I work with a guy who is annoying. He is superficial, condescending, and often talks behind the backs of others. His comments pertain to our co-workers’ job performance most of the time, and he isn’t wrong. His work isn’t perfect and no one really likes him. He is very metro-sexual and people make fun of his clothes and hair and alleged make-up. I try to be neutral and avoid the drama, but it costs me socially in the office. He judges me for being nice to others and they exclude me for talking to him. There are a lot of cruel and mean nicknames used behind backs. Unfortunately these are really funny and I laugh when I know I shouldn’t. I know this encourages the behavior, but I can’t stop sometimes. I just want a happy, drama-free work place. Some days I just want to find another job. What would you do?
— Stuck in the middle with you
I’d totally make fun of everyone. You’re stuck in the middle with yourself. This makes me think of the first line of Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?”: “Popularity breeds contempt.” You want everyone to like you, and they are playing to your desires by slandering each other to gain your approval. If you truly want to live drama-free, tell your co-workers to bitch about each other elsewhere and promptly start up new conversations with fun and relevant topics like the role of craft in fine art today or the social significance of corporate-sponsored blogs in our political culture.
OK, I’m more sympathetic than that, but the last sentence is a possibility. True, many offices can operate on an eighth-grade maturity level. People are mean and funny and right and wrong. It’s important to know what is important and when. I’m not Miss Manners, but I would say the best bet is to avoid any unprofessional conversations, especially in the office and on company time. Maintain a professional working relationship with all of your co-workers and address concerns about their work performance either directly or with a supervisor. What goes on at happy hour is another thing.
If you want to find another job, then do it. It sounds like you may be looking for an excuse. Do you like your job? A little job-hunting may help your perspective. You might decide you like your job just fine, or you could discover a brighter future out there in the big world.
Much luck and prosperity,
Your Uncle Mat
I have a holiday cliché. My husband and my brother’s wife hate each other. They have never gotten along. This year with the long holiday weekend, we will all be spending five days together visiting my parents. My brother and I love seeing each other and usually do this by visiting each other without our spouses. No such luck this holiday. Any suggestions on how to keep the peace or at least survive with our sanity and spouses intact?
— Christmas in Hell
Dear Christmas in Hell,
Your poor parents. No one’s family is perfect, but it seems odd that you married people that “hate” each other. You and your brother should hold some sway in this relationship. Use your influence and consider what you can learn from the movies. You and your brother might consider drinking heavily. You could drug your spouses’ morning coffee. Do not leave the warring two alone for any amount of time. They will inevitably discover that they are wildly attracted to each other, have sex, and leave you and your family in a totally different Christmas hell to be revisited every year with more booze and even more dysfunctional relationships. Is anyone in the family available to come out of the closet? Discovering gay relatives is always a holiday delight! These types of revelations distract the family and eventually lead to large group hugs.
Seriously, just keep them separated as best as possible. Stay at separate hotels, not mom and dad’s house. Agree on rules for polite conversation and enforce them when anyone starts an argument. Enjoy yourself and don’t over-anticipate the drama, though you may stuff their stockings with coal, if necessary.
Much luck and holiday joy,
Your Uncle Mat