I love your column and read it every week. I am hoping you might be able to provide some advice on a professional relationship. I will try to be succinct.
In August, I had the opportunity to change jobs and begin working closely with two people I considered to be my friends. Two friends against a third I will call them Marge and Alice. The two knew each other through me, and the three of us were enthusiastic about working closely with one another.
Very soon after we began our new job, it became abundantly clear Alice was not only a terrible teammate, but also somewhat unstable. She failed to meet deadlines or respond to emails that didn’t come directly from management, missed meetings, passed her work off on other people, and was completely uncommunicative.
On top of that, she did many things that made it obvious she was trying hard to make herself stand out above the rest of the team, even if it meant using others to get what she wanted.
I am confident in my abilities and not afraid to stand up for myself, so even when Alice’s actions began to infringe on my ability to do my job, I did not stress. I confronted her and our superiors and righted the situation in a professional manner.
My concern is not for myself. It is for my good friend Marge. Every day I see Marge becoming angrier and angrier with Alice. Her anger and hatred for Alice seem to be consuming her completely. Today was a tipping point when Alice convinced our boss to offload some of her responsibilities, which are already much less than anyone else’s, onto Marge.
Marge is completely the opposite of me. She refuses to stand up for herself, always worried that she will offend someone. I can tell Marge is being destroyed by this relationship, but I also know she loves her job.
Going to our management doesn’t seem to be a solution, because, I believe, they see Alice through rose-colored glasses.
I want badly to mediate this situation and find peace for Marge, but I am afraid that since Alice has also committed offenses against me, it will be difficult for me to remain neutral. Not only that, but Marge is so afraid of confrontation she will not agree to talk to Alice with me, or let me talk to Alice on her behalf.
What do I do? Do I just sit back and watch my friend suffer?
Carol, some people say, “No good deed goes unpunished.”
It’s one thing to go to the boss and say you have a problem with Alice. It’s another to mention Marge’s problem. It labels you a buttinsky, and it suggests you may be the problem.
The dynamic between you, Marge and Alice appears to be other than what you thought. The dynamic previous to the formation of the team was ignorant friendship. Now that you are in a team environment, you see them in their true colors. These two are less your friends and more people who create problems for you. It is better to see them more as coworkers and less as friends.
You can’t make a person who is passive and non-confrontational into a person who is active and willing to engage. That can only change when Marge feels strongly enough to overcome her fears and fight back. Perhaps she will have her Popeye moment. “That’s all I can stands and I can’t stands no more.” But getting to that point can only be gotten to by her.
You solved your problem with Alice. You found a way to manage Alice. Marge hasn’t asked you to intervene and Marge does not want you to intervene. Don’t jeopardize your solution for Marge’s sake.
We can’t fight another’s battles. Marge won’t learn anything if you try, and very possibly your good deed, like many good deeds, will not go unpunished.
Wayne & Tamara
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