Today I’m answering a question about being caught between warring co-workers.
I like each of my co-workers. I’m not friends with either after work, but I get along with both. Each of them, however, hates the other. When either works near me, she bends my ear about the other. I never say a word. I just listen and nod and keep working.
The three of us start our work day at nine in the morning and work until six. Our managers work traditional hours and are gone by five. The minute the managers leave, these two start in on each other to the amusement of the guys who work in the back.
Sometimes though, it gets ugly. Last night their fight escalated and became physical. We’re all being pulled in this morning for interviews and asked what we know and who started it. I’m scared I’m going to get disciplined for not intervening because I was there at the start, but I don’t know what I could have done.
Frankly, I’m tired of being in the middle of this office drama. If no one gets fired, how do I tell them both that I don’t want to hear it anymore?
When you listen and nod, your nods mean to you “uh-huh.” To each speaker, they mean “keep going” and “you are so right.” After each of your co-workers unloads on you, you feel drained and she feels better and less inclined to try and fix the situation.
You don’t need to fear getting fired for not intervening. You may be orally counseled, however, for not letting your manager know what was going on. You probably didn’t say anything because you felt it wasn’t your place and you didn’t want to make either co-worker angry. The problem — you operated out of fear, and as a result, you let your ear be bent evening after evening.
Before you say, “But I wasn’t responsible,” we all are. How do you want your workplace to be? If you don’t want to “tattle” to your manager, step to the plate yourself. When one co-worker vents to you about the other, ask, “So what are you doing to fix things?” In other words, stop being the third corner of the triangle and extricate yourself from office drama.
© 2016, Lynne Curry. If you have a career questions you’d like Lynne to answer, write her @ firstname.lastname@example.org. Lynne is an executive coach and author of Solutions and Beating the Workplace Bully, AMACOM. You can follow Lynne through her other posts on sheknows.com, via www.workplacecoachblog.com, www.bullywhisperer.com™ or @lynnecurry10 on Twitter.