13 Apr
The Co-Dependent, Co-Ruptive Co-Worker

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

Two of my work colleagues and I have been spending our lunch break together for a long time. A couple of years ago, a fourth colleague decided to join us. Unfortunately, she is very self-centered and continuously talks about her many successes in life, from her great cooking to her great kid. If any of us talks of something we’re planning to do, she says she already did it, far better than we could ever dream of, and was a total success. She is constantly trying to prove that she is the best woman in the world.

The problem is that nobody can stand her in the office and half of her bragging turns out to be crap. We know she has had lots of problems with her now-dead mother who constantly ignored her, but we feel we should not have to pay for it. Her presence has become a real nightmare to us; one of us even invented an excuse to spend the lunch hour alone a couple of times a week.

We have tried everything to stop her noxious behavior, from talking clearly to covert allusions, but nothing seems to work because she simply ignores whatever we say. Sometimes one of us, exasperated, turns nasty but she then becomes even sweeter and disarms us. We are trying to find a nice way to dump her, but we can’t find any; moreover, as she does not seem to have any “friends” besides us, we feel guilty about it. What do you advise us to do?

Signed,

Desperate Dietwives

_________________________________________

Dear Desperate Dietwives,

Yikes! I think this question is going to take some heavy duty thinking on my part. And I’m not just saying that because my only “work colleague” has whiskers and spends her lunch hours puking up Friskies and scratching around in a smelly litter box. (Oh, Miss Dickens…when will you finally retire?)

But basically, your situation is a common one: how best to exclude someone you don’t like from your group. Possible ways to do this include:

1. Tell her you all have a rare form of Explosive Egyptian Diarrhea (EED) that is only transmittable through hair follicles. Then start brushing your hair over her Cobb salad.

2. Whenever she starts talking about herself, put your fingers in your ears and scream, “RELEASE THE KRAKEN! RELEASE THE KRAKEN! RELEASE THE MOTHERF&*#ING KRAKEN, BITCHES!”

3.Fill out applications for other jobs in her name. Or, if she is under-35, apply for her to join the military with the special request that she be stationed somewhere “with a buttload of sand.”

4. Ask friends who work in other nearby offices if they also have an Obnoxious Oxygen Stealer that they’d like to dump, then set the two of them up on a playdate.

Or

5. Announce that from now on, the only place you will be dining is Arby’s.

Of course while those are all fun fantasies, unfortunately none of them, except for the military application, will probably work. So my advice to you is to just stop being passive-aggressive with the hints, the nastiness and the rearranging of your schedules, and instead be brutally honest. It pains me to say that, but I really don’t see what else to do if she’s truly that awful. Simply sit her down and say, “Listen, none of us want to have lunch with you anymore, so please don’t join us. Thank you.” There’s no need to make it any more personal than that, and you may have to do it a few times, but hopefully she’ll recover quickly and glom onto someone else.

And if that doesn’t work, be sure to let me know. I’ll send my co-worker Miss Dickens over to puke on her feet.

Best,
Wendi, TMH

10 Responses to “The Co-Dependent, Co-Ruptive Co-Worker”

04.13.10#1

Comment by A Vapid Blonde.

I had an employee very similar to this co-worker and fortunately for me I am in the position of authority so when business became really slow we had to relieve her of her responsibilities, it was a win/win and now work is peaceful again.

04.13.10#2

Comment by Karen at French Skinny.

The next lunch when she walks over everyone pulls out a book to read (the international sign for “leave me alone”).
Tell her “Lunch Book Club!”
When she tries to talk you shush her and hand her a copy of Codependency No More.
She will either leave or learn stuff.

The End

04.13.10#3

Comment by Marinka, TMH.

The other day I was minding my business and waiting for the subway on the platform (as opposed to waiting for it to pick me up in my bedroom or something) and suddenly this otherwise normal looking man started saying “SATAN! I HAIL THEE SATAN! LUCIFER! COME TO ME!”

I noticed that no one approached him with a lunch invitation.

04.13.10#4

Comment by the mama bird diaries.

Secretly meet for lunch elsewhere. Tell the co-worker life has just gotten too hectic to meet regularly for lunch.

Or try that honesty thing.

04.13.10#5

Comment by Erin at Im Gonna Kill Him.

Dead Mommy issues, oy. I say take up heavy chain smoking during lunch. She’ll probably get turned off by the fumes, and if she doesn’t, well lung cancer will be a speedy end to everyone’s problem.

04.13.10#6

Comment by Lisa.

How about that trying talking clearly thing again? Tell her when she is annoying and then tell her if she doesn’t pay attention then you’re going to get up and leave and make sure you do it.

If it were me, I’d talk to her privately and say that her bragging does not make anyone like her and it’s having the opposite effect. I’d tell her if she really wants to make friends she should make an effort to find out about other people. I’d challenge her to go an entire week without talking about herself, as an experiment, to see how people respond to her.

amy Reply:

Great answer. Wish I had had to balls to do similar with my old ‘friend’. Meek me might leave her a note saying similar though…

That way she understands why she is being excluded and has no one to point the finger at?

04.14.10#7

Comment by Desperate Dietwives.

Thanks a lot girls!!!!

First of all I must say that I felt like a cold-hearted bitch while I was writing the letter (which I probably am), but that we have really reached the end of our tether. The woman is much worse than I described (and she is 48, so no Military carreer, I’m afraid; besides, we’re Italian living in Italy, and the Military carreer is no option for us).

We have tried separately to talk plainly to her, but she simply waves away the issue and refuses to acknowledge there is a problem. The thing is made more difficult by the fact that one of us works right next to her (she’s the one who made up an excuse to go away twice a week) and it would be awkward for her to dump her and then sit next to her all day long 5 days a week.

But on one thing I wholly agree: there is no nice way to dump her, honesty is the ideal thing, and we are three cold-hearted bitches.

Personally I have been yearning to talk plainly to her and tell her that she doesn’t need to prove she’s Wonder Woman in order to be loved and accepted; on the contrary, she should admit her weaknesses. What we (and people in general) resent about her is precisely the fact that she tries to appear Little Mrs Perfect with a perfect life (needless to say, her husband treats her like rubbish and she is a lapping dog before him).
Only, she will not accept this and immediately tries to stop us whenever we try to face the issue (separately of course: if we were together it would sound more like a tribunal and of course she would be defensive).

Even her jokes make our nerves rattle: there’s a funny side in every situation and highlighting it helps your friend to make light of it; only, there are some jokes who are solely aimed at showing how brilliant the speaker is, without relieving the person they are addressed to (in plain language: laughing of someone and not with someone). Well, her jokes are of the second kind.

I must say that putting things down in writing like we did here, helped us clarify the issues and what is to be done about them.

Thanks again!

The Desperate Dietwives
(yes, we’re on a diet and she joined us in order to diet, only she isn’t dieting at all…)

04.14.10#8

Comment by Lara.

Can someone in a supervisory position give her responsibilities during lunch? Like answering the phone, taking things to the bank/post office, covering for someone?
Otherwise, I say sneak out.

04.14.10#9

Comment by Mommy on the Spot.

I like options #2 and #5.

Sounds like she doesn’t want to be confronted with her issues. Maybe you can get some business cards for therapists and stage an intervention. I am thinking lunch would not be an issue after that.

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