Dear Tell All: I recently started work at a company on Madison’s far west side. I had a good impression of the people I’d be working with during the interview process, especially my supervisor and the administrative assistant the two of us would share. But on my first day of work, things got weird pretty quickly.
As soon as I settled into my new office, the administrative assistant asked me if I wanted to go to lunch. I gladly accepted, unaware of what she had in store for me. On the way to the restaurant, she started making snide comments about our mutual boss. It started pretty subtly, but by the time our food came, she was in full-blown attack mode. She accused our boss of being a terrible person and a terrible manager, rattling off a long list of misdeeds.
Needless to say, I felt really uncomfortable. I wanted to be nice, so as not to alienate my new co-worker, but I had no idea how to respond to her charges. I nodded my head and said “wow” and “hmm, “ while trying my best to stay noncommittal. Of course, I had no way to judge the accuracy of her statements, so I didn’t want to seem too sympathetic; then again, I didn’t want to seem like I was blowing her off.
At the end of the lunch, she came right out and made a pitch for my allegiance. She wanted the two of us to form a united front against our supervisor. At that point, it was getting hard to stay noncommittal, but I just muttered “Well, we’ll see.”
Since then, I’ve been wary of both my supervisor and the administrative assistant. I can see what the administrative assistant means about our boss, but I still think I’ll be able to get along with her well enough. Meanwhile, I see all sorts of problems with the administrative assistant, including a tendency toward laziness and incompetence.
Tell All, what’s the proper course of action in this situation?
Dear Newbie: One phrase in your letter jumps out at me: “I wanted to be nice....” In most situations, that’s a fine impulse. But not here.
Clearly, the administrative assistant was way out of line in trying to manipulate you on your first day at work. Her behavior was self-serving and unprofessional. The proper response would have been to say, “Sorry, but this is an inappropriate conversation for me to have at this point.” Then, rather than writing to an Isthmus advice columnist, you should have gone straight to your new company’s human resources department and told them the whole story. You need to officially distance yourself from this woman, and the folks in charge should know about her toxic ways.
Not that I regret getting your letter, Newbie. Write back in a few months and let us know how the HR professionals handled this nasty situation.
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