Have you ever had the phenomenon of female co-workers undermining you with passive aggressive BS? I was just gobsmacked last week and have spent a couple of days digesting and analyzing the information provided to me by my boss (also a woman – this will be relevant).
First, let me say that I am not in trouble and my boss was giving me a heads up. I appreciate the heads up and we spoke very candidly.
What happened? The first thing was I attended a company event that apparently was only for one particular department and their clients. They had over 200 people for a breakfast thing. I had asked my department admin if I could go and if I could invite a few folks. She said sure. She has been organizing the logistics of this particular event for many years, so I thought I was good to go. I attended with the prior knowledge of my boss (not her department) and apparently created a slight stir afterwards.
I was so embarrassed. I immediately apologized and asked my boss if this put her in a tight spot. It didn’t. I told her it wouldn’t happen again. Now I am thinking that my admin simply was giving me lots of rope so I would hang myself. Gee, thanks.
This led to my boss’ next comment, “people are noticing when you are out of the office”. Hmm, that’s interesting. I asked for a bit more information and explained that I was never out of the office without her PRIOR knowledge and that my public calendar was very clear about what I was doing when I wasn’t in the office. We talked about that and the fact that people simply do not understand what I do and how there are times that my work takes me out of the office. She was fine with it all. She had no complaints or requests that I stop what I am doing. She simply wanted to let me know that I am being watched.
Then the really interesting conversation started. The same admin that had given me enough rope and no warning so I hung myself at the breakfast seminar apparently spent most of her review time complaining about me. My boss asked her if she had spoken to me and the answer was “no”. She asked if I was disrespectful or difficult to work with, “no”. Actually, the admin admitted, she really likes me and thinks I am a really nice person to work with. WTF?
Her specific complaints include that I listen to her calls. Uh, no, I try to be very courteous and that’s what she does. Mr, Freud, can we say, “projection”. She also was concerned that I am trying to interfere with her work by getting involved. OK, occasionally because I am new and I do have suggestions on new approaches, but just tell me “no”. I am still trying to find my lane on this new work road. Basically, she didn’t have anything concrete or concrete enough for my boss to step in. On reflection, it really just seems like the admin is jealous and feels threatened.
My boss was in a very good mood and seemed to be telling me out of a place of concern for me rather than trying to correct any of my behaviors. She actually told the admin that I am much like the boss and that the best way to course-correct me is to tell me directly. We laughed about it because I said this is one of my biggest problems “I don’t do subtle”. However, based on this situation I am going to have to do a better job because I am sitting among some passive-aggressive ladies.
As my boss and I parsed this out, I jokingly said that it sounded like a kid jealous that her sibling was getting more attention from mom. “EXACTLY!” my boss exclaimed. She said that the admin ended their time by complaining that the boss spends too much time with me and not enough with her.
Like I said earlier, I was gobsmacked. I thought I had made positive inroads with this admin. I thought we were on the same team and all was well. I thought perhaps I had found an ally in this workplace. Nope, I was wrong. Naive Maggie.
I don’t think the admin is doing this from a place of hatred towards me, but one of jealousy. I recognize that the admin had wanted my job even though she doesn’t have the expertise I have. I am an expert in a very specific field and I am the only one in the company with my expertise. Which is another reason why so many people look at me with a raised eyebrow. What do I do? How do I do this? My boss knows and she really likes my work. She reports to the CEO and he is happy with my results and that is all that matters for now.
One thing this has taught me. Stay in my lane. Although I want to contribute in other ways to the company’s success, this cannot be. I need to stay in my lane and focus on the tasks they hired me to do.
I asked my boss several times if there was anything I should or should not be doing. She said no. She was fine with me. She enjoys my company and thinks I am doing great work. One thing for sure is that I have always seen my boss as that –my boss. I keep our relationship hierarchical. We will find out more this week when my formal review occurs, but for now, I simply have to take her words at face value.
I did some thinking and research on my situation, so be sure to read my next post about my ruminations on this situation.
Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash