Am I handling this coworker situation properly?

I have a coworker, call her “Leona”, who is very bossy, though she is not my boss, nor anyone else’s. What happened earlier today is typical with her. That’s not the problem: what is the problem is that Mr. Rilch says I’m wimping out and making the situation, such as it is, worse. I don’t think it’s much of a situation, actually, but I thought I’d ask for some Humble Opinions.

“Sally” and I were the only people in our department from 9:45 to 6:15. When Leona showed up at 6:10, we were as glad to see her as anyone can reasonably be. (She doesn’t rub anyone the right way; it’s not just me.) This was a misguided reaction, though, since she promptly stuck her nose into something that was none of her business.

Just before Leona showed up, I had been embroiled in a particularly difficult transaction. The customer gave me a gift certificate, the like of which I’d never seen before (or maybe once, early on, but I no longer remembered how to use it). Finally, I figured out that I had to scan it like a coupon. Simple enough, right? Except that the register kept telling me “Insert Document, Press Clear”. So I put the giftcert in the printer…and the register proceeded to print the receipt on it!

Well, no harm done, I figured. I printed a duplicate receipt and sent the customer on her way. I was in the process of clocking out (we do that on the register) when all of a sudden, Leona’s asking, “What’s this? What is this?” I look, and she’s holding up the coupon.

Now, first of all, I don’t know how she got ahold of that thing. I would have put it into the slot in the register, so it would go under the cash drawer, but perhaps I left a corner of it poking out. Either way, Leona must have had to fish for it somehow. Which is uncalled for. As I’ve said, she is not my supervisor.

Leona continues to demand to know what “this” is. I start telling her that the register refused to do anything until I’d let it print on something (true), but she won’t listen. I think Leona must have gone to parochial school, or taught at one, because her manner is eerily like that of a nun headmistress. Finally, I cut across her hectoring and, looking her straight in the eyes, said, “I made a mistake. I’m not perfect.”

For one brief, shining moment, I thought I’d gotten my own message across, that being that I’m not intimidated by her. Ha. She was silent for all of ten seconds, then wheeled on Sally and began grilling her about coupons. “I don’t know,” says Sally.

Leona delivered another lecture, which I don’t remember word for word, except that it began with “Let me tell you something…”. And I don’t listen to that, unless the person saying that has supervisory capacity over me. Which Leona does not. Also, I was trying not to laugh at the face Sally was making, in imitation of Leona and for my benefit. I said nothing, Sally said nothing, Leona left to wait on a customer, and we left for the parking lot.

Now, contrary to what Mr. Rilch thinks, this is not eating at me. The only reason I mentioned it when I got home is because Friend was here, and when he asked me how my day was, I automatically started telling about the last thing that happened. Actually, I started out telling about the giftcert transaction, which is a story unto itself, but not relevant here. But when I finished telling about Leona, Mr. Rilch started in on a lecture of his own, about how I have to “stand up for myself” and so forth.

Quite honestly, I don’t know what I can do that I haven’t already done. I don’t want to throw down with this person, for fear that I’ll be seen as the instigator. As far as Leona’s concerned, she’s always right, and if I challenge her, she might feel she’s within her rights to complain against me. And she’s been there longer than I have.

But Mr. Rilch thinks I should challenge her, by asking “Why do you talk to me that way?” I don’t think that’s a good idea at all. That’ll just be her cue to tell me everything that’s “wrong” with me, and then she’ll really think she’s “won”. Why bring more of the same on myself? Also, Mr. Rilch has a mightly short memory. Just before 9/11, I “stood up” to another coworker who also had no authority over me but bossed me around anyway. And I was fired. In this case, I really think the best thing I can do is just keep my cool and do my job.

So what do y’all think?

If it isn’t bothering you then don’t worry about it. Don’t let Mr. Rilch push you into a fight that you aren’t interested in having.

Mr. Rogers would say to just be friendly.

I’m in a similar situation Rilch. Not quite as bad as yours but bad enough. Mr. Tech thinks I’m letting my Leona get away with too much and he swears one day she’s going to get me in serious trouble. Maybe I’ll start a new thread asking for advice.

Either way, I’m with you. If it’s not bothering you, let it go. If it starts to get to you, however, you should take her aside and let her know she’s out of line. If her behavior continues, see HR or her superior.

IF she can tell you how to handle coupons then listen to her.

If she has some sort of non-authorized access to your cash drawer then she must be stopped.

Good point. Practice standing up for yourself with Mr. Rilch.

And go to your boss, explain your problem, say you don’t want to cause or be caused trouble, and ask how you should handle it.

And everynight practice saying to the mirror, firmly byt gently, Leona, this is not your concern. No, Leona, this is NOT your concern.

The only problem that I can foresee, is that Leona’s need to feel superior may get you into trouble with your boss.

Other than that, no realy need to do anything other than to not let your husband make you feel bad about the fact that the incident didn’t really bug you.

I’d advise against going to your boss, unless this is a crisis. I’ve dealt with conflicts worse than this one in my time, and the person complaining usually does not come across well, especially of the issue hasn’t percolated up.

Here’s a good way to “stand up” to her. Just don’t pay her attention. While she is lecturing you, clean up your area, shuffle papers, do anything to show that while you are not interrupting her and are minimally polite, you don’t consider her input to be worth very much. When she stops, say thanks and leave. Just come across as confident and so superior to her that you don’t even have to listen.

Well, Mr. Rilch has changed his stance now that I’ve reminded him of the earlier firing. And I’m not going to go to the boss about this. Not now, anyway. If it escalates, but hopefully it won’t, esp. if I take Voyager’s advice.

Zebra, I’m always willing to take advice. But the thing is, she’s not giving advice so much as she’s spoiling for a fight. She can’t just say “Next time do this”, like the others do. She has to put me on the spot with “Why did you do this? Why?..Well, you can’t do that. Why did you do it?”

There was something else she had a problem with that night too. A customer had called up, asking for a specific duvet cover. I found it, brought it to cashwrap, and filled out the “hold” form, but we were so swamped that nearly an hour later, I still hadn’t had a chance to put it in the storeroom. So Leona rolls up and says “Why is this here?..It needs to go in the storeroom…etc.etc.” Well, I told her what I just told you guys, but it seemed like she was interpreting my answer as “La de da! We don’t care! So what! La de da!”

I’ve given it some more thought, and I see a pattern here. She doesn’t have this attitude with “Manny, Moe and Jack”, the three men (not boys) who work with us. But with me, Sally, the other two women, and the teen and twentysomething guys who do carryout and stock, she always goes into nun-headmistress mode.

Oh, and as far as it being “my” cash drawer. No one person is responsible for any one cash drawer. The nature of the job is such that we have to be able to leave cashwrap at a moment’s notice, if a customer needs help out on the floor. As such, we hop on and off the registers like flies at a buffet, all day long. So she wasn’t invading my privacy, but it was still disconcerting.

I’ve got one of those at work also. I actually stopped speaking with her about three years ago. Try it! It’s fun!

There is absolutely nothing you can do to change her behavior. She has acted the way she acts most of her life and it doesn’t matter if you answer, don’t answer, yell, scream or bitch-slap her, she wont’ change. If the problem escalates to the point it interferes with your job, tell your boss. Otherwise ignore her. When you can’t ignore her, answer her questions with questions. Example:

She asks, “What’s this?”
you answer “Why do you ask?”
She: “Because this is totally wrong!”
You: “That’s right, it is.”
She: “Well who did it?”
You: “Why do you want to know?”
She: “So I can tell that person this is wrong!”
You: “Is that your job now?”
She: “Are you the one who did this?”
You: “Does it make any difference?”

See how it goes? She gets no satisfaction. Another:

“Why is this Duvet here?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Because it belongs in the storeroom!”
“Yes it does! Thanks so much for noticing and putting it in the storeroom.” and smile sweetly.

I think a lot these husband-wife disagreements over how to handle work related relationship stuff could be solved by being honest with your husbands and SOs over the real female goal of the “What do you think” discussion. Before initiating the story of your co-workers perfidity, take hubby aside and softly tell him you don’t actually want any “advice”, you just want him to listen to your tale of woe and be supportive and sympathetic.

All problems solved.

astro, the thing is, I didn’t even ask him what he thought. It was just “a bunch of stuff that happened”, as Bart Simpson would say. I don’t do that “asking for advice when I only want sympathy” jazz.

Well, you didn’t use any napalm, so I say no, you did not handle that situation properly.

i have had similar problems with the other bacon liker. it seems to me it comes down to the difference in the way men and women communicate. all you are doing is talking about the problem which is what women do, he sees it as a situation where you are looking for advice and he tries to help you solve the problem. it happens at my house all the time, so i try not to really bring that stuff up, all i really want is a “there there” so i go to my sister for that.

Speaking as a “man type” person, anytime a person dear to us opens up with a heart felt tale of woe about inanimate objects, co-workers, or life in general, that clanging and cruching sound you hear is your “man” dragging out his all purpose mental “fix it” toolbox. It can’t be helped, it’s wired in regardless of whether you ask for advice or not.

Realize this and forestall the toolbox opening, by making the goal of the conversation clear. We are simple creatures and require basic instructions, often more than once. Work with us.