My supervisor and coworker put me in the middle of their drama

Question:

My office mate constantly complains that she’s swamped and has so much work to do she can’t do a good job on any of it. She has, however, time to surf the Internet, text her friends and work on school work so she can “get out of this crap job.”

Our supervisor occasionally stops by her desk and when he sees her on her cell asks, “What are you working on.” She looks indignant and snaps, “I only just now looked at this for a second. My husband’s letting me know he’ll be late picking me up this evening and to not wait on the street but to stay in the lobby. Sorry!”

Our supervisor knows he’s getting scammed and tries to handle it by handing her a new assignment and saying, “I need this project completed by 2 p.m.” and leaves. As soon as he leaves, my office mate turns to me and complains that the supervisor is passive-aggressive and mean and doesn’t “get” that everyone needs moment now and again.

I’m sick of both of them, but always listen to my office, because I don’t want her complaining about me to the rest of the staff. Then, I can count on my supervisor pulling me aside and asking, “Does your coworker spend much time on her cell?” I always answer “not much,” because I don’t get pulled into this drama. I wish the supervisor would do his job and not expect me to be a tattletale.

Answer:

You play a key role in this office drama. You unwillingly shield your office mate and turn yourself into someone who won’t tell the truth. What’s wrong with answering “yes” when your supervisor asks you an honest question? Do you fear how your office mate might retaliate? This makes you her enabler.

She’s also cast you as the sympathizer in her “mean supervisor abused employee drama.”

If you don’t enjoy your current role in this common drama, rewrite the script. When she next turns to you, admit you’re tired of feeling you need to lie to cover her when he asks you if she spend a lot of time on her cell. Let her know you have no intention of outing her, but you don’t want to feel forced to lie.

Meanwhile, your supervisor needs to learn people management. He gets few results by leaving after catching your office mate in the act. Since it’s happened repeatedly, it’s time he pulled her into his office, without you, and talks with her.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.

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