Relationship sabotaged, but who's at fault?

May 29, 2011 

Q: When I took my job nine months ago, one of my co-workers and I immediately bonded. We were both morning people and got to work before anyone else. We chatted, but only until others got in.

One thing led to another and soon we were texting each other throughout the day. Whenever my boss did something really bad, I would text her. She would text back with comments like, "Why don't you just tell him off? You're not paid enough to take that crap."

We went out to lunch a lot. We talked about quitting and starting our own business. We even created a logo. My co-worker totally supported me; I overheard her tell our supervisor, "If he ever leaves, I leave too."

One day I decided I'd had it and we needed to start the business. Over lunch, we agreed I'd go first. I gave my notice.

That night I called her at home, thinking we'd get together and plan more. I told her I'd already created business cards. She said couldn't resign because she'd just offered to buy a house and her real estate agent told her to keep her job until she was through the title and financing process.

What happened next blew me away. My co-worker, whom I was depending on to be my new partner, stopped taking my calls. When I finally reached her, she said she wasn't ready to start a business.

I'd made a lot of calls on prospective clients but hadn't landed any accounts. I got scared and realized I needed to find a real job. I called my former supervisor for a reference. I was shocked when he said he wouldn't give me one, adding that he'd seen the texts I'd sent my co-worker and wouldn't be a reference for someone who spent time writing nasty comments about him. When I told him my co-worker sent equally bad texts, he hung up on me.

I now feel my co-worker set me up. What can I do?

A: Haven't you figured out yet that you are responsible for sabotaging your relationship with your former job and supervisor? When you spent work time critiquing your supervisor, you became so aware of what you didn't like about your job and supervisor, you talked yourself into quitting. What would have happened if you'd talked to your supervisor, the one person who might have been able to improve the situation, instead of texting?

You defend yourself by saying your co-worker sent equally snide texts. Her joining you in bad behavior doesn't excuse what you did. She's now showing you the same loyalty you both showed your supervisor.

What can you do? You can learn not to be egged on by others to quit a job or snipe at a supervisor. You can analyze whether the grass is really greener elsewhere before you leave a job. You can refuse the invitation to play "us vs. him" games at work and instead build a more positive relationship with your next supervisor. No employee wins by bad-mouthing his or her job to a co-worker. When the temporary relief of venting evaporates, the problems remain. If you want to fix a supervisory situation in the future, go to the person who can fix it -- your supervisor or your supervisor's boss. Then, if nothing improves, find a new job while you still have one.


A management/employee trainer and the owner of the consulting firm The Growth Company Inc., Dr. Lynne Curry provides columns to newspapers in multiple states. For questions, Curry can be reached at www.thegrowthcompany.com.

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