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How to Handle a Negative, Jealous Co-worker?

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This topic contains 26 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by avatar LisforLeslie 2 weeks, 2 days ago.

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  • #737779 Reply
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    Lucidity

    Dear DW Community,

    I have worked in a small medical office for a year. My co-workers are a friendly, tight-knit group, many of whom have been here for a decade or more, including one I’ll call “Nancy.” Nancy typically has a negative outlook on her job, the clients, and life in general. I’ve heard from other staff members that she’s being treated for depression, so I try to respond positively and with empathy.

    I love to travel, and I budget carefully so that I can take 2 – 3 trips annually with my allotted vacation time. I make my morning coffee and lunches at home, and am a smart consumer (price-shopping, using coupons, etc.). Vacation time is booked well in advance so that the schedule can be tweaked to ensure nobody is inconvenienced by others’ absences, which also means everyone knows when someone will be gone, up to a year in advance. Many of my co-workers have taken an interest in my travels, asking lots of questions beforehand and wanting to see photos and hear stories when I get back.

    Nancy has been making awkward comments when she overhears conversations about my trips, like “I haven’t been on vacation since I was 6” and “I wish I could afford to go on vacation.” I try to save in-depth discussions for when she’s not in earshot, but it’s such a small office that it’s impossible to keep her from overhearing everything. When I got home from my last trip, one of my superiors asked me about it during our morning meeting. I told everyone about my horrible experience getting home – a canceled flight, multiple delayed flights, missing my connecting flight, finally giving up on standby, renting a car and driving the last 10 hours home. Nancy burst out laughing and exclaimed “Karma! That’s what you get for taking a vacation!”

    I would love to tell negative Nancy that nothing is stopping her from taking a vacation except herself. She buys at least one take-out coffee every day, and will either get fast-food for lunch or go out to a restaurant. When it’s slow and we need to cut hours, she’s the first to volunteer to go home (granted, that may be related to her depression). I used to spend wastefully, so I know exactly how much money she could be saving, but I can’t think of an appropriate way to bring this up. Right now my response is silence and, if the comment is rude, a prolonged stare, but these subtleties seem lost on her.

    I plan to be here for many years, which hopefully means many trips, and I don’t want to have to deal with a constant stream of passive-aggressive guilt-trips over something I’m completely within my rights to be doing. Do you have any advice and/or scripts for how to handle Nancy?

    #737780 Reply
    juliecatharine
    Juliecatharine

    Yell ‘Karma! That’s what you get for buying coffee/take out!’ next time she bitches about spilling something or not liking a meal. Every. Single. Time. God that would be sweet. She sounds like an unbelievably unpleasant person. If she keeps harping on your vacation, smile and say ‘Nancy, this is how I choose to spend my budget, would you enjoy it if I commented negatively about your choices? Please refrain from saying xyz in the future, you do it a lot and it’s starting to feel like bullying’. Say it clearly, calmly, and in front of people.

    #737782 Reply
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    Kate
    Keymaster

    Ignore her.

    You actually have no idea about her finances. Do you look at her bank statements? Her tax returns? Saying something like you want to say is going to make you look really stupid if she comes back with, “or it’d be nice if I could just not pay for my mom’s dementia home.” It also puts you exactly on her level. Stay above it.

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 3 days ago by avatar Kate.
    #737792 Reply
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    Lucidity

    Kate, that’s exactly why I haven’t said anything. However, while I don’t know anything about her finances in general, I do know about the coffees and lunches, which really add up. If she were a friend or family member, I wouldn’t hesitate to say something like “you know, I found I was able to save up enough for my trip to xyz after a year of making coffee and lunches at home – if you’re serious about wanting to travel, maybe that’s something to consider.” Is it ever appropriate to say something like this to a co-worker, or should you always steer clear of discussing finances?

    #737799 Reply
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    Fyodor

    Your vacations are none of her business and the way she spends her money is none of yours. She is not your friend or family member. And it’s not like you’re trying to give her helpful advice. You want to shut her up so she’ll stop making passive aggressive comments, which is understandable but unproductive.

    Ignore her comments-people endure a lot worse from their coworkers.

    #737800 Reply
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    Fyodor

    Also, these sessions where everyone ooohs and aaahs over your exciting travel stories and you show them slideshows are not something necessary for work. If your depressed coworkers comments mild-passive aggressive comments are so intolerable to you, you could just not do that kind of thing at the office (like say the vast majority of employed people)

    #737802 Reply
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    Kate

    No, it’s not really appropriate to give a co-worker unasked-for advice about finances. If she asked you how you did it, you could say you cut out Starbucks and lunches, but she didn’t ask.

    Another thing to keep in mind – do you know how much she gets paid, in addition to all her expenses? No. How do you know what she could afford if she stopped buying lattes?

    And finally, it could very well be that she doesn’t go on vacation for other reasons besides money, like she has no one to go with, or has no idea how to plan, or is afraid to fly. Who knows. Maybe she just mentions money as an excuse.

    But the biggest reason not to bring this up is you’ll look petty and self-righteous.

    #737805 Reply
    avatar
    Lucidity

    Thank you for your advice, Kate, I can see that you’re quite right. I never considered that something besides money could be holding her back.

    Fyodor, I mentioned that I try to avoid discussing my vacations when Nancy is in earshot, but if a few of us are gathered in the lunch room and someone asks how my trip was, it would be strange to decline to talk about it at all. My co-workers are very friendly group, and they chat frequently about their lives outside the office (while not actively working). Thank you for your advice, I think you’re right about just ignoring her.

    #737815 Reply
    Copa
    Copa
    Participant

    Yes to ignoring her. I also think agree with @Fyodor that you could stand to tone it down with the sharing after your trips. You don’t have to decline to talk about it at all, but the slideshows sound excessive. If someone asks how your trip was, you can say it was nice and share a few of the sights you saw and leave it at that.

    #737817 Reply
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    Fyodor

    I mean, if you’re close with your coworkers and they all like hearing about your experiences and seeing your pictures, I don’t mean to imply that there’s anything inherently wrong with that. But if someone’s giving you shit about your vacations, and you really can’t stand the comments, making less of a big deal about it, would be an obvious place to start. I don’t think that I’ve ever shown vacation pictures to my coworkers.

    #737818 Reply
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    Ange

    Oh man my co-workers all share travel pics and talk about that sort of thing. We’re a well travelled bunch though and a select few of us even go overseas for work pretty regularly. I say if people are asking and they want to see pics go for it (unsolicited slide shows are a drag but hopefully you know the difference). Next time Nancy throws in a comment like that karma one just reply something like ‘yeah! But the trip itself was wonderful, bring on the bad karma if a holiday is my punishment!’ If you demonstrate the contempts aren’t getting to you maybe she’ll knock it off. If she doesn’t, we’ll if the price you pay for having a fulfilling life is a few bitchy comments from a clearly unhappy person I’d say the trade off is pretty good.

    #737819 Reply
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    Ange

    Demonstrate *the comments

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