Q: I love where I work - or I would, except for the fact that my job is being ruined by a nasty co-worker. She is rude and condescending to me and everyone else. Other employees avoid our department because of her. There have been complaints, but our manager refuses to do anything about her. (She's been with the company for seven years.) I have tried everything. Is there a solution, or should I move on? - Vicki
J.T.: I wouldn't fault you a bit if you opted to move on. We are responsible to make ourselves happy first; it isn't your job to fix your co-worker. On the other hand, given how much you enjoy the job, it seems even more of a shame to risk losing it just because of your co-worker. Here's something to try: I worked with a client with a similar dilemma. As part of our sessions, I spent time role-playing with her. I would pretend to be her co-worker and say rude things, and she would practice putting me in my place. Over time, she became more confident and was amazed at how easy it became to counter her co-worker's negativity. Not all of us are "quick-tongued," but with a little practice, we can actually build our skills in this area. Why not give it a try?
Dale: Yes - nothing to lose and an important life skill to gain. Yet, I wonder if the job is really so irreplaceable. After years of studying great bosses, I came up with this principle: "With a great boss, there are no bad jobs. With a bad boss, there are no good ones." I bring that up because if your co-worker is dragging down the department and you have a manager that doesn't know or care, then you have a lousy boss. You might be thinking, Vicki: "Oh no, Dale, you're so wrong. Our boss is a sweetheart." Right. A lot of bad bosses are sweet - they sugarcoat problems rather than confront them. You need a boss that is tough enough to face up to incompetence - and driving off good employees is a form of incompetence. So, yes, try the role-playing and get better at dealing with your co-worker; perhaps you'll inspire her to become a better employee and person. Meanwhile, start looking around - there are workplaces out there that are full of admirable people, the sort who will inspire you to become a better employee and person.