Workplace adviser Karla Miller answers a reader's question about a tattletale at work.
We have a fairly small staff in an open office space (no cubicles). There's a woman on our team whom I find annoying. I always have to remind her to silence her cellphone. She's also a crabby person. When I said something to her she didn't like, instead of discussing it with me, she went over my head.
I have learned she tells our boss who's in on time. She gets in early and can see whether our arrival time matches our posted schedule. It stresses me out to think that if I come in late, which is rare, I'll be on her list.
Overall, I minimise my interactions with her. But I find her snitching bad for morale. Should I bring it up with my boss, or just keep avoiding her?
A: If you work in an environment where it doesn't matter what hours you keep as long as the work gets done, ignoring the time-tattler will probably do no harm. If you're in a workplace where punctuality is paramount, complaining about her will probably do no good.
The fact that you have posted schedules and are stressed about being on her "list" suggests you're in the latter kind of workplace. If being tardy means leaving customers or colleagues in the lurch, or fudging billable hours, you can't really argue that it's no one's business if you slide in a few minutes late.
More to the point, does your boss simply humour her snitching - or encourage it? Snitches are only as dangerous as their audience is receptive.
Either way, the best way to shield yourself is to not let her be your primary point of contact with the boss. If you're usually on time and reliable, and you have a good relationship with your boss, the snitch will become irrelevant. You can even beat her at her own game by giving the boss a heads-up when you're running late. Ideally, your boss will either appreciate your conscientious attitude, or will confidentially tell you not to worry about it. Reasonable bosses understand that sometimes cars break down, kids can't find their shoes, buses run behind schedule.
Of course, if you're having to make those calls on more than the "rare" occasion, it might prompt you to reexamine your commuting habits. Or if it turns out your boss is not the reasonable sort, you might want to reexamine whether your employment situation suits you.
Incidentally, Crabby Patty may indeed be awful. But from the way you sort of gloss over your constant reminders about her cellphone and whatever you said that she "didn't like," I have to wonder if the annoyance is mutual. Maybe her crabbiness, schedule obsession and subversive communication style are products of anxiety, rather than malice. Or maybe this whole situation is yet another piece of evidence that installing workers in an open-plan office builds camaraderie about as well as herding rats into an open-plan cage.
- Washington Post