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Upset Colleague? (UK)

MrRoom101 MrRoom101 (New) New

Hey all - can I ask your opinion and advice on something?

I'm an NHS specialist nurse in the UK and I work on outpatient clinics as part of my team. Our team is split 50/50 nursing wise into outpatients clinics and inpatient wards. We have an inpatient team on the wards where I sometimes go over to help them out with mainly routine stuff when I have gaps in clinic. This generally isn't two way though as they don't help out on clinics when we need help unless it's a dire emergency or I'm off sick - and even when that happens, from my POV they seem to take umbrage and it's a massive deal.

Well basically, whenever I go over to help them there's a colleague on my team who despite being very nice to speak to and interact with normally, has a tendency to e-mail me about jobs I've not done afterwards or provides me with some constructive criticism about things I have done...but she is the same grade as me. This time round, and what is the main issue for me...is that she e-mailed me whilst I was redeployed to ICU during COVID and had just finished a shift. This e-mail was asking me to do some non-urgent admin jobs that I had not yet done - and she copied her supervisor in to the e-mail as well. I was going to do these admin jobs eventually anyway, I just didn't have time to do them straight away, so I put them on my own to do list.

I replied saying I couldn't do them as I'd been sent to ICU during COVID (which she already knew anyway) and copied my supervisor in as well. I'll be honest, I reacted and played the same game back. I'm not sure whether the tone in my reply was pointed...it probably was...but I'm not going to lie I was very annoyed and I think I was within my rights to be personally. I was annoyed that she knew I'd been redeployed when she wasn't - and is in the ward office sending me non-urgent admin jobs and copying a supervisor in to make it that bit more pressurised. Rather than just doing them herself and taking account of the situation I was in and the pressure I was under being redeployed to the front line. Bear in mind this colleague knows I have been off sick in the past with stress and anxiety and appeared very sympathetic at the time.

Anyway now that COVID has scaled back somewhat here and I'm back from ICU and in my usual team, it was her birthday last week and I e-mailed her saying happy birthday. I've mostly forgotten about the previous situation now, although it did annoy me. She will have seen the e-mail but it's gone completely unacknowledged, no reply...no thank you or welcome back to the team. Although I'm making assumptions here and she isn't obligated to reply and I didn't really send it for that - and I might be TOTALLY wrong (I am the sensitive type) about this...my gut feeling tells me that she's ignoring me on purpose (as she normally does reply) and that she is upset with me.

I don't particularly think I've done anything wrong though and I actually think she was the one being unreasonable when she was fully aware that I'd been redeployed to ICU and was sending me pressuring e-mails about admin jobs, copying supervisors in etc. whilst she is in her comfort zone - and I'm being thrown into a potentially life-threatening situation, where admin jobs - especially ones that aren't urgent - are the least of my worries and priorities.

Luckily I don't deal with this colleague that often and I have not seen her since this happened over three months ago. She may be perfectly fine when I do see her. But does anyone have any advice for when I have to deal with her and I can't avoid it? Assuming the worst case scenario that I have upset her and she is holding a grudge against me? I don't want there to be an elephant in the room - but at the same time I don't think I should be the one to apologise either, despite how much I may personally want to clear the air. I will admit when I'm in the wrong and I will own up to my flaws and I may actually be wrong here, I don't know. But I don't think I am. I have extended the olive branch and at this moment in time on the surface it seems to have been rebuffed.

It's a shame because I do believe this colleague is a nice person and we were quite friendly at one point - and it was never and has never been my intention to upset her, but she didn't seem to take into account my feelings when it came down to it and I'm not sure why I should be the one who feels guilty about this?

Does anyone else have a view on this?

Thanks!

On 6/16/2020 at 10:26 AM, MrRoom101 said:

Does anyone else have a view on this?

Oh yes.

On 6/16/2020 at 10:26 AM, MrRoom101 said:

She may be perfectly fine when I do see her. But does anyone have any advice for when I have to deal with her and I can't avoid it? Assuming the worst case scenario that I have upset her and she is holding a grudge against me?

I would not avoid her. I would greet her normally, with the regular kindness.

You haven't done anything wrong. I would have returned her email just as you did, or something like, "Thanks - it's on my to-do list for when I return from my Covid-19 deployment to ICU." That is simply pleasant assertiveness. I would have copied it to supervisor as you did; I see no problem with that as she had already initiated bringing it to someone else's attention. She knows exactly what she did--and her actions are completely on her. If, in addition, she has chosen to feel upset about your perfectly reasonable response, that's on her, too.

Don't "do" this kind of drama. Always stay as far away from it as you can. She's the one who knows what she did and she's the one that has to deal with it. And if you are the one simply thinking too much about this and often worrying over insignificant things and waiting for problems to arise--don't do that kind of drama either. It's no way to live.

Just carry on.

On 6/18/2020 at 12:55 AM, JKL33 said:

Oh yes.

I would not avoid her. I would greet her normally, with the regular kindness.

You haven't done anything wrong. I would have returned her email just as you did, or something like, "Thanks - it's on my to-do list for when I return from my Covid-19 deployment to ICU." That is simply pleasant assertiveness. I would have copied it to supervisor as you did; I see no problem with that as she had already initiated bringing it to someone else's attention. She knows exactly what she did--and her actions are completely on her. If, in addition, she has chosen to feel upset about your perfectly reasonable response, that's on her, too.

Don't "do" this kind of drama. Always stay as far away from it as you can. She's the one who knows what she did and she's the one that has to deal with it. And if you are the one simply thinking too much about this and often worrying over insignificant things and waiting for problems to arise--don't do that kind of drama either. It's no way to live.

Just carry on.

Hi JKL33,

Thank you for your response, it has put me at ease. I will take your advice and I agree with it too.

I'm glad you can see my point of view and understand where I was coming from. I also agree re: staying away from drama and trying not to overthink things. I am a big overthinker. I don't think this colleague of mine sent the e-mail with any malice because she's not a malicious person, I just disagree with the way she went about it and her lack of consideration and making an example of me by copying supervisors in, etc.

I understand she just wants to tick a box to cover herself...the supervisor who she did copy in is someone who I have previously worked with, too...and this supervisor is very super-critical and difficult to work with. The supervisor creates what I believe to be a toxic blame culture that shames members of staff for not working to a tunnel-vision standard. Rather than challenging this kind of behaviour however, my colleague seems to be actively emulating it. And to be honest, with said supervisor wielding such a strong influence over the wider team due to her level of seniority; my colleague is not really left with much choice I suppose. So I can certainly see it from my colleagues point of view, even though I personally found her actions upsetting.

It's funny because I have no problem with being redeployed to ICU during a global pandemic, I actually embraced it and LOVE working with patients and being hands on. I'll dive right into the action and I thrive on that, so much so that to be honest I didn't want to leave. Yet I worry more about e-mails and how my colleagues perceive me. It is something that I have had great difficulty with in the past that has caused me major anxiety. I think that's largely because work does have certain social aspects to it and I still have that primal instinct to survive amongst the 'pack', so to speak. So this is why I am so conscious of not wanting to upset anyone and so badly wanting to be liked, I think.

Rationally, I know that no one I work with are actually my friends anyway and I stand to lose nothing personally even if all of them intensely disliked me. There are people in work who I'm quite close to and get on with on more of a level, sure. But if not for my job, I would never see or interact with ANY of them ever outside of that professional environment. So I don't know why I worry so much anyway. It achieves nothing and like you said, it is no way to live.

Thanks again!

^ You are a very thoughtful person.

Treat people kindly..and it's okay to combine that with assertiveness. There's no reason to cower, generally-speaking, if you are acting with kindness in mind while also not getting walked all over. Cowering emotionally in your words and actions (e.g. parsing each word and action and worrying how someone is going to take it) actually can cause way more problems than just being kind and assertive. Too much worrying, too much "I wonder if I should have said [this] instead of [that]"...etc. I've seen people kind of be made targets as a result of this behavior because when you are willing to accept responsibility for others' feelings and responses, they will notice and will put those things on you instead of taking a little bit of responsibility.

When you are motivated by kindness and conduct yourself with pleasant assertiveness, you can rest a bit easier knowing that others' reactions are on them.

Best to you ~

Simon C

Specializes in LTC, NEUROLOGY, REHAB.

I always find it best to take the person aside...away from the work area if possible...and clear the air. It is not conducive to the work environment to continue day to day when it appears you are both upset and anxious.

If necessary you may need to involve a supervisor / manager. I hope you manage to get it resolved quickly and remain friends and effective colleagues at work.

2 hours ago, Simon C said:

I always find it best to take the person aside...away from the work area if possible...and clear the air. It is not conducive to the work environment to continue day to day when it appears you are both upset and anxious.

If necessary you may need to involve a supervisor / manager. I hope you manage to get it resolved quickly and remain friends and effective colleagues at work.

Hi Simon,

Thanks for your response. I understand and appreciate what you are saying, but I'm going to go with JKL33 on this one. The problem is I am always clearing the air with other people, but this doesn't seem to be reciprocal...as indicated by the birthday message that I sent to my colleague that I didn't get a response to.

I understand sometimes it is better to be the bigger person and initiate the conversation, I feel as though I already have tried to do this by sending the birthday message and it's not been accepted... probably out of spite. I've done my bit now, she chose to ignore it and I can't accept responsibility for the way she chooses to feel when she created the situation in the first place.

Inevitably, knowing myself as I do I would end up being the one apologising to her for upsetting her, when in my opinion - she initiated the whole thing and upset me first. She didn't consider how I would feel, being redeployed into ICU during a pandemic..the only thing on her mind was that I had not done a job. I feel that by apologising to her I would be (as JKL33 said) accepting responsibility for her feelings and justifying her response, when I've actually done nothing wrong.

The situation isn't serious enough to warrant supervisor or management involvement, besides they are already aware as they were CCd into e-mails and nothing has been mentioned since. We do not work closely together anyway as we are on two separate sites and barely see one another or have any need to interact. I just don't want her to be upset, but I can't control whether she is or not...she'll choose to see it in whatever way she does.

I appreciate what you are saying I really do, but I think I've done what I can for now and the ball is in her court.

canoehead, BSN, RN

Specializes in ER.

Maybe it would be helpful to take her aside and ask about the emails. one point you can bring up is that ccing the boss everytime is really pressuring. If she wants to cover her butt she will still have the emails she sent you, no need to bring the boss into it.

She might be genuinely trying to help, and if you get that sense from her you can take the emails as intended and not be as worried.

TriciaJ, RN

Specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory.

I agree with JKL. The thing to remember, OP, is that you don't answer to your coworker. She is not your supervisor. And you don't need to worry whether her intent is malicious or well-meant because your response will be the same either way.

Respond to her criticisms with polite acknowledgement, then go ahead and do what you were going to do. Don't waste time defending or justifying your actions to her.

Keep on being friendly and polite. If she responds poorly then she has problems that aren't yours to fix.

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