Is No One Worth Their Pay?

Lindsey Novak on

Q: I started a new job and I have slowly been getting to know people. One co-worker stands out in rudeness and difficulty. I am trying not to be rude to her, but she is authoritarian and power-hungry, and frankly, an impossible person to deal with on a daily basis. I am so disgusted I am close to exploding at her.

I don't know whether I should talk to the boss or talk directly to her. She needs to hear the truth about her unacceptable personality. I can think of only rude, negative words to describe her, and I don't know if the boss sees that side of her. Let's just say she has a severe personality disorder that no one should have to accept. I find her impossible to work with unless I ignore her. I can think of 100 things to criticize her about, but I don't know how honest I can be. Do I tell the boss what she is like or say it to her face?

A: If she is as horrible as you say she is, stick to the truth if you describe her to your boss. Of course, the truth is not always the same to people. You are not there to be her psychiatrist or psychologist and to guess what personality disorder she has or why she is the way she is. You want your description to be as realistic as possible. Make a list of everything she says to you that you think is unacceptable. If she orders you around, be exact in your wording. Whenever possible, quote your conversations verbatim.

When describing a conversation, don't leave it to your interpretation. For example, if she curses at you, quote her. If she tells you to do something a certain way, quote her words. Don't make general comments like, "She is rude and angry." Be exact. You don't want to use your words to describe her. You want to repeat her real language, so the boss understands what you are tolerating.

The boss likely knows what she is like and has probably heard it from the other employees. He may even like the realism because he knows where he stands when she talks to him. To be polite often means to be considerate of others' feelings and to candy-coat the truth. Some bosses don't like that. It depends on how rough-and-tumble your workplace culture is. Some workplaces are filled with foul language, to the point where no one pays attention to it. If she is unique in her rude language, that is more the reason for quoting her.


Before you complain about your co-worker, you must decide if your co-worker is out of line for this workplace. Is she foul-mouthed to you or to everyone? Is she not foul-mouthed, but a know-it-all in how she treats you? This is why you need to be exact in every one of your descriptions.

If this type of workplace is not acceptable to you, your only alternative is to leave. But you may find that type of behavior more common these days and more appropriate for the company's behavior.

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