyone Chris glares at me as if it caused him pain. One day I committed the error of making a joke about Brad’s backfiring attempts to show off.

The next day Chris and Brad were both early– an hour earlier and Brad looked furious at me – obviously Chris had told him what I’d said, most likely embellishing it. This act of setting people against me matches things I overheard him say years ago like telling others that, if I’m studying Chinese (I am), it’s because I’m looking out for number one. . . or discussing aloud that I was about to be fired.

Now Chris and Brad move as one person – leaving the office together each day. f) Chris, when running into me in places like the elevator, coffee space or bathroom, has asked me what exactly am I working on. Each other day he wants to know how many extra hours I worked – always acting like a concerned coworker who wants to help. Finally, he asked Nathan for a copy of our complete project. Last Thursday, upon leaving, Chris and Brad asked Nathan to stay late with us working on the project – the request was rejected for obvious reasons. _____________ My main problem here is that Chris is launching his campaign from a positional advantage. He has a network who supports him while I’m almost isolated. He has been in this particular office for longer. Part of his advantages are due to having been hired by a incompetent boss who bullied me and wanted to stall my career; Chris tasks were originally in my development path. That boss was fired shortly after I transferred elsewhere in 2009.

Now I’m back in an ambiguous role/position. Chris, who has escalated his acts big time since I’m on that project, seems to be spreading gossip about me. I have no proof but people have been giving me terrible looks since recently and I haven’t done anything special (all I did was work with Nathan, really). While I sit at one end of the office, Chris sits between Brad and my boss (boss of Nathan and Chris himself too). While I can’t overhear every detail I can hear Chris complaining and whispering to everyone. . . he does it about each time we have one of the incidents I described above.People from another department, sitting close to Chris have stopped greeting me back.

People from my department around Chris seem uncomfortable too. So basically Chris has an advantage spreading gossip and spreading his own “version” of things as I’m physically and socially isolated and he is not. My boss (who sits besides Chris) has put me on trial to see how I perform, before deciding whether to promote, demote or even fire me. Partly because I’m new in the department, partly because, most likely, “someone” gave a bad reference.I need a strategy to protect my work and standing throughout.

Signed, Insomniac

Dear Insomniac:

After reading former questions and our responses in the past, it seems to me that you are still immersed in conflict and not doing anything productive to stop it. So, while it may be true that others are in the wrong about how they are acting, you are playing right into their hands. Thus, I’ll provide the same essential advice this time as I have in the past and believe if you would follow it, you would have a better work life or at least you would get these things out in the open rather than having them submerged.

1. Try to stop focusing on relationships and motives and facial expressions and all of that and focus solely on your own work and your relationship with your boss. It sounds as though your job is on shaky ground. If that is so it isn’t solely because someone gave a bad reference. If you have been producing work, reviewed by your manager, and it has been done exactly right time after time, that work would be proof of your value. If you have been asked by others to help them and you can show that you have done so, that too would prove the quality of your work. If you have communicated effectively with your boss, your boss knows something about the kind of person you are. If the cubicles are together so he or she can hear how you communicate with others, your manager knows about that as well.

You should have ample documentation of your work, no matter what someone else might say. If you have the expertise that it seems you do, but not one person is honest enough to acknowledge it or be friendly, and they only want to listen to gossip about you and glare at you for what they hear, then you probably will be much better off elsewhere. I don’t think it’s likely that an entire office would turn against you in that way. So, perhaps taking your focus off those extraneous things will help things calm down.

The bottom line for that first thought is this: You only have three options: 1.)Quit. 2.)Continue as you are now. 3.)Stop what you’re doing and do something else. The something else that I think would help the most is to leave others alone (which should be easy, given what you describe) and work more closely with your manager. If you have projects with others, that’s one thing, but stop rescuing them when they have problems. Let them go to their manager and ask for help, just as you should.

2. Ask your manager for a meeting in which you can get some things cleared up and feel better about work, as well as get on track for the promotion you seek. One way to approach such a meeting is to tell your manager ahead of time that you want to discuss four things related to your work. 1.) What would he like you to continue doing exactly the same way? 2.) What would he like you to do more of? 3.) What would he like you to do less of? 4.) What would he like you to stop doing and never do again?

If you give your manager a day or two to think about those things and if you just accept that what he says is the truth from his viewpoint, I’ll bet you find out some useful things.

3. This next suggestion is prompted by what may seem like an odd comparison, but one that I feel compelled to make. If you recall the movie, The Sixth Sense, Dr. Crowe (Bruce Willis) is helping the young boy, Cole Sear, who says he sees dead people. Dr. Crowe spends the movie helping Cole accept his “gift” rather than being afraid of it. I spent most of the movie thinking, of Dr. Crowe, “Good grief, why doesn’t he SAY something to people who are angry with him or who he is concerned about, rather than just standing there and taking it but never responding?????”It wasn’t until toward the end of the movie (spoiler next)that I realize Dr. Crowe is one of the dead people the young boy talks to. In the movie Dr. Crowe only realizes it at that moment as well. But, the realization allows him to let go and move on to his own peace. Be thankful you are alive and apparently healthy and have many years of vigor and vitality left! BUT, as I’ve read your questions from the past until now, I’ve had the same thought about you as I had about Dr. Crowe. “Why doesn’t he DO something at the time, instead of letting it happen, feeling badly, then writing about it months later?” For example, if someone takes credit for something you did, and it’s important that you have your contribution established, you could say something right then. “Hey, Chris, wait a minute. I don’t mind sharing credit, but I’d like to at least have my work acknowledged. What about the fact that when you asked me for help an hour ago you said you didn’t know what to do?”If someone glares at you, you could easily ask, “What’s the matter? Are you mad at me about something?” If someone is whispering about you, you could and should get up from your cubicle and go to where they are. Tell them you heard your name and would like to get any problems out in the open.

You mentioned the woman who needed help, but Chris gave her a song-and-dance and she had to leave because he couldn’t help her, only you could. But you were right there, so why didn’t you say something to her? You said she didn’t know you. Well, you could have introduced yourself. You felt isolated and left out in that scenario, but you didn’t do anything at the time. One thing done at the time is worth a dozen things done a month later.

Doesn’t it seem you could have said something to someone to start a resolution, at least once? You could even have said to someone who used to talk to you but who stopped, “It seems like you and some of the others are angry with me. Not only do I not know why, it really bothers me to think you might believe something bad about me that isn’t true. Could we talk this out, please?”3. This last suggestion is tied to the first and may seem counter-intuitive, but I’m convinced it’s important for you. Leave people alone. Be courteous, be friendly, always give a brief smile as you interact with them, but stay out of their cubicles and their space unless invited in. And, if they invite you in by asking you to please help them, ask them to help you first, by getting permission from your manager for you to use your time that way.I realize you apparently work in an office where projects mesh together, so you’ll be working with people regularly. I’m talking more about helping people with their problems when you could be doing your own work.

As you’ve described the times you’re helping people, it always ends with someone else stepping in and you being pushed out. Maybe that’s a hint. If you were genuinely helping someone and were not offensive in your manner, hygiene, conversation or anything else, believe me, no one would want you pushed out. If you’re not really helping or if you have something going on that makes your presence a problem, THEN they might not mind you being pushed out of the picture. So, you may want to consider every aspect of the situation before you assume it’s all about others and their reactions.I’m not saying it’s all you, either. But, I’ll bet there’s something else going on that you don’t want to acknowledge or that you are completely unaware of. Find out.

Your work is obviously important to you and you want to save your job and move up in the company. If you are a truly excellent, credible and valuable employee someone there is valuing your work and you as a person. If no one is, you’re either in the wrong job or the wrong company or there is a problem you need to deal with quickly.I hope you will stop observing what you think is unfairness and find out if your manager sees it the same way. Whether you agree with him or not, he’s your gateway to where you want to go. If he shuts you out, you’re out.You’re starting a new workweek and I hope you will use this as a time to start over. Be courteous and smile as you briefly talk to people, but don’t push your way into anything to which you are not specifically asked to be part of it.

Get an appointment set up with your manager and use that meeting to figure out where you stand with him. Share your frustrations about work, without naming names if that’s possible. Ask for his insights.In the meantime, leave the drama of “he said”, “I said”, “they said”, “they had this expression”, “they did this” out of your work. You can’t control one bit of what they do, but you can control your use of time and energy.I don’t expect things to improve overnight because there is such a negative history there. But perhaps after a few weeks of that, you’ll find that people are less uncomfortable with you and less likely to believe stories they hear. I hope that is the case. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what develops. I hope you will also be able to report, “Here is what I did about it.”Best wishes!

Tina Lewis Rowe read more