This week we’re got two semi-related questions about obnoxious coworkers—a common workplace theme! Thank you for all the questions, please keep them coming: [email protected].
Dear Human Resource,
I work as a file clerk at a small but very lucrative personal injury law firm. This is my first job out of school and I was thrilled to get it.
But I have noticed a few odd things about the office. The most annoying is how much the attorneys brag openly about the size of their paychecks. I was recently turned down for a raise (excuse me for thinking it would be reasonable to be paid above minimum wage after being hired on full time) so maybe I’m just bitter.
My question is twofold. First, is this normal workplace behaviour? And second: How can I let my coworkers know how tone deaf their bragging is? I don’t want to be the obnoxious young employee, but I am really put off by their elitist attitude, especially when most of us support staff live paycheck to paycheck.
Work Is Full of Jerks
No, bragging about one’s paycheck would not be normal behaviour at most companies. For better or worse, money talk remains largely taboo in the workplace. Your boastful colleagues are just being jerks.
However, that part is normal. Welcome to the work force! It’s full of jerks!
That said, you are smart to try sort out what are really two distinct issues: your annoyance at the braggart attorneys, and your annoyance about feeling underpaid.
When Colleague Brag About Their Paychecks
Let’s consider the first issue. I don’t think you want to end up directly calling out a de facto superior every time you encounter this behaviour. You will in fact come across as merely complaining.
But is there a particular attorney, or manager, who you feel some trust in, and who you believe has your best interests at heart? Maybe talk to that person, and explain that all the money boasting is demoralising to the support staff (not just you). And since it serves no obvious purpose, maybe people could knock it off? I think this is more of a management issue — particularly if you can frame it as something that’s a problem for the organisation in general—so bring it up with a manager, and let them deal with it.
Now let’s consider your salary. Getting hired full time isn’t necessarily a reason to get a raise (although it’s something you could have asked about before accepting the offer, when you actually had some leverage). Similarly, the fact that there are other people who do totally different jobs that pay a lot better is also not a persuasive reason for you get more money.
Talk to your manager about what’s expected of you, and what would deserve a raise; try to set goals with clear timetables. Always try to think in terms of why it’s the company’s benefit to pay you more (much better to keep you than have to replace you, etc.).
Ultimately, you might want to think about which of these issues is actually more important to you. Could you blow off the braggarts if you got a raise? If so, maybe focus more on that in the short term. After all, you have the rest of your career to practice dealing with jerks.
Dear Human Resource,
Not sure if you’ve ever had the experience of writing an email with important/helpful information to a colleague — only to have the recipient come to your desk, asking questions about the very thing you emailed them about. And then having them explain they “didn’t have to time” to read the email. Because they are soooo busy. And then having them ask to be told what’s in the email!
Gah! F**king self-obsessed, holier-than-thou, no-common-sense-having, inconsiderate pus buckets!!!
Anyway, I have had the experience I just described. A LOT. My colleagues are otherwise quite professional, and have many skills. But also weaknesses—such as failure to read important emails. How do I deal with this?
Train Your Colleagues
I see two options. First, you can attempt to, in effect, train them to read your email.
Next time somebody comes to your desk in a scenario like the one you describe, say something like: “Oh, I’m on a deadline for the next few hours [N.B.: don’t say you are sooooooo busy, but that’s kinda the idea] and I can’t talk about that right now — but as it happens I just sent you a detailed email that addresses exactly the questions you’re asking! Can we reconvene after you’ve had a chance to check that out? I’ll be in the clear by then, and happy to help with anything that’s unclear.”
The other option is to admit that — I can only speculate here—maybe email isn’t the best way to communicate this particular category information?
Maybe instead of writing a long note about Project X, you’re better of sending a short one saying: “Want to talk about Project X?” Then have some kind of conversation. Then determining what’s best covered in writing.
Remember that even the jerkiest colleagues rarely want to be jerks. Sometimes finding a way to work around their apparently clueless behaviour can be easier than trying to get them to change their ways.