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work colleague suddenly nice-not sure how to react

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  • This topic has 32 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 4 weeks ago by avatarSharon.
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  • #977637 Reply

    I’m a supervisor at work and always treat the staff very fairly and like to create a positive, supportive and friendly atmosphere. This girl started work and we were friendly, my family know her family, it’s a small town, etc. She started off being really friendly, we would sometimes grab a drink after work and I liked her. P.s, this isn’t a tough corporate environment where supervisors/managers are forbidden to socialise with junior staff members.
    I thought she would be someone that I might stay in contact with when I left the job. There are a few people that I would like to meet up with after I leave and thought we could meet as a group once a year as a work reunion.
    After a few weeks, things turned sour and she started being really patronising , talking down to me, belittling me. She would make insensitive comments to me but in the next hour she would sweeten up and be nice so I kept thinking I was imagining it.
    To be honest, I was really taken aback and was hurt she was treating me this way. One night, there was a leaving party for another colleague and she got really drunk and kept telling me I was amazing, etc, so I know that deep down she does like me…….but we both like the same guy at work. He’s in a different department, I haven’t told anyone I like him.
    She was with him a few times, they were texting and met up but he didn’t want anything serious.
    I was secretly heartbroken by them being together but I still kept things normal between us, I tried being friendly but at the same time keeping my distance as her behaviour towards me got worse.
    If I tried making conversation she would give an irritated one word answer. If I had a briefing with the staff after our shift she would roll her eyes up to heaven and walk away before I finished. She would try to act like she was my superior, she would ignore me, not do what I asked her, etc but she was 100% perfect towards the manager.
    It all came to a head when she went to the manager and made up a story about me changing the whole system and telling all the staff not to do what they were supposed to do, that everyone had to do everything and that she found it really hard and that work went really badly …….On the day in question, I had a briefing with the staff and they said it was actually the smoothest and best shift they had since coming back to work after lockdown-all the customers were happy, we got positive comments from them, procedures were followed-nothing had changed.
    Another day, the shift was messy due to bookings not being spread out by another department-nothing to do with me.
    On a seperate day she told the proprietor the same story. I cleared myself as thankfully I was able to verify that everything this girl had said wasn’t true. I called for a meeting with the duty manager and this girl and she was extremely apologetic and very upset. I was very firm but nice to her at the meeting and told her we didn’t want to upset her but that she couldn’t go around saying things about me that wasn’t true.
    I started afresh with her and thought everything would change but nothing changed. She kept giving me bitchy looks, tried to get me in trouble again, passing smarmy comments, etc. It was really upsetting.
    Management got glowing reviews about her through guests commenting, emailing, etc, about her and I could see that she was really good for the business.
    Then one day, suddenly, she changed and is now sucking up to me, really friendly, nicey nice and smiley towards me.
    I don’t know if maybe she is with the work colleage that works in the same building but in a different department that I have a secret crush on or if she’s just in a happier place in her life and doesn’t feel like being mean to someone but I still feel hurt by her past behaviour.
    There are only 5 staff in our department so I can’t stay away from her. She is usually only working 2 days a week as she’s in college so thankfully I don’t work with her full-time unless it’s mid-term or christmas/easter/summer.
    She’s doing her dream course in college, Nothing to do with my industry so I know she’s not trying to take my job-she’s passed a few comments that she’s only doing the job to get her through college and that it’s beneath her, etc.
    Has anyone experienced something like this?
    I’m remaining civil and polite and will laugh at her jokes and smile but still keep my distance. I just don’t know if its normal how she suddenly changed towards me. I don’t feel as though I can soften towards her or trust her. She told the manager that she can work for the next four years until after her college course-I have another four years of working with her!!!!

    #977834 Reply
    avatarPart-time Lurker

    Situations like this suck. As her supervisor, you really need to reset the boundaries here and make sure that she understands that you are strictly colleagues and that you are her supervisor. No more after work drinks etc. I know that it can be difficult and feel very awkward but she’s young and obviously doesn’t understand workplace norms. To put it bluntly she also sounds like a trouble maker which means you really need to stand firm and if the problems persist you’ll need to have a much firmer conversation where you let her know that keeping her job requires honesty and professionalism. Young workers often need a LOT of direction regarding what is and isn’t appropriate. Remain, nuetral and professional. Do not engage with this person as a friend.

    #977845 Reply

    Given your description of how she reacted to you crushing on the co-worker in another department, it is clear that your secret crush on him is far from secret. Your heartbreak when she got together with this guy also apparently was not at all secret from her.

    #977905 Reply

    I think you need to just remain indifferent. Do your job, smile, laugh at her jokes and treat her as you would any other employee who you work with. If she’s being inappropriate and lying about your work- you need to take that to your boss. Her glowing reviews from customers mean nothing if she’s trying to get you fired and wreak havoc at work. I would take her new nice behavior as part of her game. It really sounds like you need to have more boundaries at work, and keep your personal life out of work.

    #977924 Reply

    Thanks for ye’re comments.
    It’s just confusing as she seems genuine but I’m too hurt over her past behaviour to let my guard down.
    Regarding my secret crush-I never mentioned his name to her and her behaviour towards me got bad before they were together and worsened after.
    She’s in her late twenties so it’s not as though she’s a young student and many of the other supervisors/managers would also go for drinks with other staff members. I went three times with a group and she was amongst us.
    I take my job seriously and I don’t get drunk when I’m out for drinks with work colleagues and I don’t start revealing personal information but I am friendly and I thought I had struck up a type of friendship with her, that’s why I was hurt when she turned on me and acted as though she hated me. She is so nice to everyone else, no-one has a bad word to say against her and they think she’s brilliant. I just keep quiet about her, I don’t want to drag anymore drama upon me but the thought of working with her in such close contact for the next four years makes me anxious. I gess I will just act indifferent to her moods towards me and be friendly back but at a distance and just remain civil.

    #977931 Reply

    I’m going to be honest, I did read this whole thing. However, what I took away was there’s work drama, there’s a culture where you all fraternize, and the lines between work and personal business is pretty blurry.

    I know you said you aren’t in a company that has a “tough” corporate culture, but honestly, the reason some places do have rules (or at least norms) around socializing (particularly socializing across hierarchy) is for this exact reason. It makes things messy. A culture that discourages people from getting too buddy buddy helps preempt this exact sorts of situations.

    Obvisouly we aren’t robots, and people can make lifelong friends or find their romantic partners at work, and culture that are super punitive against personal relationships at work go too far (and often backfire, honestly), proffessional boundaries are still good.

    It sounds you, at least compared to this woman, are the one in position of authority, even if she doesn’t report to you directly. You are the one that has more responsiblity to make this right and ensure everyone can do their job without getting mired into personal drama.

    If we could go back in time, I would’ve recommended you be friendly and helpful to her but maintain some amount of distance. But, too late for that now. Even still, I think you need to center back towards being friendly, professional, supporative but distant and don’t really socialize individually with her regularly (or anyone junior to you, really).

    Hopefully things haven’t gotten so dysfunctional between you too that things don’t devolve again to where they were. If so, I would say you two need to have a reset conversation, but honestly given all that’s happened and the history there, I’d be worried that that would just inflame things, so maybe you’d need to pull in an intermediary to CYA (be that your manager or HR).

    For now, just behave professionally – that is be friendly, helpful, but somewhat distant and stop socializing with her outside of work, and just keep the focus on work. See how that goes.

    Let this be a lesson that even in a culture that’s pretty loosey goosey and doesn’t prohibit socialzation across the organization, boundaries are good.

    As for the guy, I don’t know. Doesn’t sound like he reciporicates your interest? So, that’s that. Move on, and with him too, focus on being professional.

    #977944 Reply

    I’m definitely going to keep my distance with all work colleagues though I see other colleagues striking up friendships regardless of hierarchy at work and they meet up for walks, etc. There have been a lot of bullies in my life and I was taken aback when she started acting as though she hated me as she’s younger and had acted like my friend.
    I don’t want to cause any drama at work as she seemed as though she was having a panic attack the time we had to call her for a meeting when she had lied to the manager and proprietor about me. We kept assuring her that it was a relaxed and friendly meeting just to clear things up but she couldn’t stop crying and said the worst thing was that I thought she would try to get me in trouble as she would never do that to me …even though a week later she tried getting me into trouble again.
    Her family are regular customers and we use their business a lot in our workplace so I am very cautious about not rocking the boat as I really think she could manipulate the situation to make it look like I’m the one who was trying to get her down.
    I’m just going to keep my distance and keep more to myself.

    #978014 Reply

    Hmm. Of course I don’t exactly what it’s like where you work or not, but just based on what you’re saying, I’d be a little wary of how lose and familial things sound.

    Flat organizations where everyone can have a voice can be great, but throwing out any sense of hierarchy and people getting super tight would give me pause.

    Places that are like that can get dysfunctional. Cliches can form. Managers can unfairly protect treat some reports over others. A whole culture of “we’re family” can put guilt and pressure on individual contributors to prioritize the company over their own self interest, to accept abuse and dysfunction.

    Not saying that’s your company, and of course being a whole person at work and forming relationships with people at all levels is important. That’s how mentoring relationships are struck up, that’s how reports feel supported and safe to try things out and grow and not fear failure.

    But, there’s a balance. Some lines are good.

    Does your company have a friendly, supportive, but functional environment?

    #978020 Reply

    Also would give me pause that they so readily hired a client’s family member.

    You now have a junior person that’s a lose cannon you, or your management, may be fearful of managing appropriately given fears about losing business.

    Nepotism has a bad rap for a reason. Hiring family members of company leaders or clients needs to be done with a lot of thought.

    #978030 Reply

    The company is functional and professional whilst having a friendly and supportive atmosphere. They consult with a HR advisor on a lot of issues. We usually only do work drinks if a colleague is leaving and may have a staff night out twice a year and occasionally go for a drink after work if it’s been a really busy week.
    I guess it’s just been a hard year going to work and have someone constantly trying to put you down whilst being miss popular with the rest of the staff and everyone commenting on how great she is.
    I tried working as few shifts as possible with her but the manager kept putting us on the same shifts.
    She can easily deny her behaviour towards me and say that I misinterpreted her comments, tone of voice,etc.
    I just find it so weird that someone can just switch like that and now everything is all sparkles & fluff! People are very strange.

    #978270 Reply

    You need to give this woman a lot less space in your brain. Whether she’s being super sweet or rolling her eyes, what other people think of her, etc.- you need to stop caring. Not everyone you meet is going to like you, no matter what you do, and this is one of those cases. Stop investing in her beyond what you need to to work together. Becoming friendly again isn’t a good idea, you need to step away from her as anything but a coworker who you don’t think much about.

    Be cordial and above reproach. Document important conversations you have with her and/or your staff so you cover your own butt if she decides to try to get you in trouble again. Do what you can to build strong, trusting relationships with your coworkers and present yourself as someone with integrity who cares about other people. You can’t control what they think of her, so stop worrying about it and stop comparing yourself.

    I know the Ask A Manager blog has answered several questions on how to deal with patronizing/ mansplaining/ belittling employees. Check that out as a resource and use some of her scripts. You need to separate out what is just annoying (her rolling her eyes) and stop caring about that stuff, vs what is legitimately negatively affecting the business – if she is ignoring direct instructions, or badly misunderstanding how new processes are being implemented (it sounds like this has actually happened). If you’re the one who should be correcting those behaviors as her supervisor then go ahead and do that. But otherwise stop letting her take up this much space in your brain. You said yourself she’s only there a few days a week and isn’t invested in the job.

    #978481 Reply

    Wow, there is a role reversal here. YOu need to be much more professional as a supervisor. Forget getting friends with employees, keeping them as friends after you leave the firm (do you leave, by the way?), having drinks after work, having crushes on employees. All this is off-limits (except the bi-yearly drink offered by the firms before Christmas or summer). You need to identify to your rule as a supervisor and have your own social and personal life out of work. Once you let that sink in, it will be much simpler for you. Just do your job. If an employee rolls eyes while you are briefing the team, don’t let it happen. Stop and ask: what is the matter, X? with a severe look like a supervisor with an undisciplined employee – this is what she is.
    If she goes behind your back and complain about your management to your boss, don’t speak in terms of being “friendly” or not with her. She is a liability for you, so treat her as such and tell your boss that she is an employee who requests extra-management as she struggles to comply to collective rules.
    Then drop everything about her as a person. You are obsessed by her, and envious about her as you think that she despises you and treats you all as beneath her. But the fact is, she is a trouble maker as an employee so let that be known next time she makes trouble within the team. She lacks team-behaviour, collaborative behaviour, she is focus on herself – not that great as an employee. Don’t miss opportunities to assess your employees toward your boss as well.
    As a supervisor, do you do yearly assessments of your team’s work, in individual reunions? You should. This is where a hierarchy relationship is the strongest and most obvious because she tends to forget it – and yourself, you tend to forget it as well. This is where you can speak of her rolling eyes and disturb team instructions or briefings, as a reproach and a problem that needs to stop immediately (if she stills does it). If you are not in position to do so, ask your boss to make yearly assessments of each employee’s work and give him your report about all your team’s members.
    Be more serious as a supervisor and you will be fine.
    If you have an inferiority complex towards this employee because she is a student and takes this job as an aside to finance her studies, look for you own career prospects, make a professional training to progress yourself, but stop with this jealousy. Just request her to do her job properly and act respectfully with her supervisor.

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