Coworker Is Causing Me Anxiety And Pain
Six months ago I asked my coworker if she could "Please help a customer that had been waiting a while?” I would have helped the customer but my arms were full of merchandise that I was ticketing, and she was not busy at the time. She was so angry that I asked her to "Please help the customer” that when she was done, she came back to where I was placing the merchandise and leaned over me and yelled telling me that she would have helped the customer. She said, “I didn't need to ask her and then proceeded to go into our boss' office and call me a racist.” She claimed that another employee heard me say that I "I hate minorities." So when my boss questioned this, the other employee of course said I didn't say it because I DID NOT say it.
I really didn't know if I felt angrier for the false accusation or hurt that someone would ever think such a horrible thing of me. Needless to say I walk on eggshells when I work with her because if she can accuse me of such ugliness just for asking her to help a customer, I have no idea what she might make up next! What if I don't say hello nice enough; what if I walk past her and some way I her offend her. I dread being there! HR was already informed; I talked to them right away. My manager feels sorry for her.
Dear On Eggshells:
Good working relationships are not always easy to earn. You have learned that. Fortunately, the accusation of being called a racist was refuted, but you feel that a storm is ready to rain on your parade. Have you reflected on why Sally, or whatever is her name, took offense at your request to help a customer? Apparently she assumed you were bossing her.
Conflict can escalate or it can serve as an opportunity to clear the air. You now have a reason for a time out session with Sally to deal with the issue of racism. It is improbable that that individual will initiate reconciliation. Rather, mistrust will fester unless and until you two talk it out and come to an overarching respect for each other’s ethnicity.
You also need to come to an understanding about who does what and when you should ask or not ask for help. Such an understanding might have prevented Sally belligerently yelling that she would have attended to the customer without you asking. So is it not time for apologizing or at least explaining what you did that offended her and coming to an agreement about the dos and don’ts of how you might work together more amicably?
You might each also come to an understanding about what to do if one of you does or fails to do something he other one doesn’t like. That too is important in the workplace as it is in families.
You appear to be a sensible person. I think you will give it an honest try to get past rather than feed this hostility you and also she probably feels. Working with those we dislike hurts both of you. Think about what you might do feel to good while working and also what she really wants. I suggest that is to be appreciated and respected. Can you bring my signature sentence alive? It is: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Is that not what we all want—to feel good about ourselves and our workplace?