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Coworker Problems and Poll Results

by Dear Jon
March 29, 2002

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Sort 128_Dear Jon-Coworker Problems and Poll Results ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Dear Jon,

I have been working at a new job for seven months and am having a hard time getting along with a co-worker that I need to work together with frequently. The bottom line is that I don't respect him. He is very forgetful, planning several meetings for the same time and forgetting important details of both business and personal conversations. He is a workaholic and imposes his frantic "everything is an emergency" attitude on those who work under him. Because he is so scatter brained, he shifts his focus on what is urgent to whatever whim he has that day or something that someone else brings to his attention and never finishes anything. The most annoying thing he does is he is a very "close talker." He will often get less than six inches from your face when talking and what makes it worse is that he often spits when talking. He also pats me on the back so hard that I think several discs in my back are out of line. He really tries hard to befriend me and says what a great relationship we have, better than with my predecessor, but I think that is just denial on his part. What should I do or say to make this relationship bearable?

Dear Unsigned,

In your case, I forgive you for not signing your letter. I realize you probably filled up all the space on your computer's memory with the question alone.

This sounds suspiciously like a real question for real advice, in which case my answer is, "Have you tried Ann Landers?" Because the tone of your letter is so much different from what I usually get, I am trying to figure out the angle: Such as, is this letter written by one of my co-workers and is it about me? That bit about planning meetings at the same time and forgetting details of personal and business conversations can describe approximately 40 million adult males in the United States and Canada, and I am one of them.

Happily, some clues give me hope that I am not the target, in this case, of my own advice. First of all, in my particular line of work, I don't have "co-workers" but rather "colleagues," whose personal space I rarely invade. The only colleague of mine who could conceivably have written this letter would be referring to morning conferences at Dunkin' DonutsĀ® where the invasion of space was forced by the 7:45 AM rush. Secondly --and this is the benefit of being married-- if I spit when I talk my wife would have informed me long before now. Thirdly, few people in my acquaintence would accuse me of being a work-a-holic. In fact, my mother is probably laughing herself into cardiac arrest at this very moment. So I can be confident that what I have is not only an "actual letter," but a "serious letter," and as God is my witness I have no idea what to do next.

I think the 115 or so healthy people in the world would take an assertive stance regarding their personal space. (Note, in earlier sorts I had mentioned that there are 117 healthy people in the world. In later sorts, not having time to look up what I said because I don't remember my personal or business conversations, I reduced it to "17" people. Well, good grief, that is just beyond exaggeration. I am fairly confident that there have to be AT LEAST a hundred healthy people in the world, and that I know approximately two of them personally.)

Saying something to the effect of, "You are crowding me and that makes me uncomfortable" will normally make a person back up as if they had stepped on hot coals. If you are lucky, the person will be overly sensitive to that criticism and treat you "coldly" after that, which, by everything you are stating, is just fine with you. If the person responds by "playfully" getting even closer, you begin to find grounds for complaint (and possible litigation). That kind of obnoxiousness is not tolerated in many business environments any more.

However, this strategy is unappetizing to the rest of us six billion neurotics. Since you are writing to Dear Jon, my guess is you belong with us 6 billion rather than those one hundred. So, my advice is to take a "passive aggressive" stance with which you will be more comfortable. This can be achieved by, first of all, talking about how obnoxious your co-worker is to your other co-workers. Second, you could anonymously savage your co-worker in peer reviews. Third, forget to accomplish your end of any shared tasks, and then during staff meeting when you are confronted, say something like, "I'm sorry. I didn't realize I was supposed to do your job." Then if your co-workers says, "We talked about this and that," you can reply, "I'm sure you're right but I don't remember it that way." Then when you are both fired -- your co-worker for incompetence and you for not being a "team" player -- you can be confident that the odds are slim against being hired to the same place as your co-worker for your next job.

Another tack might be to say, "I know you work well with this face-to-face approach, but my memory isn't good enough. I need to see your issues written down. Why don't you send me an e-mail?" Spit does not travel well thorugh the network, happily. This might be a starting point whether you are healthy or neurotic, because it forces your co-worker to prioritize their own tasks in writing. The growing record of "conversations" will keep your co-worker accountable.


Dear Jon,

I am tired of seeing your stupid poll. You do not know what women want and can't because you are a man. This automatically disqualifies your ability to understand women, and makes any insight you have about women completely irrelevant. Even your own writings agree with this. As to whether or not you're a Male Chauvanist Pig, your inability to understand women makes you one no matter what. Do you find actress Halle Berry attractive? You're a male chauvanist pig. Do you find Roseanne Barr/Arnold/whatever-her-last-name-is attractive? You're a male chauvanist pig with some strange fetish.

Stop asking reader's polls and just write advice columns. You are not USA Today.

Tired of Polls

Dear Polls,

You are obviously a man because only a man would equate a "strange fetish" with finding Roseanne Barr attractive. You have probably stuffed the poll with your votes. I am waiting for the silent majority of female readers to speak up for my vindication! I am sure the results below will prove it to you! Besides, the polls closed today anyway, so quit grousing.

Official Poll Results:

Does Dear Jon know what women want?
Yes 36%
No 64%

Is Dear Jon a Male Chauvinist Pig?
Yes 60%
No 40%

Can both be true?
Yes 79%
No 21%

(Based on 33 responses)

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