So I have this delicate problem, with an employee in my office who, not to put too fine a point on it, talks too much. As if that weren’t enough, she whines about everything. Every day she comes in with a big bright smile, but it goes downhill from there. She is too hot, she’s too cold (move to Iowa already, then you’d have something to complain about), it’s too humid, it has rained too much to mow the lawn and the grass is too tall, her knees hurt, her back hurts, and her head hurts. And then, it takes her at least an hour to report what she had for dinner the night before, what movie she saw (and how much that movie reminds her of this OTHER movie she saw), and what her live-in boyfriend Keith said. (It’s a wonder he can say anything.)
As I know well, you cannot change or “manage” a person’s nature, and I wouldn’t even want to.
But last week it sort of came to a head when she (her name is Kitty) said she was too hot. Then she went to the restroom, which is right next to the thermostat, and said No wonder! It’s 76 degrees in here! OMG…call the paramedics. P.S. The energy experts encourage us to set the thermostat at 78 in the summer. Which I think is too extreme, even for me. And P.P.S., it was about 82 outside at the time.
So I said, Tough. She said, did you just say “Tough?” I replied, I’ll set the thermostat a degree or two cooler, but it seems to me that you are rarely happy. She said, I don’t think that’s true, but I guess that’s your perception. I used to be uncomfortable with this concept, but these days I want to say, What part of my perception being the one that counts do you have a problem with?
At the time I made the comment, there were three other people in the office. Two of them were instantly engrossed in…something else. I look over at the third person, my assistant manager, and she is desperately trying to wipe a smile off her face. Like thank you God, finally somebody said something. She finally had to leave the office because she knew she wasn’t going to be able to keep it together.
Then guess what happens? Kitty immediately jumps up and follows her, without a doubt to complain how mean and cruel I am.. I bet on that happening, and too bad it isn’t the lottery, because I would be a millionaire now. I love my assistant manager, but she has this tendency to be maternal. She seems to forget that these people are adults. Even when she agrees with me (as in this case), she tends to listen non-judgementally. Which in real life is a pretty good quality. In management life, not so much. One day she too will have the opportunity to get screwed by people she worked hard to understand and accomodate.
So two or three days after the “You are rarely happy” comment, I pulled the assistant manager outside for a pow-wow and said, I officially can’t take it any more. I can’t get anythng done from the minute she walks in the door until the minute she leaves. You have to hand it to the assistant manager. She said, so do you want to talk to her, or do you want me to? I would never have demanded that she do it, but I was grateful and relieved when she volunteered. I said, it would be nice if you did, because Kitty already thinks I’m the Wicked Witch of the West, whereas you are the good witch Glinda.
In the interim, Kitty told us that she has always been a talker. When she was a child, her father told her she must have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle. That was probably pretty funny when she was five years old. Not now.