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How to handle office 'dragon'

(74 Posts)
DorsetCamping Tue 11-Feb-20 10:59:29

Apologies for the monologue

So I have just gone back to work after being a SAHM for some years. Previously worked in an office so you'd think I would be hardened to this shitconfused

I work Bank hours for the HR dept at our local hospital which works out at 3 days per week. I've only been there a fortnight (so far worked total of just 3days) but already thinking of leaving. Most of the team are lovely but one woman (lets call her Jane) seems to have made it her mission to make me feel as uncomfortable as possible. Unfortunately it is Jane that needs to show me the ropes as my job runs parallel to hers and ironically should make her job less pressured as she's been doing the work of 2 people.

As I have only worked 3 days in total and the work is totally new to me, hence the need to be supported and feel able ask questions about the tasks I am undertaking. A major part of the job is electronic filing, of which there are several databases and system drives. The last thing I want is to get it wrong and someone doesn't get paid! However, Already Jane is pausing for a split second before looking up at me to answer, or I get "I've already told you that, do you not remember". I'll get an answer through gritted teeth. Also lots of whispering (which of course may not be about me at all!) but with glances over at me and subtle pointing.

I am going out of my way to be pleasant and use my initiative. I have lots of experience, albeit in indirect fields and am well educated but this woman is making me feel like a stupid teenager sad. I like to feel I am a quick learner but I am having so many different tasks thrown at me and expected to keep pace that I am already panicking and starting to dread going in.

Jane has worked in the dept 30+ years and has just turned 60 but no mention of retirement despite not being in the great health, so I suspect there may be some resentment at having to still work. Maybe she feels I am there to take her job, who knows?

What makes it worse is that everyone else,(manager included) seem to fawn over her which would make it really uncomfortable if I were to raise the issue. Part of me just wants to walk away; although I need to the money, I am too old for this shit. However the other part is outraged that she can do this and the issue needs addressing. I do want to do the job as actually find it really interesting but can't put up with this for much longer.

Would welcome advice. Have been out of this environment for so long, should I just suck it up and learn by my mistakes (as this is what will happen if I am made to feel uncomfortable about getting proper support). Am I being a snowflake?

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DorsetCamping Tue 11-Feb-20 12:31:14

Hopeful bump?

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Di11y Tue 11-Feb-20 12:39:19

make sure you're making notes even if you're completing the tasks much slower for now, keep asking when you need to and ignore her passive aggressiveness if possible.

look for other roles and try to stay above it.

DorsetCamping Tue 11-Feb-20 14:17:01

Thanks @Di11y I have been scribbling notes on what I've been told as fast I can make them.

Was almost in tears by yesterday lunchtime which is utterly ridiculous

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SalmonOfKnowledge Tue 11-Feb-20 14:18:39


SalmonOfKnowledge Tue 11-Feb-20 14:23:36

Make notes yes. Of everything you have been taught and learned but also what you asked for.

Having learned the hard way that theses types see your sufferance as a green flag to continue, with a witness i would say "jane, i feel like you're unhappy I work here now. Is it your intention to give me thst impression?"

She will almost certainly be surprised by that and say "no".
Then quickly take her at her word and say "im glad!"

It may not sound like much but it puts them on notice that you have more back bone than they thought.

custardbear Tue 11-Feb-20 14:24:25

Sounds like she's one of 'those' types, everyone scared of her or wrapped around her finger

Perhaps ask the bank if there's anywhere else you can work?

Also perhaps a passive aggressive poke back 'oh sorry, I've not worked with this before, I'll bet you've been here since this all began so know it all inside out and back to front
Saying that don't let her make a mistake and blame you!

Personally I'd find something else if she's thst much of a cow!

DorsetCamping Tue 11-Feb-20 16:16:54

Thank you. Would it also be worth mentioning it to my manger, albeit in a very diplomatic, low key way?

I don't really want to have to move elsewhere., I've always been interested in HR and the post could potentially lead somewhere. I just won't put up with being bullied

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SalmonOfKnowledge Tue 11-Feb-20 18:40:20

I would.
I had a situation about 4 years ago where a woman in her 60s behaved like a BRAT to me.

Im in my 40s by the way so Im not so young Im a mystery to a 60 something. She gave everything I did the most negative interpretation. Scrutinised me, snitch on me, froze me out. I rose above it and rose above it and came in to work with a smile on my face. Then I was let go, one of the reasons was not having fitted in. So. The Queen bitch was a cow to me and although I kept a smike staplegunned on to my face, it was considered that I had not fitted in. 😑
I wish Id spoken up.
Just assertively.

Even if they had thought i was sensitive/bitchy, the woman who was a cow would have had to have been a bit more helpful.

I dont care now. I got a better job. More money, more holiday, nicer people, more challenge, more opportunities, a pension! 9 months of unemployment mind you. But. I still regret standing up for myself in a clear calm way.

RandomMess Tue 11-Feb-20 18:54:52

Ask why they don't have desk notes/guidance, are they not ISO/quality compliant???

DorsetCamping Tue 11-Feb-20 19:15:02

Salmon we sound very similar. I'm also in my 40s and feel really cross with myself that this horrible woman makes me feel so bad. Apparently they've had quite a turnover of staff and I'm kinda seeing why!

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DorsetCamping Tue 11-Feb-20 19:16:39

Random good point. I am currently totally reliant on what this woman chooses or not to teach/show me hmm

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SalmonOfKnowledge Tue 11-Feb-20 19:21:29

If your role doesn't make hers superfluous, then it sounds like she's afraid that a light is about to be shone on her.................adequacy.

As a mere colleague you cannot offer her more support, respect, leave, flexibility, pay, security but it might be worth asking her what part of her job she enjoys the most/the least. Find out what she fears. Being challenged too much or too little!

As you're in HR, I'd be wary of coming across as having the avoidant style of conflict management.

If Jane's being really grumpy, gabbling, muttering, fobbing you off, shine a bright light on what she's doing by saying ''bit too fast for me Jane!''

It sounds like she is liked and valued (and maybe, ''handled'') by others so what she's afraid of PERHAPS is that others will like you and value you.

UPDATE us please!

SalmonOfKnowledge Tue 11-Feb-20 19:26:10

How much do you really need her?
@RandomMess makes a good point. Are there ''process maps'' or that type of guide? I don't usually have to refer to them but occasionally I think, oh, how is this shitstorm handled!?

DorsetCamping Tue 11-Feb-20 19:31:33

Whether they think I don't need formal training because I'm Bank I don't know. If they expected the person to hit the ground running they should have specifically requested those skills during recruitment.

Informal sharing of knowledge is fine so long as the role isn't too complex and they are prepared to answer LOTS of questions!

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RandomMess Tue 11-Feb-20 19:34:22

I have worked in the civil service and university they always have to have these things... often a bit out of date but a starting point. They are certainly "best practice"

Iamthewombat Tue 11-Feb-20 19:40:22

What makes it worse is that everyone else,(manager included) seem to fawn over her which would make it really uncomfortable if I were to raise the issue

There’s your answer. She’s an awkward bastard who is capable of making anybody’s life a misery, so they are tiptoeing around her until she retires.

I expect they can’t be bothered tackling her behaviour because she’d scream, “bullying!” and go off with stress for two years, causing maximum trouble.

Bet you anything she tells people that the place would fall apart without her.

Poison her coffee.

Caselgarcia Tue 11-Feb-20 19:47:39

I would speak to your manager, taking the line that perhaps Jane doesn't really have time to train you as she is currently doing the work of two members of staff and seems a little short with you. Explain that she doesn't have time to explain things properly. Don't criticise her directly but make it clear you are not getting the training you need

Darkhome Tue 11-Feb-20 19:57:14

Nice bit of ageism here... What has her age got to do with it? If you're in HR you know there's no compulsory retirement age OP. She has every right to be there and it sounds as though she's valued too.
Don't try and second-guess or project what you think is in her mind.

Act like agrown up and ask her politely and directly whatever you need to resolve.

DorsetCamping Tue 11-Feb-20 20:00:22

It certainly is a chaotic environment and I am being expected to multitask across several functions, with relatively senior responsibilities. When I was offered the role I was told it was basic admin - opening post, answering phone etc, but the reality is way more complex than that.

For example, It was payroll cut off the other day and I was given a huge amount of e-filing to sort on several different drives that Jane 'helpfully' chirped I would have to do quickly and accurately or people wouldn't get paid. Comment made after being there for 1 day shock
I'm not an idiot, got a degree FFS but being made to feel really inadequate.

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DorsetCamping Tue 11-Feb-20 20:02:29

Not being ageist, just trying to fathom why she appears so resentful

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SandAndSea Tue 11-Feb-20 20:03:09

In my experience, being nice doesn't work with people like Jane. If anything, she will disrespect you even more.

I also think that if she's like this now, when you're still very new, it doesn't bode well for your future relationship and general happiness there.

It is possible that if you nip back at her, she will correct herself and think twice before disrespecting you again. ("Is there a problem?" etc.)

But, do you really want to have to deal with this?

Jane's behaviour isn't just about her - it also speaks volumes about the status quo in the dept. And, having looked back at similar experiences myself, my one regret is that I didn't leave sooner.

As an aside, if you decide to stay, I definitely agree with PPs: take detailed notes re procedures and refer to them regularly. Also, come up with a sensible plan for your career (and leaving there ASAP) and stick to it.

If you decide to leave, please tell them why.

Darkhome Tue 11-Feb-20 20:09:35

You brought up her age and questioned why she hadn't retired OP! That's really not relevant, and you've stereotyped her as a 'dragon'. You wouldn't call a young woman that and the fact all this is in your head is bound to influence how you react to her.

Why is she needing to explain things more than once? Are you not making notes you can refer back to?

DorsetCamping Tue 11-Feb-20 20:11:14

Thank you all for your wise thoughts. As I'm not back in until Friday think I will ring my manager to have a quiet chat about the way I'm feeling.
Depending on her reaction, I'll be able to make a judgement about whether I stay.

Will be gutted if it doesn't work out but am not going to tolerate being intimated and CBA to take it further.

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Darkhome Tue 11-Feb-20 20:11:35

Fwiw when I've had difficult situations with people at work, I always ask myself 'What am I bringing to this?'

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