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Hounded by Co-Worker

October 5, 2010

Dear Erica,
My office has an executive assistant for the vice presidents there, but none of them care for her and hate to work with her. For some reason, they have not all agreed to look for a new employee. None of these VPs ever give her work to do, and needless to say, the time on her hands has caused her to be a gossipy, meddling pain for the rest of us.

Recently, “Sheila” entered her designer dog in a facebook contest where the dog who received the most “likes” won a $50 gift certificate to PetSmart. You had to be a “fan” of the page to vote and it was a rather obscure insurance company that wasn’t on the company plan.
Sheila sent around an email to almost all 200 company employees asking them to vote for her dog and supplying the link, even saying she was doing this because “what won’t we do for our pets?”

There were five subsequent emails in the following hour, updating us which image her dog was, that she understood it was difficult to navigate the page but she would stop by and help us, that votes needed to be in soon etc.  Once a day for the next 5 says she sent emails reminding us to vote, but the addresses on the “to” line were getting less and less. She was monitoring who voted!!

Then she began visiting our desks to tell us she noticed we had not voted, “can we please do so, she will stand there and help.” To those who replied, “I dont have facebook,”  she volunteered to help them set up an account. If you replied you’d rather not vote, Sheila commented that it was “no big deal”, and “why cant you just help my dog?” Those who said they were busy, she offered to log on their account and do it for them. I even heard her walk up to a co-worker and comment that she saw that they had voted but their vote was not there anymore, she advised them that if they “un-liked” the corporate sponsor their vote was invalidated, “please re-like and vote again.”

No one wants to bother senior VPs to tell them their admin is a harassing lunatic, but many of us don’t want to use our Facebooks to connect with other co-workers or corporate sponsors. This woman is relentless to the point that people were getting up from their seats and leaving when they see her coming. HELP! How do we make her stop? She wont take no for an answer! Is this the future of social media in the office? It’s the digital version of parents pushing their children’s school candy bar fundraisers in the office.

Sincerely,

Cant Stand The Social Media Hound

Dear Hounded,

Don’t get me started on school fundraisers. But this hound can be trained. Or at least housebroken.

This sounds like a completely dysfunctional office, and if isn’t, then senior management is certainly giving that impression (making it dysfunctional, in my book.) As for not wanting to bother the VPs – in theory, their goal should be to have productive employees who are at their desks, working and not wasting company time. They have a vested interest in making sure that someone in their employ isn’t making anyone uncomfortable, unproductive or using company resources and time to vote in a private, unauthorized endeavor.

If it isn’t the kind of office where you would feel comfortable bringing this up, then you may need to enlist your manager’s help. It’s her job to make sure you are getting your work done, and she can present this to her superiors directly. I assume the managers are on this distribution list too? If not, I think it’s okay to forward it to your direct supervisor and let them know what’s happening. Resist the temptation to “reply all” or BCC senior management or anything that reeks of passive aggressiveness.

So, that’s one issue. And I welcome suggestions and feedback on how to handle it professionally. And now I’ll slip into “Manners” mode. This is not an etiquette issue. The reason I want to make that clear is that so many people get so worked up about doing the “polite” thing that they forget to stand up for themselves. You owe it to society to be gracious and polite, but you don’t owe being a doormat to anyone.

When harassed by this woman, don’t give excuses or refutations. If you don’t want to do something, and you feel pressured, simply saying “I am not interested in voting, but best of luck” should be enough. If pressed again (which it sounds like you will be) then simply repeat “I’m not interested.” When asked why, you can simply say “Thanks for letting me know, but I’m not interested.” Then, if you are being harassed further, and that’s what this is, tell the person that you are busy at work, and if she would like some of your time to work on this project, to please clear it with your manager.  And then let your manager know what’s going on.

Readers, I’d love for you to weigh in!

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7 Comments
  1. October 5, 2010 10:42 pm

    Wow, “Sheila” sounds like a character… but I’d be more concerned with the behavior (or lack thereof) of the VP’s. If “none of them care for her and hate to work with her” chances are stopping her bad behavior will be very difficult in the long run because no one can really rein her in. You can deal with her on the individual level by politely refusing to vote, but I would think going to a manager wouldn’t be very effective because ultimately the VP’s will not do anything. Ugh.

    • October 5, 2010 10:50 pm

      I know. It’s a frustrating situation, and shows a problem with the overall organization. My hope was that if the writer complains to her manager, and the managers start bothering the VPs, it may be an avenue to change.

  2. October 6, 2010 12:36 pm

    This woman needs to be fired, full stop. She is harrassing her coworkers. Set aside the social media stuff.

    She does not have enough work to do, no one wants to work with her, and now people are avoiding her. It’s time to “man up” and just get rid of her.

    These people seem kind of wimpy, IMO.

  3. October 6, 2010 4:18 pm

    Ugh, this sounds SO ANNOYING. It makes me wonder if “Sheila” ever had any siblings…especially little ones. When I was young, I stopped being so annoying when my little sister started to do the same things I was…and it was driving me crazy!

    There’s nothing worse than people who push other people to do things they don’t want to.

  4. October 6, 2010 6:47 pm

    The biggest problem here is that your company’s management apparently won’t manage.

    But as for the immediate issue of dealing with this woman, I’d say that you need to be extremely direct and hard-line about it: “Sheila, I’m busy working. When I’m at work, I’m here to work. I got the request. Please stop asking me about it.” If she gets offended, do you really care?

    Ideally you would get others to respond this way too. And ideally, you (and maybe others) would also ask her manager to tell her to stop doing this. If you don’t want to bother her manager, then bother YOUR manager, by asking her to get Sheila to stop harassing you while you’re trying to work (and explaining that you’ve already asked Sheila directly, with no success).

  5. October 7, 2010 11:29 am

    I would want to punch that woman. That’s all.

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