14 August 2009

Passive-Aggressive Behaviour

...significant venting in 3...2...

Ok, so my Faithful Readers know that I am having problems with one of the people I work with. I would link it back, but it would really take too long. This is the woman that played the music in her area (and later a common area) that I flipped out over. The music is no longer allowed, but then the problems began.

It took about six months for things to come to a head. At the end of June I got a 'talking to' from Boss about telling this woman (Cook) how to do her job. A reminder: she was blocking a common alley instead of using her cooking area, I told her to move. Well, ok, I told her to move her ass or I'd hit it with the cart next time. Not very professional of me, very childish, I know. I had my wrist slapped over it and was properly apologetic. At that time I told Boss that I simply wouldn't talk to her then unless absolutely necessary. It seemed that I whatever I said, no matter how inane, Cook took as me telling her how to do her job. So, no more talking, socializing, chit-chat, or small talk. Only required words and as few as possible. Boss was ok with that. I took it one step farther and simply didn't acknowledge her existence unless forced to. My daddy taught me that, and hey, it works well for me. I don't think Cook liked it very much though.

It took a month for things to come to a head after that. At the end of July I had a meeting with Cook, Union Rep, Big Boss and Boss. This meeting was called after Cook's incessant complaints about me not treating her with respect. The culminating incident being me kicking a cart. From my point of view, I moved the cart with my foot which is something I always do and something Boss does as well. I didn't kick it at her, in her direction, into her ingredients, or into her product, just in her presence. Apparently, Cook took this as a sign of me disrespecting her. Bosses were tired of this and had a meeting with us.

During the meeting I asked Cook to tell me exactly how she would like me to respect her. She stumbled a bit and told me I need to ask for things. Like lids. We have lids that go on pails. These lids get set out to dry in Scaling, then stacked on a shelf in Scaling when they are dry. Cook was taking all the lids, waiting until I set more lids out to dry and taking those as well. I can calculate how many lids she'd need in a day as I'd scaled her ingredients and she was taking far more than she actually needed. She was stacking them in the Cooking area, which is no problem as I don't care where they are stored. Until I needed lids. I saw that Cook was done her required recipes for the day so I went over and took as many lids as I needed. Apparently it was disrespectful of me to just take them, even though she wasn't going to use them that day.

And carts. She had a specific cart that I needed (there are two in Scaling that are specifically designated for Big Stuff as they are larger carts) so I found a different cart, brought it to her, transferred her product onto the new cart, told her what I was doing, and took the larger cart away. This too was disrespectful according to Cook. In her mind I should have explained my actions before I begun the transfer of pails. Seriously. As she complained about this incident in the meeting, my brain disengaged and I told her that it would have been disrespectful to put her pails on a cardboard on the floor, demand that she move her stuff, or simply wheel the cart away with her stuff on it. The fact that I brought her a new cart, moved the stuff myself and was not snarky at all didn't seem to matter. She demanded that I explain myself before I take action, like taking lids or carts. Remember the disengaged brain? I told her that she simply wasn't worth the effort it would have taken to explain things, it's easier for me to just do it. The room was quiet, but no one disagreed with me. I told her that no matter what I do or how I do it, my actions will never be enough for her, that I will never do things correctly in her opinion. I even asked her that just because she does things her way, does that make it the right way? Her answer: "Yes, it does!"

During the meeting Boss and Big Boss backed me up by telling Cook to stop with the 'digs' against me. They appeared to be on my side for most of it and tried their best to find a solution to quiet Cook's complaints but still let me be who I am. I suspect that's because Boss told Big Boss about my Bipolar Disorder. Maybe.

We left the meeting with the understanding that I would ask, or at least let her know, before taking something. I made sure to mention that doing this goes against the grain of who I am and therefore would take a while to integrate into my daily activities. Really, no one else has a problem with any of this. People take lids and pails from Scaling all the time, and everyone knows to look in Scaling for a cart if they need one. Sometimes people tell me what they are doing, but they mostly don't and it doesn't matter. It only matters to Cook that I do it for her. So far I haven't had to ask for anything as I would wait until she'd left the area before helping myself to these common items.

It took two weeks for things to come to a head. For the first day after the meeting Cook tried to be saccharine sweet to me. I was curt in my answers, but not unpleasant. After an hour, she stopped trying to talk to me. And I believe things got better but only because she has been doing work that has taken her out of her Cooking area and into Prep (we are in the midst of training a new night baker, the current night baker is bored with the training and has been completing the cooking recipes, much to Cook's dismay, and this probably has added to Cook's hostility overall). But she was back in Cooking yesterday.

At the end of the day I tossed my flattened boxes into the recycle bin. The bin is located in Cooking and accessable through my Scaling shelf (the shelf is actually scaffolding, with a four foot gap from bottom to top shelves, I kneel on the bottom shelf and toss the boxes over the rail into the bin). I thought the landing of the boxes sounded odd, but I was in a rush and started collecting the Big Stuff. After one load I noticed a box balanced on the Scaling side of the railing, on top of my scaled ingredients. I shook my head a bit and tossed the box back into the bin. Again, I thought the sound was odd but went off to get another load of Big Stuff. I came back and found that same box on the floor in Scaling. Cook would have had to toss the box over the recycling bin, over my scaled product and over the width of the bottom shelf to have it land on the floor. That's when I fully realized that the odd sound was the box missing the recycle bin and landing on the floor in Cooking. This happens occasionally when the bin is too full or if there are boxes that aren't flat. And instead of Cook just picking it up and putting it in the bin, she tossed it back into my area. Am I the only one that sees this as passive-aggressive?

So I lost my temper a bit, picked up the box and went into Cooking. I placed the box on top of the others in the bin and sweetly said to Cook "boxes go in the bin, like this" as if she was a dull little girl, and walked away. She was saying something, but I ignored her. This was probably disrespectful of me and I will probably be invited into the boss's office next week to talk about it.

The problem I'm having is deciding exactly how to deal with this behaviour. At our last meeting, Bosses made it clear that they didn't want either of us to complain about the other for a while, give it time to make adjustments. To be fair, I don't complain about Cook to the bosses much. It's not my style. Only when it is a sanitary issue like picking up a filthy pallet and not washing her hands after. Oh yeah, she did that. Ick. I don't know how much she complains about me, but I suspect it's a lot. So going to Bosses and complaining about Cook's passive-aggressiveness doesn't seem like an option.

I could just deal with each incident separately and be as non-confrontational as possible. I've noticed the pattern we've developed with each other includes me not being sociable with Cook then Cook setting land mines for me to step on (hoarding lids and carts, throwing boxes in my way). I can only step on so many before I get...snippy...and she turns around and complains to Boss about my attitude, then Boss has to talk to me about it.

So the pattern (from my point of view) is starting with her PA behaviour. She probably suspects the pattern begins with my attitude/disrespect of me not acknowledging her when I pass by her. To be clear, there are two other groups of people at work that do this. One is Union Rep not talking to three coworkers because of personality differences. The other is in Wash Bay not talking to one of her coworkers because she simply doesn't like him. So coworkers not speaking to each other is acceptable behaviour at work by the bosses. So, how do I end the stream of digs without changing my entire personality to suit Cook? That was part of the issue in our last meeting: Cook wanted me to be a different person than who I am. I am not always likeable and Cook found this unacceptable. But why should I bend to her wishes of who I should or shouldn't be? It isn't up to her to decide that, and I take major offence to even the slightest suggestion of being someone other than who I am.

So I think I will continue to do my job with the same level of excellence that I have set. I will continue to not associate with Cook unless required. I will do my best to tolerate every dig from Cook. I will let Cook be the complainer to Boss. And I may document each dig or bit of PA behaviour for future meetings with the bosses. We don't have to like each other or even get along, we just have to be able to do our jobs.

Any thoughts or suggestions?

1 comment:

Chantelle said...

Since you asked for thoughts and suggestions, here are mine, starting with thoughts:

- Just because other people aren't talking to each other at work doesn't mean that this is the right thing to do.

- You say that she doesn't always wash her hands after doing stuff... if I remember rightly, you didn't always wash your hands after doing stuff, either. Is it fair to accuse her of doing (or not doing) something you do (or don't do) yourself?

- You say that she's asking you to change and you aren't going to change who you are. Aren't you also asking her to change her behaviour? And if she were to change in any way, would you be satisfied with it?

- I know you know how to do lots of other people's jobs there. However, no two people do a job in exactly the same way and it's not fair to expect that they will. Which means that you don't really know what she needs or how many of something she needs, because she does the job differently than you do. And she may prefer that people ask before taking stuff in her area - lots of people are like that. Could she be trying to control her area like you try to control yours?

- I wonder if, when you aren't talking to her, you're sending off mean vibes with your body language? In other words, could you be saying what you really think without saying a word? If so, even though it feels good... it's not maybe the best way of dealing with this.

- Living and working in society means that everyone ends up making compromises in order to get along. The fact that you are who you are right now and do the things you do doesn't mean you can't change or compromise (and compromise doesn't mean getting your own way :)).

- I'm worried that if the situation doesn't change, you'll end up fired. I know you're bipolar but the things you've described doing don't come across as bipolar-type behaviours. They could make you get treatment first, I guess... which would be better.

And here are some suggestions....

- The two of you seem to be behaving very similarly. Could you be fighting and not getting along because the two of you are very similar? I know it sounds silly, but that sort of thing happens

- Another thing to think about: are you trying to have complete control over her, so that she only does what you want? Can you find a way to let that go, to only control what's in your own area and not her? In the end, we've only got control over ourselves, not anyone else.

- Not talking to someone, throwing stuff in their area, and shutting off the radio are not the most professional ways of handling the situation. No matter what she does, you don't have to stoop to her level when you respond to her or initiate contact with her. I know you're better than that.

- When you're thinking about this person, do you think the worst of her (like, "oh she's such a stupid bitch)? Especially on the way to work and stuff? If so, then stopping yourself when you think badly of her would help. If you can get to a point where you think good thoughts about her, that would be better, but even just stopping bad thoughts is a great thing. Sometimes thinking badly about someone else leads a person to treat that someone else badly.

- If you wanted to handle things differently, you could pretend to be someone who handles situations better when you deal with this person - what would a person who's good in that situation do or say, and in what tone of voice and using what body language?


I know that these thoughts and suggestions might not be exactly what you wanted to hear... but since you asked, I thought I'd respond.

I love you, seester,
Chantelle