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

Rude and Envious Coworkers

Dear Sue: I work for a publishing firm with nothing but miserable, single and pathetic women. I got married last year, and instead of that time being the happiest time of my life, the girls in my area displayed jealous and rude behavior and made me miserable.

Typically when someone in my department gets married or has a baby, we have a shower for the person. When I got married I didn't even get a lousy wedding card. The big boss even felt bad about it and forced these pathetic girls in the department to give me a "late" wedding shower.

These girls always try to compete with me, and I know they hope my marriage will fail. They constantly brag about themselves and look at my big diamond with envious eyes. I really do hate them. It bothers me a lot to think that people on this earth exist like them.

I am pregnant now, and when they find out I'm afraid I'm going to receive the same disgusting unwelcome attitude and treatment from these girls.

How should I act around these girls and how can I avoid them? I am tired of the mental anguish they put me through.

Ė Pregnant and anxious

Sue Says: First of all, let me congratulate you on your pregnancy. You need to take care of yourself now, and getting all worked up about the women you work with isnít good for you. You have painted a grim picture of your coworkers, and it's easy to understand your frustration based on your perception of your situation. My perception, however, differs from yours, and I hope you will be open to what I have to say.

Although you believe you are singled out and the target of your coworkers jealousy and animosity, you gave no indication as to how long this has gone on or why these women have reason to be so jealous of you. Being envious of someoneís marriage or diamond ring (which is not an uncommon initial reaction) is very different than the rude and hostile behavior you are describing. I donít know the people you are describing, and havenít experienced what you have. I can only draw my conclusions based on the information you have provided. My initial reaction, based on the tone of your letter, is that this isnít all about the Ďpatheticí women you are describing.

There are always two sides to every story. If these women were asked why you were the target of their animosity, what do you think they would say? Would they say it is because you are too lucky, too happy or too wealthy? Would they say itís because you are so Ďtogetherí that you remind them of their own shortcomings?

Is it possible they might say that you have a Ďbetter than thouí attitude, a sense of entitlement and high expectations?

Showers, gifts and cards are nice to receive, but not required from coworkers, and should be given out of desire, not obligation. If your relationship with these women is as lousy as you say, I canít understand why you would want to spend time with them at a shower or receive anything from them. More importantly, since you expect these women to be happy for you and shower you with gifts, are you willing to reciprocate? When was the last time you acknowledged a celebration someone had, gave a card or gift or expressed joy for someone else? Is it possible that youíve been so absorbed in your engagement, your wedding and your pregnancy that youíve neglected the events taking place in other peopleís lives?

Its one thing to feel left out or hurt by the actions of others, and quite another to feel the hate and disgust you've expressed. The anger you have toward these women must be difficult to mask; there is a good chance you are perpetuating the very behavior you despise.

I am not suggesting you are entirely responsible, but it's likely you have contributed in some way to the tension you feel with these women. There may or may not be a chance for reconciliation; itís up to you to find out. You can attempt to resolve some of the issues that stand between you or leave it alone. You can stick with your assumptions as to why they are the way they are or start asking questions in an effort to find out. You can assume some responsibility for the way things are or continue to blame others. You can modify your behavior in an attempt toward a more cordial relationship or do nothing and wait for others to change. The choice is yours.

I know you are concerned about the best way to announce your pregnancy: if you announced it today, chances are you'd be disappointed with the reaction you'd receive. Hold off the announcement for awhile and try to restore some dignity with these women. Don't concern yourself with ways to share information about yourself. Instead, focus more on learning information about others, and pay closer attention to what you say and how you act every single day. You can't count on these women to create harmony, so if it's important to you, it's up to you to make something happen.

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

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