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What is the best way to deal with something that has been a problem for me in the past?

I'm talking about subtle bullying from co-workers. The know-it-all who thinks that, when the supervisor steps out of the room, he becomes your supervisor and will proceed to tell you how to do your job. The "office star" who does a very good job, but when she is supposed to be training you, she belittles your mistakes or shoves you out of the way to do the task herself rather than take the time to show you. You may get excellent feedback from the supervisors, but then she's going to find something wrong that they didn't point out, and ride your back for it.

And the cliques--God, how I fear cliques. Just like when I was always the new kid at school (20 different schools before graduation, sometimes as many as 5 or 6 in a year). By the time I got there, the friendship circles were already formed, the groups were already joined, the class offices were already elected. There was no place for me to fit in. It's the same now when I join anything new, whether it's a job or a church.

These things have always prevented me from holding a job in the past. Usually what happens is that the stress gets to me, I start getting physically ill (flu-like symptoms, etc.) and then get fired for calling in sick too much.

How to deal?

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Princess Lamb Chop,

The "office star" who does a very good job, but when she is supposed to be training you, she belittles your mistakes or shoves you out of the way to do the task herself rather than take the time to show you. You may get excellent feedback from the supervisors, but then she's going to find something wrong that they didn't point out, and ride your back for it.

Wow, that is a very good question and I am not so sure I have an easy answer. I hope many others will respond and help us out with this. I know that we have all found ourselves in similar situations and it is difficult to cope. However, this should not have to cost you a job.

I wonder if, perhaps, you are "too sensitive" to these types of things. This is not a criticism. You are right, when starting work in a new place other people have already made friendships and may feel reluctant to connect with someone new. That can and does feel awkward and re open old feeling from our younger years when we struggled with teenage friendships.

I want to suggest that you need to "grin and bear it" until you get to be better know by the others. I have always found, in my personal experience, that as long as I smiled, said "good morning and how are you today" to people, they responded well. That did not mean they were ready to accept me but only that I seemed friendly.

As far as the people who are supposed to help train you and soon come to think that they the Army General and you the Private, there, too, you need to grin and bear it. Again, speaking for myself, I often felt, in that situation, "hey, I know, you do not need to tell me again." However, there are many people who seem to feel more important when they tell you again. So, I learned to say "Oh, now I see what you mean, OK, I get it."

A lot of this type of thing feels personal, BUT, it really is not personal. It's just people being people.

Can you tell us more about your self and your past experiences?

Also, what do others have to say?


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I have been in my present job about a year and a half and am mostly comfortable dealing with all my coworkers now. I have even made a couple of good friends. However, Princess Lamb Chop's post reminded me of how it was for me for about the first 4 months or so after I was hired. I knew no one, no one really spoke to me, I ate lunch alone, etc. The answer was just hanging in there, being pleasant and friendly and especially realizing IT WASN'T PERSONAL.

In time, people get to know you bit by bit and you fit in. Feeling like an outsider happens to just about everyone at a new job. Keeping this in mind helps me not to read more into being the "new kid on the block" than there should be.


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... and here it is.

On my last two jobs, I encountered one each of those self-esteem-eating co-workers. My last job, I had applied for customer service but the store had a policy that everyone started out as baggers. There was this know-it-all cashier who made it a point to give me orders and criticize me in front of customers, even if she was contradicting what the supervisor already told me. On one occasion, I had already asked a customer if she wanted help out to the car, and the customer had said no. But on her way out the door, she apparently she changed her mind and asked that cashier for assistance. The cashier flagged me down, and right there in front of the customer, bawled me out. "She's got small children. She needs all the help she can get. Always ask the customers if they would like help." (Grr. I *DID!!*) She was like this with everyone, not just me, and was not very popular around the place. I was reassured by more than one co-worker that she was nobody I needed to listen to. That should have helped me deal with it, I guess, but it didn't.

I could go on about how she was not a team player, and just wanted to make herself look good and the other co-workers look like major jackasses, but I don't want this post getting too long. I didn't last two weeks. I had been hired "part time," but they considered 38 hours a week part time. If the physical demands hadn't already been too much, I probably would have been driven out of the job by her I'm-better-than-you attitude.

So that's the bossy co-worker type I mentioned. The other, the "office star," was from my last job before that one. It was a secretarial position, and I would have liked it if the colleague training me hadn't been such a snot. She was constantly telling me not to think for myself, but always ask her. She overreacted to my mistakes. For instance, I circulated an in-office memo that had handwritten corrections in it. Shouldn't have done that. Should have re-typed the memo to include the corrections. She was right to fish the memos back out of the office mailboxes and leave them on my desk with a note to type in the corrections, but she couldn't stop there. The note she left me went on for an entire page, consisting of "always ask me, never think for yourself," and concluded with, "I've already apologized to the supervisor for you." Well, first of all I can apologize to the supervisor for my own mistakes, and secondly when I did, he didn't give a hoot. She was making a much bigger stink about it than he was. And again, this was a co-worker, equal in rank, not someone who was above me. She then went on vacation, during which I greatly enjoyed the job, and the supervisors were happy with my work. But then as she was due back, I started having those tell-tale flu-like symptoms. Nausea, vomiting, even a fever. I lost the job through calling in sick too much. I know it was only stress because I didn't want to deal with her when she came back.

And I'd like to add that on her last day before vacation, the office threw her a bon voyage party and gave her a greeting card, in which it had been written, "I just know this office is going to fall apart without you!" As the one who was to fill her duties while she was gone, I thought, "Well, gee, thanks for the confidence in my abilities."

I know I can do the work. What I'm not sure I can do is handle the know-it-all co-workers, if it's true that there is one in every office.

I'm sorry this post is so long, and I'll be grateful if anyone can plod through it and give me advice. Thank you so much.

Edited by Princess Lamb Chop
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Just a little PS to say that I am noticing my stomach tangling in knots just *thinking* about these experiences, and I've just realized it's a very similar pattern to when I was in school. I always did much bettter with vertical relationships than with horizontal ones. Back then, I got along with the teachers but not my classmates, and it's the same thing now when I try to work. I have no trouble with the supervisors but my co-workers drive me bonkers.

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Good Morning

How long was your longest job and what about it made it different? Maybe due to your lifelong experiences, you are not a very good team player. Not everyone is. A job where you work alone might be a better choice for you. A lot of people don't like to work alone--so you would be an asset in such a setting. Of course, if you are the only person they count on to be there, you cannot call in sick. Do you really need to work? What is your personal attitude about working? How does having a job relate to the rest of your life?

I do know there are office politics and for some they are very diffficult. I couldn't handle them well. My favorite job was as manager in an apartment complex where I was the only person there except the maintenance man. I held that job over three years--the longest in a very long history of working. My boss was over a hundred miles away and only came down three or four times a year. I, too, was back and forth during school years with mom in Calif during vacations (Christmas, Easter and summer) and with my grandparents in Texas during school times. My life has been a series of short term relationships and I still move often. Today, I treasure all the varied experiences I had as result of all the moves---but it was often hard at the time.

Group therapy might be a great place to start. You could say what you feel about the others without the threat of losing a job. You could get feedback from others in the group about how they really feel and clear up mis-interpretations. You would have a therapist there to guide you through the process. But you must make a contract with yourself not to skip group--no matter how you feel--no calling in sick. It probably would not be easy for you, but it would give you insight into how you interact within a group and I think you need that insight to be successful in a group on any job. Group dynamics seem to have a life of their own and you need to learn how to find your personal place within that framework. It is not about right or wrong; it is about how you can find a way to be comfortable within a group.


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I think SuziQ has some great suggestions. There are jobs out there where you don't have to have someone looking over your shoulder all the time. I used to do home health work and the only person I really had to answer to was the client. Unless you have a crabby client, it is very rewarding work. You also get to set your own scedule. Keep searching until you find the right job for you. You deserve to be happy at something you have to do for 8 hours a day.

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