Office Atmosphere vs One Person

I’ve been wondering about this for some time now, since one of the women I have worked with closely for the past two years has left our company.

Long story short: once she left, there was a week or so of shock (Why would she leave so abruptly?) and then we started to adjust to her absence. This is a dear friend of mine, and even I am happier at work since her departure. (For example, I currently put in just as many hours as before, and my workload is not decreasing significantly, but I have not driven home in tears since the week before her departure. That was a twice-weekly occurence while she was with us.)

So this leads me to wonder: how often does one individual deeply impact the overall atmosphere of a workplace? Share your stories, please: the good, the bad and the truly deplorable.

I’ve often wondered about this but from a slightly different perspective. I used to work for a very large, multinational tech company doing helpdesk work. Our particular building adopted this ultra corporate atmosphere and also the habit of suddenly sending out messages to everyone that so-and-so was no longer employed and was not to be let back into the building. I understand the no access to the building thing, but the fact that this person was suddenly gone with no explanation by anyone was very unsettling to everyone in the building. Everyone would be upset by this for about 2 weeks, then things would calm down until it happened again.

I have a story. I guess I’ve waited a long time to get this off my chest.

This was my first “real” job, Customer Service Department. We had four desks in a square pattern. There were three girls and one guy, and the manager’s desk faced our square.

One of the girls, let’s call her Sue, is the one I want to talk about.

Sue told us once that every morning she decided who to pick a fight with.

She would deliberately tell the warehouse that I or others had screwed up an order so they would have to special ship it. Luckily the warehouse guys liked me and knew better.

Sue told on us for any breach of discipline. (For example she would tell on us if we stayed over our breaks).

Yet she would stay on breaks for 25 minutes plus.

Sue got pregnant, and took time off work every week to go to the doctor, rather than doing it in her own time. And it always happened to be Friday at 2 PM, so she didn’t come back.

She was consistently late, and left early.

She was a witch in her talking. Bastabbing, backbiting, bitching.

She lied to our boss. She spilled coffee deliberately all over my desk, and soda over the other friend’s.

Ok, so why didn’t they fire her? Well i can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty sure it was the pregnant thing. It all ended when she was caught stealing by one of the other girls in CSD. Even then she had the gall to take the company to court.

It drove a HUGE wedge into customer service. It was a hard job, and I was taking 150 calls a day some days. We were still happy and having fun until she came along and tried to drive us apart.

I was not as mature then as now and didn’t respond to it properly, which would have bene to ignore it as best as I could.

I hated her. I still do. Oh…and the other thing…

she told us that she lied about her birth control to her boyfriend and stopped taking it, so she would get pregnant and make him marry her. (He was Roman Catholic).

Yuck. One person can make a job living hell.

Nothing as bad as Elenia28’s situation, but I’ve had co-workers that totally mess things up. This one guy was arrogant, lazy, really not that great a programmer, but could spin things so well that management thought he was the best. He would half-assed do his tasks, then when somebody else would take over fixing bugs, they’d find all sorts of functionality not implemented.

He was such a schmoozer too. He somehow got all buddy-buddy with the manager. He made me crazy. He made everybody else crazy too.

I remember he went on vacation for a couple of weeks and things were so much better. He wasn’t on the phone all the time, or chit-chatting and distracting me, etc. It was planned vacation, so they had figured hours for our tasks without him, and I actually had less work, since I didn’t have to pick up his slack.

Yeah, I think one person can seriously screw up a team’s work atmosphere. I think this is a problem that management should be more aware of.

I was in a law firm marketing department. There were originally three of us in the St. Louis office. We got along really well - thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company, and we presented a good united front (this was important because our counterpart marketing department in Kansas City was known for being very splintered and political). I felt very supported by my manager and the client services coordinator. Then marketing decided that they’d really like to promote me because they felt I was doing a great job and would like to add to my duties. I was delighted of course, because they wanted to promote me and I’d only been there 5 months. Anyway, we needed another person to take over my former position as marketing assistant. Our HR assistant decided that her little sister’s best friend would be the best candidate. She was the only one that our marketing manager interviewed. I also interviewed her and mentioned to my manager that she seemed a little harsh and seemed to have a bit of an attitude problem (code for bitchy). She was hired anyway, probably because the marketing manager and the HR assistant were very close friends. This girl turned the whole dynamic of our department upside down and managed to chase away at least three people in the Kansas City department by the end of the year. Unfortunately, my marketing manager and the client services coordinator both prized bitchiness in the workplace - they mistook it for something else and called it “assertiveness.” This new administrative assistant wasn’t assertive - assertive can be good. It can help you stand up for yourself when someone is doing something you know is wrong.

Instead, she was mean. She would make the attorneys’ secretaries cry when they asked her to do something for them (her job) and then brag about it to me and to our manager. Turns out, our manager thought that was kind of funny, because she didn’t like some of the secretaries. And the client services coordinator, who was best friends with the manager, thought it was funny, too, and complimented our admin on her “assertiveness.” Of course, the HR assistant got a chuckle out of it, too. She also didn’t like some of the secretaries. I was the only one who wasn’t amused by the staff secretaries who would come into my office and ask if they could close the door and clean themselves up because our admin had done it again.

I spoke to my manager. Then had to speak to her again when the admin stormed into my office in the middle of an important meeting and screamed at me in front of a different manager because I had pointed out some mistakes on her work in an e-mail I sent her. She was talked to, and eventually written up for her attitude, but our manager still encouraged her special brand of assertiveness, and our client services coordinator had developed a mother-daughter-like relationship with her (as in, before they would part from a happy hour, the CSC would kiss our admin on the cheek, say “I love you, hon,” and the admin would giggle: “Love ya, mom! Bye!” - extremely unprofessional). Added to that, the manager and CSC were basically best friends, and had been since the manager had started working there a few years ago.

After a while, I felt as though they presented more of a united front against me, my manager had become completely unsupportive because I had privately discussed my concerns about our admin (I had tried to talk directly to the admin, but she freaked out, screamed at me, and was again written up), and I couldn’t take it anymore. I left. Two days after I announced my resignation, the admin was promoted to a position similar to mine, only she was responsible for PR.

It’s good to know that hard work and politeness are rewarded. :rolleyes:

I had an employee who disrupted our whole office. Her work was average, she loved picking fights with other departments and she was capable of turning a quiet, working office into a shitstorm with one word. I put up with her for longer than I should have.

She got pissed about something - a fight she started and didn’t want to finish -and tendered her resignation. When I accepted her resignation without begging her to stay, she was shocked. She wanted drama, she got a job search.

We had a person leave our office about a month ago and the difference in the morale around here is AMAZING. She was quite adept at handing off work to others, accepting credit for things she didnt do, pawning off blame for foul-ups, etc - and this effected the whole office dynamic (16 people in our department). There seems to be much more of a team atmosphere and a lot more openess now that she’s gone (people were hesitant to speak their minds around her for fear those words would be processed and regurgitated to the wrong people). I’ve seen similar occurances, to a lesser degree and for the worse or better, when others have left an office in my professional career.

So, Sinshine, to answer the OP: one person can most assuredly have an effect on the atmosphere of a workplace, and I believe that to be the case in offices/work environments large and small (within reason, obviously).

I’ve worked with a man and a woman who both saw the world in black and white: If they liked you, everything you did was right; and if they didn’t like you, everything you did was wrong.

The guy was the worse. It got to the point where if anything went wrong, it was my fault. When I stayed late to get some letters in the mail and wasn’t there when the mailman came the next day and they didn’t go it, it was my fault because “I didn’t tell anyone to tell the mailman to take the mail.” He would also deny that I did anything right. He once heard me tell someone that I had kept a diary since I was eight years old. “No you didn’t.” :confused: He was always talking about how I “made the office look bad.” Eventually, he got fired for criticizing my behavior outside of the office–he saw me in the supermarket one Sunday in my Sunday best; i.e. a pair of maroon sweat pants and an orange T-shire. He told everybody how horrible I was dressed.

This saddens me, as it is a little too accurate a description of the changes in our office. My friend does not strike me as the devious type, and would give the shirt off her back to the right people, but she felt strongly (and wrongly, IMHO) that she was being persecuted, and her stress levels, health issues and overall defensiveness spiralled out of control. End result: she left, and we are all (herself included) breathing easier as a result. Her doctor recommended that she take 8-10 weeks to “smell the roses.”