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I don’t like my super popular coworker … and she complained to my boss about it — Ask a Manager

About a year ago, I wrote in about a coworker (Susan) who complained to the boss because I didn’t like her. I tried being nice, but it was obvious she saw right through me. At the time, I couldn’t put my finger on why I didn’t like her – she seemed genuinely nice, and she is the darling of the office. For a while, things seemed to improve after I spoke to her (after many recommendations!)…but I think it might have been the old adage about keeping your friends close and enemies closer!

I’ll keep this brief, because I could go on about all of the intrigue and drama. Here are a few highlights:

– She likes to say, “I’m just a secretary.” This bothers me for a number of reasons, first and foremost because there is no “just” about it. Second, it only seems to come out when we have asked her to take on something new or when she doesn’t want to deal with a particular customer.

We’ve recently changed our accident procedure within our department. If an accident occurs with a company vehicle and only one mechanic is on duty, Susan should call in the second mechanic. The first accident that occurred after the change, Susan did not make the phone call. When asked, she said she is “just a secretary” and “overtime decisions” aren’t up to her. I attempted to explain the decision has been made and that she’s just carrying it out…but we eventually had to reassign the task to the first mechanic.

– Frequent emails to our grandboss detailing everything my boss and I are doing “wrong.” Is there room for improvement? You betcha. Are we sometimes just doing the best we can amidst historic staffing shortages? Often. Are we operating without much training and guidance because our predecessors were long gone before we started and left few, if any, training/SOP documents behind? Always. When we go to Susan with questions, does she offer suggestions or historic insight? No, because she’s “just a secretary” and didn’t handle any of these items in the past.

Here’s my favorite example. We had an emergency situation pop up – just one of those freak weather incidents that caused a delay in transporting. My boss decided to handle the delay personally and left the office. Because of the delay, the folx left in the office received call after call after call. Meanwhile, I wasn’t scheduled to come in for another 45 minutes – and I live 30 minutes away, so my boss decided not to call me because he knew I wouldn’t arrive much sooner. That incident generated multiple emails to our grandboss, who then questioned my boss’s decision to leave and why I wasn’t here to help answer the phone. (Apparently, this wasn’t the first conversation based on such an email – other emails had been about me but nothing my boss or grandboss thought needed to be brought to my attention – but it was the last, because my boss threatened to resign if Susan thought she could do his job better. My grandboss told us to have patience with Susan, because there have been some big changes in the office, and she is struggling with them.)

– Solo missions of mercy. As I mentioned before, Susan is much-beloved around here and is widely considered to be sweet, thoughtful, and charming. I’m not saying she isn’t – I’m just saying she makes sure she has that recognition. One of our employees was injured a few weeks ago. Because his wife is also disabled, I told him we would go grocery shopping, arrange transportation – anything they need. As soon as he limped out the door, Susan announced that she was spearheading the operation…and she did. She has sent him a couple of care packages and arranged for a former employee to transport him to doctor appointments, church, etc. The employee called to tell Susan and Nancy (another coworker) thank you. I asked Nancy about it, and I told her I was a bit hurt that I wasn’t included because I had offered to help. Apparently, Susan arranged them all in secret, and Nancy just happened to pick up the phone with a question about the grocery order and so added a couple take home meals onto it from her.

Honestly, at this point, there are days where I feel like she’s just being difficult. It feels like she is anchored in the past – we aren’t the people who previously held these roles, and we just can’t do things the same way anymore because of the employee shortage. I know her original complaint was that I didn’t like her…but, I feel like what she meant was, “She’s different.” I can’t help that. And even if I could, would I really want to be friends with someone like this? That’s a big nope. And I’m not even all that sorry that might hurt her feelings.


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