DEAR MISS MANNERS: A co-worker and I started our jobs at the same time a couple of years ago. He has a rough time learning and understanding how to conduct his job.
My other co-workers and I have continuously tried teaching him the same things repeatedly, given him notes, and showed him how to take and organize notes, but it got to the point where it felt pointless because after a year, there really wasn’t much improvement.
So, we started backing off. As a result, he started asking our supervisor the majority of his questions. She was accommodating for a while, but then she noticed the constant reminders he needs and mistakes he makes.
So, she’s been more strict with him lately: making him look up info, quizzing him, being upfront and telling him, “We’ve gone over this multiple times before.”
Now he feels that he’s being singled out and treated differently than everyone else. He is, overall, just really unhappy with his job and is venting to me. I really don’t want to get caught in the middle, but at the same time, I feel that it’s my responsibility as a co-worker to show empathy rather than sound like I’m taking my supervisor’s side.
Unfortunately, because of all the listening that I’ve been providing him, and maybe some poor choice of comments, I think it misled him into believing that I’m overstressed and unhappy, too. He told me that he told our supervisor morale here is really bad, none of us even want to be here, and we’re afraid to speak up so he’s doing it for us.
He also shared with me he’s preparing to report her to human resources. I actually enjoy my job and have a good working relationship with my supervisor. How do I tell him to leave me out of this conversations with our supervisor, and not to involve me in his formal complaint?
GENTLE READER: To him: “I’m sorry you feel that way, and I hope things work out for you, but please do not speak on my behalf or include me in any formal complaint.”
To your supervisor: “(Co-worker) just told me that he is telling people that I am unhappy here, as he appears to be. Frankly, I was horrified, as it is simply not true. I told him that, but I also wanted to tell you directly so there is no misunderstanding.”
Miss Manners does not see this as taking the boss’s side over a coworker’s; she sees it as a necessary defensive move against someone who is seeking to compromise you.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Can you have a birthday and retirement party all in one?
GENTLE READER: Etiquette does not, in the abstract, object to combining celebrations. But Miss Manners does believe that one outgrows large birthday parties around the time one enters the workforce – which, assuming you are not retiring from kindergarten, would preclude the party you propose.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website missmanners.com.