Wisely Choose Your Complaints and Reasons to Leave
Q: I work for the smallest department ever -- we have a boss and two of us co-workers, a man and I'm a woman. The boss is a 40ish-year-old woman; we are late 20s. Our boss doesn't wear revealing or tight clothing, but she comes across as a very sexual person. She favors my male co-worker like I've never seen. Around me, she's normal and acknowledges my work and competence. Around my co-worker, she turns into a different person. She doesn't do anything inappropriate other than to take up a lot of his time, as if she's lonely.
My co-worker and I get along well, but our relationship is a work one and nothing over-the-top or personal. We kid around when we have time, and we work steadily when we have to finish a project. When she stops by, she will sit in his office and talk to him forever. I, of course, am left doing more of the work. He doesn't enjoy this situation, but he also won't complain about it.
I told him he could say non-threatening things to cut the "visit' short, like "I should really get back to work so Susan (not my real name) doesn't have to finish it all by herself. But he won't. He says he doesn't want to offend her, so he lets her talk on and on. She takes from a half hour to an hour of his time every day with one visit. She very occasionally does the same thing with me -- coming into my office and chatting for extended periods.
Because we're a staff of two, we don't have a lot of time to waste. I was considering walking into his office when she's there, maybe after 10 to 15 minutes to ask for help or to say I can't do the job alone, but I don't know how she will react to my interrupting her. Her boss is in another location, so he rarely comes by. If I do something to cut their visits short, will I be kissing my job goodbye? I get the feeling she could be a jealous person, and I don't want her to think my asking for help is anything more than business.
A: You are in an awkward spot, so it's good you're sensitive enough to recognize it. What you're identifying as perhaps sexual may simply be an extreme level of loneliness, and she prefers male attention to female attention. Since she visits you as well, only not for as long a time, rest assured she's satisfied with your performance. In fact, it sounds like your only complaint about the job is that you're doing more work than your counterpart because of the time he spends with her.
You seem to finish the work, even with his limited help. If you are not being asked or ordered to do overtime to get things completed, (hold on, you may not like this) I suggest you keep the peace and let it be. Here's what could happen if you don't: However innocent your interruptions are, she may view them as threatening.
If you feel she may be jealous, the likelihood is she will. Your gut feeling is sending you an important message. Listen to it. You seem to like the work and the amount of it. You may be feeling taken advantage of because your coworker chooses to not complain, but clearly both of you are sensing the same vibes from her. She doesn't just want male attention; she needs it. Stopping it will upset her, and she will likely punish you for it. If you're not willing to jeopardize your job, accept that no job is perfect.
You'll know when it's time to start a job search -- you have nothing more to learn, your relationship with your boss makes you miserable, or you find exciting job ads that you have a chance at landing. Coasting in a job is fine, but if you want to advance, a larger company will offer greater potential.
Email career and life coach: Lindsey@LindseyNovak.com with your workplace problems and issues. Ms. Novak responds to all emails. For more information, visit www.lindseynovak.com, and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak.