Time for “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from Romance Novels,” where romance heroes and heroines demonstrate the way out of sticky situations.
Dear Smart Bitch Sarah:
I have a work problem, not a romance problem, but I’m wondering if you could give me some advice. I have a work colleague who is driving me nuts. She and I have the same job, but I’ve been working at our company for about a year longer than she has. At first we got along great and I really liked her, but lately she’s been very different and I don’t know what to do. There’s a lot of little things that bother me, but I don’t want to get too specific because I think she reads your site, too – and because I don’t want to get fired.
When she first started, we found we had a lot in common. We had lunch together, we would go for drinks after work, and we’d email or IM during the day while we were working. I can’t figure out why or when it changed, but now she only IMs me or emails me to ask what I’m doing – then she wants to know who gave me that assignment and what I’m doing with it. We used to talk about what we were working on before, but now it’s different, more like she’s criticizing me or trying to find out what I’m doing.
Then, a few weeks ago, I had a new idea for an annual in-house event that would save the company (we’re a really small group) some money but would be a lot of fun. I told her my idea, and she told me how great it was, went on and on about it, and I thought it was going to be great fun to plan it with her. But while I was writing up the idea in an email to our boss, she got up and went into his office and told him – and took full credit, without telling him it had been my idea in the first place. Now I’m stuck planning it with her, and she’s acting like nothing’s wrong while I want to either pound her face in or ask what the hell’s wrong with her. I thought she was my friend. This event isn’t even a big deal! It’s not like we make money off it; it’s really a dumb thing to be so sneaky about.
Little stuff like that just bugs me, and I can’t figure out what to do. There are, like I said, only a handful of us at the office since it’s so small, and I can’t really avoid her. Also, because it’s a small operation, it’s not like there’s a promotion she wants or some bonus that I’d attain and she wouldn’t. I have no idea why she’s acting like this, and I wish she would stop. Do you have any suggestions? Should I confront her or what?
Hurt and Confused
Wow. What a complete doucheboot.
Most of the time, I talk about heroines in general, and what they, or heroes, would do in a situation. But for your question, there is only one heroine you need to listen to: Princess Christina, the heroine of Julie Garwood’s The Lion’s Lady:
“She was such an angry, bitter, self-serving woman. Foolish, too, Christina thought, for she didn’t even try to hide her flaws form her niece. Such stupidity amazed Christina. To show weakness was to give another power. “
Page 54, The Lion’s Lady
She’s given you a huge amount of power by being so clear and obvious about herself. She couldn’t have spelled out her weaknesses better if she’d painted them on the side of a bridge: she’s envious of you. She feels threatened by you and so she’s acting accordingly to undermine you in front of your boss and your peers, stealing ideas that were yours and expecting you to do the nice thing and not say a word about it.
It’s hard not to say, “That was my idea!” but the point isn’t who gets the credit. The point is how you deal with this person going forward.
Consider Princess Christina’s example above: your coworker has given you an inordinate amount of power over her. Use it. You now know she’s not above stealing from you, and putting her desire for attention and praise ahead of your friendship.
So what should you do? First: disengage from her when at all possible. This person is not acting like your friend and should not be treated as such. Second: professionally, watch your back. She may be envious of your confidence, your talent, or your intelligence, but she’s acting on those feelings in a way that’s really shitty – so don’t expect her to be kind or even professional. I don’t know how crucial it is for you to be the source of the event idea, or whether you need to clear that up with your boss – or if you can. But obviously, don’t tell her any more of your ideas!
You don’t need to confront her – what would you say? “I know you’re a complete asshole” is redundant and obvious. She knows it was your idea, and she knows you are aware she stole it. Confronting her just feeds her need for more attention and gives her a reason to create more drama with your fellow coworkers.
She’s revealed herself marvelously for you – so pay attention and learn from her display of weakness. Eventually she’ll reveal herself to other people as well, but in the meantime, distance yourself from her as much as you can, and find better friends elsewhere. People like that ultimately show their behinds in grand fashion, and behaving in an immoral fashion is usually a repeat event. I’m sorry that she’s betrayed you over something like this, and done permanent damage to your working relationship.
Consider it a lesson learned, and an opportunity to find new and better friends. Her behavior definitely isn’t heroic, but you’re definitely due for some excellent friends who, like you, wouldn’t stoop to backstabbing over something so silly.