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If you can’t change the co-worker, change yourself

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in Your Office Coach

Q: “An obnoxious co-worker was recently made the working supervisor of our nursing unit. ‘Ellen’ has no supervisory experience and is not even a very good nurse, but she was the only one to apply for the job. In addition to being loud and slow, Ellen is not as knowledgeable as she pretends to be and occasionally makes mistakes. A few of her patients have asked for a different nurse.

“When I mentioned these issues to our manager, he acknowledged that Ellen sometimes gets distracted, but said she ‘has a lot on her plate.’ He also said we need to understand that there is a learning curve to the supervisory role. My problem is that while Ellen is in her learning curve, the rest of us have to pick up the slack and correct her mistakes.

“I have also talked with our department director, but he basically said that if I was unhappy, I could look for another job. Every day, I tell myself that I won’t let Ellen get to me, but then she says something stupid, and I go crazy. I really loved my work before this woman was promoted. What should I do about this?” Dedicated Nurse

A: You are actually dealing with two separate problems: legitimate concerns about patient care and your irritation with Ellen’s personality. If Ellen’s errors are putting patients at risk, then several nurses should report these lapses to the appropriate authorities. Group action will have much more impact than a solo complaint, which might simply be dismissed as a personal conflict.

Your aversion to having Ellen as your supervisor is a different matter, however. Since she is apparently supported by two levels of management, any effort to have her removed from this position is probably futile. Continuing to pursue the issue might only damage your own career.

You can’t control Ellen’s behavior or change her personality, but you can manage your own reaction to her. Instead of remaining constantly vigilant for her next annoying comment, try to simply accept that she is who she is. You don’t have to like her, but at the moment you do have to work with her.

Trying to decide what to do about a problematic manager? Perhaps this will help: Should You Complain about Your Boss?


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jambar Teambuilding April 4, 2014 at 5:08 am

Hi there, I really enjoyed this article of yours. I think that in any career path that we are on, we will surely encounter people like ‘Ellen’ and instead of harbouring negative feelings, doing what you advised is much better. Thank you for your advice and thank you for article too. :)


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