Manipulate! Freeze! Endure! No, it’s not the latest biting soap opera on daytime TV. It’s most workplace characters in America. This is Your Workplace Reality Hell. Come inside. Welcome…(insert HR satanic assistant evil laugh)…wohohohoho! — BadWitch
Readers Are Spellbound & Perplexed…
Dear GW/BW – I work with this (crazy) woman who has our boss suckered. He believes she is the best thing since sliced bread and when I tried to tell him I didn’t trust her, he said she was “cash register trustworthy.” First off, why would he think that when I was talking about her gossiping and being bad for office morale? I feel really STUCK working with this b****, and having to listen to this jerk defend her. I feel helpless. – Stuck in the Middle
Dear Stuck in the Middle,
That seems like an apropos place for you to be, as from the tiny bit of info I have from you, there are three distinct points of views/stories going on here…at best. At worst, there is no genuine conversation happening between any of you. As our workplaces are the microcosm of Life we spend the bulk of our waking hours at, look at this as a great training ground for you to hone your overall communication skills. Cool!
Taking your side of the story at face value, the Automatic Stress Reaction (ASR) Types here at work are (note: all Types have strengths and weaknesses) her Manipulate, his Freeze and you are the Endure. As such, her reaction to stressful situations is to create a buddy system…with everyone. She is a very good at influencing people to her own ends, but her perception is that she is “just getting along” and really does want the best for the office. She often does things that support this assertion (like orchestrating birthday cakes, etc.). I’m deeming your boss a Freeze simply because it seems he has not heard your side of the story fully to create a productively neutral workspace for his employees. If he is indeed defending her to you, I suspect Manipulate has done things that make his office life easier for him to get down to taking care of business. Your Endure ASR allows you to do just what it sounds like, put up with things as a matter of course, just get through the long To Do List. You rarely put yourself (or your interests) first, preferring to get the job done truly because it serves the group’s best interest.
Since you wrote me, I address your concern in the hopes it serves everyone in the end. Endures must learn to take better care of themselves, more often. Even if your need to serve the greater good is a burning obsession, you can do that better if you have more personal resource to pull from. Right? Taking care of ourselves first is not selfish. In this case, talk to your Manipulate peer first and see if you can’t get her to stop gossiping with and/or around you. Just tell her it makes you feel uncomfortable – tell her you’re a big sensitive girl, if that’s the sugar she needs to gulp down that Rx with. You might have to be consistent and, uh…remind her a couple times. On the other hand, if she’s a true Manipulate, she will get the order right the first time, wanting to show you how much she cares about your needs. So you can help her take care of hers later. That’s fine!, and not necessarily some evil plot of hers. This is all just a first step, Endurina.
Take care of yourself first,
Dear Stuck in the Middle,
You are truly between a rock and a hard place. If you keep pushing your boss to devalue your workmate, you run the risk of alienating yourself. You are right, gossip is poison to a group, so the question becomes how do you proceed without driving yourself crazy.
The first thing to remember is that karma will play out. People are consistent. Chances are she will continue her loose lips approach and your boss will start to hear about this woman from sources other than you. Sit back and allow her to show herself.
You can also act as the counter-gossip influence by speaking up in the office. When Loose Lips begins her tirade refuse to react. Respond either by remembering something you need to do in your office/cubicle or by stating a positive truth. For instance if she says, “I can’t stand these inefficiencies! Why do we have to keep doing it this way.” You can offer, “Well, it may not be perfect, but I’m glad to have job to do and another paid day to figure it out.” The first few times you offer this rosy view of life while she stirs up the muck, you will no doubt be greeted with scorn. Don’t let it get you down.
As you continue with no reaction and alternating sunny side statements, she will soon enough stop making comments around you. Why? You are not giving her the reaction she wants. If she gets no reaction from you, she will look to find someone who will react the way she wants. You will get some reprieve. This, of course, is not a full solution, as others in the office will also be affected. But it will be enough to make your work life more bearable.
Unfortunately, there is little else you can do. Preserve your own sanity. Unless your boss sees her for who she is, or she leaves or you leave—this is the situation you are in. Definitely do some guided meditation to clear your co-workers energy off you at the end of each day. Picture a golden bubble that envelopes you as you step out unto the street each night. It sinks in clearing away the stress of the day, your co-workers energy and any attachments you have replaying the annoying images of the day. The golden bubble cleans your energy and sinks into the ground to be recycled. This repeated practice will help you stay balanced in an unbalanced situation.
Look out for yourself. You are not personally responsible for the harmony of the office. Do what you can, but remember the Serenity Prayer. Whether you are religious or not, the idea of understanding what is your responsibility and what is not is a core truth. You can’t do it all, but you can make your slice of the world more peaceful.
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