She can very well be excited about her behavior. She may not even realize she is doing it. You could just let this go because you actually have ideas and a sense of humor. That’s why this bothers you – you want recognition for who you are and how you think. I understand. But at some point your Elster colleague has to find out who she is and how she can express original ideas, or she will put herself back in a corner of her own work. You can only hide behind the words of others for so long.
I’m a contemporary which is not necessarily the best way to deal with things like this. You have to decide how much of this behavior you can tolerate. It may be petty to correct your colleague, but there has to be something at some point! In private, pull them aside to voice your concerns. Frame it like this: “You have a tendency to repeat my ideas and jokes. I’m flattered but would prefer you not to. “Or you could gently ask her why she is doing this crazy thing. If all else fails, next time just ask, “Girl, what are you doing?”
A nemesis is lurking
Recently the director of my department left. An employee and I both applied for the job. I got it, and now my colleague is exuding hostility towards me. We are total opposites so some of my choices upset them. I was able to deal with her anger for the most part, but I also assumed that she was angry not with me but with the situation. However, your attitude begins to affect the entire team.
Other employees feel silenced by her, and when I try to help them feel safe and their voices are heard, I annoy them even more. Still, she pretends everything is normal. What am I doing here? Your attitude negatively affects everyone. We’re also hiring new people, and I don’t want new people to come into this environment. I have no disciplinary authority and I am not sure if this is the right decision.
– Anonymous, South Carolina
Everything is not normal and it is time to stop pretending it is. Your co-worker is jealous and angry; it happens in a competitive environment. But their behavior is unprofessional. It affects your employees. She needs to process her negative feelings and at least get ahead at work. I don’t see why you as a director don’t have disciplinary authority or why it’s acceptable for one person’s grudge to affect an entire team. Is not it. I have all the empathy in the world for someone who doesn’t get the professional opportunity it desires. She has a right to her feelings, but she is not allowed to react to those feelings in a way that creates a toxic work environment. Disciplinary action may be necessary at some point, but there is a great gap between here and there.
Try to discuss this with her. Think Festivus – let them radiate discomfort. Ask them what their ideal path is in the present circumstances. With that clearing the air, consider ways you can make her more responsible without compromising your authority or taking advantage of her job. I assume she is good at her job because you haven’t spoken to her skills. Can you incorporate some of their ideas into your decision-making? Or allow her to take the lead on a project? We all want to feel valued at work, and not getting a promotion can feel like a reprimand. She just needs a reminder that she is cherished. But if your posture has not improved after these attempts, it is absolutely time for disciplinary action. I wish you and your entire team all the best as you find your way through this delicate situation.
Roxane Gay is the author of Hunger and a contributing opinion maker. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.