A reader writes:
Let me just say up front, you’re going to think I’m a jerk. The problem is, I deeply dislike someone I work with, someone everyone else seems to enjoy, but who nonetheless drains me of my happiness whenever they enter my atmosphere.
A few months ago, I was promoted to a position I never dreamed I’d get, at least not without a few more years of proving myself. I get on so well with my boss, and he trusts me enough to learn on the job. But all this excitement was immediately tamped down when I realized that many of my responsibilities would force me to interact with this person.
What’s the issue? I’m not sure this fully explains why she rubs me the wrong way, but she is what I’d call a “try hard.” She works way too hard to please everyone around her and try to become friends. I would normally welcome closer relationships with colleagues, but all of her attempts have been incredibly off-putting to me. In the office, before working from home, I had been moved to sit right next to her and, thanks to low-profile cubes, was in her line of sight all day. This meant that I couldn’t have any kind of facial reaction to an email or project without getting an unsolicited “what’s wrong?” or “tough issue?” and the like. So I forced myself to become stony and impassive. I’d formerly been jovial with everyone around me, but sitting next to her turned every interaction I had with others into ones where she would jump in and try to make people laugh or give her opinion on a project she wasn’t involved with. So whenever she’s in the room or within earshot, I become silent.
I feel like she’s sort of my own personal energy vampire. I know this affects how others see me and makes me seem newly cold and distant, but the thought of interacting with her makes me terribly unhappy.
Also, my job is a new position that takes a bunch of the overflow stuff she used to handle off her hands. And because she’s a worrier and an overthinker, she’s constantly asking me for updates and explanations on projects that have nothing to do with her any longer. Imagine a coworker who wants to monitor your work as if they were your manager, and you’ll understand my frustration. I have a different work style from her, and I can’t develop on my own due to her constant interference.
I feel like a jerk, but I also feel like she’s robbing me of my enjoyment of my job. Her constant barrage of IMs with smiley faces make me want to run and hide. She sent me and my partner a baby shower gift on her own initiative, and it made me cringe. (I should, say she’s older and I’m younger, but we’re both women, if that matters.)
I know the problem is with me. How do I stop letting this bother me without expending huge amounts of energy every day and also hating myself? She hasn’t done anything terrible. She’s just like oil to my water.
You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.