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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Great Performance, Bad Attitude

Dear Sue: About a year ago I was given a great deal of added responsibility in my department. As a result, the reporting structure changed and my coworkers now report to me. This has caused some resentment among my coworkers, especially with one particular girl. She has made life for me very stressful because of her negative, challenging behavior toward me since the change.

When my boss was made aware of this, I was told to document her behavior and fire her if she did not become more team spirited. The problem is that it is very difficult for me to put my finger on her destructive ways. Her work performance is excellent and she is very well-behaved in front of my bosses. What they donít see is the way she rolls her eyes, pouts and sighs dramatically. I am sure she acts this way out of jealousy in part, because she wanted my job.

How do I deal with this? They are aware of the problem, but how can I document a bad attitude or fire her when her performance is so stellar?

Ė Resented

Sue Says: There are a number of issues you are dealing with. One is the fact that you feel this coworkerís behavior toward you is personal and due to jealousy, another is that you say she is making your life miserable, and the other is that you donít know how to deal with her because her performance is top notch. It is fairly common for someone to excel in one area and need improvement in another.

Ultimately, if the positive attributes of someone outweigh the negative, then working to change or improve the negative traits becomes a viable option. If the negative attributes overshadow the positive and the person simply isnít contributing enough or worth investing in, then their job may be in jeopardy.

An important question for you to answer is whether this is her problem or yours. She does excellent work, and is perceived well by everyone except you. If no one else sees what you see, or has a problem with her, then the more you complain, the more you risk becoming a problem to others.

I donít doubt she is acting out of jealousy and targeting you, however, rather than simply documenting everything she does and looking for ways to fire her, why not try to find a way to overcome this obstacle? If this is the one person you have a problem with, why not view it (or her) as a challenge and an area to work on? Firing someone who has a stellar performance is neither easy nor a positive reflection on you.

You asked for my opinion so I will give it to you; at this point in time, I think that the best way for you to deal with this situation is to rise above it. You are too new in this position to do anything too drastic. There are a number of things you can do; if you havenít already, talk with her and try to get to the root of her jealousy. Forget about changing her attitude toward you, and work on changing your attitude toward her. Focus on all the great people you work with, and less on her. Try to ignore her sighs and comments or laugh them off.

Although you have been given the authority to fire your coworker, it is not something you should do in haste or for the wrong reasons. Think about your legacy and your reputation -- what do you want to be known for Ė getting rid of difficult people or stepping up to the challenge of working with them?

If you let everyone who has an attitude determine your actions, you will never be true to yourself. Be who you want to be; set the standard you want others to follow by being a positive role model. When you encounter problems with someone and know that you have done all you can to rectify a problem, it will be much easier for you to decide what to do and to justify the action you take. At this point, you havenít done all you can with this coworker and therefore are having difficulty writing her up or firing her Ė youíve got some work to do and time will tell what happens next.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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