Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Toxic Co-Workers and Migraines

I am coming to the conclusion that working with a toxic co-worker actually does make your migraines worse. Just when I thought it was safe to go back into the water, the evil June Cleaver lady has been seated by me again. Now my stress levels are elevated, thus giving me a lot more pain at work. I think the stress of dealing with her is not helping my head one bit, and it makes for a tense atmosphere for the entire day. I can actually feel the negative energy radiating off her.

I feel like I have to defend myself against her comments when all I want to do is just sit there and do my job. Chronic pain vs a difficult work personality do not mix. Also, I'm not sure if the chronic pain makes me more sensitive as well. Here are some examples of the things she has said to me lately:

1)“Why don’t you just quit work?" she asked. "You’re never here anyway. What’s the difference?”

2)"How was your day off? Did you go shopping or the movies?” she asked in front of everyone. I replied “No. I was home puking all day.”

3)“I never see you drinking any water. You are always drinking that ginger ale. Do you know how many chemicals are in there?” she asked.

“I’m aware of the chemicals, but I have to drink the ginger ale to keep from throwing up during the day,” I replied.

“Oh my God. Why did you have to say ‘throw up’?” she exclaimed. “Couldn't you say something more lady like?”

I'm trying to come up with a list of strategies in dealing with her again. Does anyone have any tips on dealing with this kind of person.


Syl said...

I don't know your situation...I'm in a single person office...just me.
Do you have to work next to this loser? Are you answering a telephone or answering questions from customers who come in? The reason I'm asking, is can you listen to music or a podcast or something while you work? Or just stick the earpods in your ears and not listen to anything but give the coworker the impression that you are so she won't speak? Can you really ZING her back with one good one so she will understand that you're tired of her smart mouth and you aren't going to take it any more? Can you move your work space to a different part of the room?
I'm so sorry. I work with 24 faculty and one of them is MOUTH and his mouth is getting to me. But he has an office and I have mine. But I am getting ready to zing him and tell him that his smart remarks are not appropriate. Everyone keeps saying, oh, that's just Ken, ignore him. I'm tired of ignoring him. His words are becoming hurtful and I'm going to speak up. Good luck with your problem and I hope you resolve it soon!!! Syl

Rosalind Joffe said...

The world is full of difficult people. She sounds like a small minded cruel school yard bully. If she wasn't making comments about your "disabling" illness, an invisible and not always to others understandable issue, what would you say to her?

corsetkitten said...

Unfortunately people like that exist and seem to remain perpetually clueless about their social ineptitude.

If you have a manager that you can approach about the situation I would suggest that you do that first. Also, you can mention (to whatever management you do have) that her comments border on harassment and that if they do not do something to ameliorate the situation you may have to take it up with the HR department. Most companies want to avoid that when possible.

If you haven't got a manager who'll help you with this person then my next suggestion would be to sink to her level in 2 ways:
(1) when ever she speaks either ignore her totally (she doesn't have to exist for you to do your job, right?) OR (2)whenever she starts talking (assuming based on the examples you gave that all her speech is non-related to your actual function/job) go "LA-LA-LA..La-LA-la!" whenever she tries to talk to you or make snarky comments. (I don't say that's the best way, mind you, but it may help release some of the stress that she is obviously causing you) and really, who needs stress? hell if she gives you a hard time about the LA LA LAing...tell her its part of your "Cognitive behavioral therapy" and that you have to do it. Maybe she'll sit somewhere else?

Header said...

Wow...people are awful! Sounds like she's got some personal issues. I would talk to a supervisor and see if you can move as far away from her as possible. Tell the supervisor that her comments are stressing you out and making your migraines worse, which is affecting your productivity. As for dealing with her, one part of me says she deserves a good punch in the face, but the Christian side of me says to just ignore it. Or kill her with kindness. :)

Bonnita said...

It seems that you are being harassed because of your "disability". I would contact your HR person about this. They could be held accountable.
If you were being sexually harassed you would step up and say something. This is the same thing.

Jaymi said...

I'm so, so sorry you have to deal with her. May the Karma Gods reign down upon her head all of the crap she feels necessary to spew onto you and probably others as well. There is NO excuse for her saying those things or for acting that way. I wish I knew something pratical that you could do Migraine Chick....but everything I can think of isn't very kind. Hang in there.
Jaymi :D

Sharoni said...

I feel for you, and I know the feeling. It just makes everything about a million time worse doesn't it. I hate missing work to begin with, but then to have to put up with comments about how it must be "so nice to not come to work" makes me want to get violent. Hope it gets better for you.

Migraine Chick said...

Thank you everyone for the great suggestions. I think I'm going to talk to my supervisor about getting her moved away from me!!

Flor Larios Art said...

I have learned that you have to pay people with the same coin... or give them their same medicine...I am translating from Spanish so I do not know if this make sense...I hope you get the point...You will see how they will change their attitudes. Just be the same to her and you will see. It is sad...but there is cruel people in this world and you can not let this bother your life.

deborah said...

start gagging in front of her everytime she comes near you, EVERYTIME. especially if nobody else is around or in ear shot, make some dog-like sounds (if you know what I mean) and throw yourself over your g-bage can. buy fake puke and put it under her freaking desk. she's got some nerve! wish a migraine on her sorry day! I just did.

What is wrong with people? I had to ditch a 20 year friendship to toxicity. give me a break.

Syl said...

I like the way you think!! That would certainly clue her in to what Chickie is going through...or maybe not, sadly. Maybe leave some pamphlets from your doctor's office about migraine's on her desk or something. I don't know, people like this are self-centered, don't care about others and I don't know if you can get through to them. Bonnita is right, talk to someone in human resources and try to get your work station moved. I'm sorry you have to add this rude person to your burdens. Hang in there

K. Tree said...

I'm glad you're going to talk about moving her or being moved. It's hard enough to work when your head is on fire without some nasty person fanning the flames.

Definitely push the harrassment button if they balk at the desk change.

Teejay said...

If you have it in you, you could respond with wide-eyed innocence - "No, I don't know how many chemicals are in there. Do you? Oh, you think I should drink water, instead? Why, thank you! It's so kind of you to take an interest."

Or, respond to what she's actually saying - masked though it may be by social niceties. "Are you saying you think I did fun things on my sick day?" She'll either deny it, or if she has brass balls, admit it, and then say "Don't ever say anything like that to me again. If you have a concern, take it up with our supervisor." Don't let her get to you!!!

misssosbee10 said...

Like my grandma always used to say "kill her with kindness"! Be OVERLY nice to her, thank her for her comments, just give her nothing but happy supportive feedback. It will either make her so mad that she won't want to talk to you and leave you alone, or it will start to rub off on her and she will see how being nice is a basic human thing to do!

Debor said...

You might start with "As you said yourself, I miss so much work, I really can't talk. I want to give my full attention to my work. But thank you so much for worrying about me like you do. Now I'd better get to it."

It probably won't work for more than a few minutes, but you have definitely gotten your point across. And then when you go to your supervisor, you can tell him/her that you tried graciously to let your coworker know that you were trying to focus on the job but she was a major distraction. The supervisor is going to hear that message and want to deal with it whether or not he/she is sympathetic to your migraines. It's all in the spin, dear.

-Julie said...

She sounds lovely. Sorry you have to deal with her :-(

Anonymous said...

Woah. . .I think I'd bite her head off. Sorry I can't offer anything that's actually constructive. I could give you a few snarky things to say. . . tell her you went kite surfing or hang gliding while you were out. Or that you got really high off your narcotic pain meds. The thing is, I bet she wouldn't harass someone with a visable disability. Definitely talk to your supervisor about harassment. Or HR if your employer is large enough to have one. Good luck.