Best of Dharma – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest


Hope the holidays have been good to you – it’s a great time to revisit some of Dharma’s best from 2015.  Going to work every day can be hard enough without dealing with crap like this, right?

Dear Dharma,

I recently started a job at a medical clinic. I am a mid-40’s professional and have an excellent reputation and work ethic.  Not to slam my new job, but it isn’t very challenging; however, I like the better hours and the fact that it allows me to have more of a life outside of the workplace.

As soon as I started, I began having problems with my co-worker. She is young (this is her first job) and has been employed here 6 months longer than me.

She was assigned to train me and I had no problem at all with this. She has very good work ethic and is very knowledgeable. This job is not difficult but after 7 months she is still monitoring my every move. I frequently discover her going through my patient files to see what I am doing and she snoops through my office when I am away. She is on my case about everything, and I mean EVERYTHING!!!

As an example, once I signed documents with a dark blue pen and she had a talk with me because she feels that black ink is better.  Another time she said “When you are talking with your patients you NEED to make SURE that you get their health care number”. This is part of our standard operating procedure and something that I have never once failed to do, but to someone overhearing this it sounds like I frequently forget to obtain this information.

I could brush it off and find the humour in it if it was just between us, but it is not. She often “discusses” things with me in front of other staff members. These are NOT things I am doing wrong and need to be corrected or shown the proper method. These are things I am doing correctly, but she presents it in such a way that it sounds like I am making mistakes.

She does this daily and it is really undermining my reputation!  Worst of all, when I respond that I AM doing things just as she said then it sounds like I am trying to cover my butt. I get the sick feeling that my co-workers view me as incompetent based on these comments and there is no one here that does the same job or reviews our work so this impression is very harmful to my day to day office existence.  What can I do before my reputation with this company is shot?

Not Nurse Ratched

Dear Ratched,

I have to admit, the colour of the ink thing made me laugh.  I once had a boss who was violently against purple pens.  I think he tried to ban them from the stationary room, but they kept showing up there, it was great.

Anyway, the saying goes that you can’t change the behaviour of others as much as you can change your own, so you need to stop with the defensiveness and get in front of this situation.  The last thing you need is for some jittery patient to overhear the remarks she is making and put in a complaint about you.

The next time she does anything like what you’ve mentioned, you need to say you would like to speak with her, in your office, now please.

Start, in a firm voice, by saying how much you appreciate all the work she has done in training you, and because she has done such a great job, you are very certain you can continue on from this point without the constant micro-managing.

Be very direct in saying you are concerned she is undermining you, particularly in front of your colleagues and patients.  These are people who are supposed to have confidence in your abilities, and every time she addresses you the way she does, it cuts into that.

Assure her that you are open to hearing if you are genuinely getting something wrong, but beyond that, it’s time for the commentary to stop.

It might be a hard habit for her to quit cold turkey – people like that are kind of hard wired for that type of behaviour – so be prepared for her to slip up at the beginning.  If she starts in at you, or you find her going through your files (that has to be some kind of violation of work ethics, non?) give her a sharp look and walk away.

If after a few days she hasn’t started to turn the corner, you need to take this up with management – you must have a boss, or someone who hired you.  Let them know you’ve taken steps in trying to manage this, but now it’s over to them to get her to stop walking all over you.


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  • gemma471 says:

    i almost think this advice is too nice – this girl sounds like a know it all (i don’t mean you dharma!!) and she needs to be put in her place.

    • George says:

      At what cost? Is it really worth her losing her job? Clearly this young girl is a selfish cow…..

      • gemma471 says:

        do you mean you think the person who wrote in would lose their job because they brought the issue to light with either the person directly or with management?

        • George says:

          Yes, if she brings it to light the young girl is clearly going to take offence. If everyone already has the impression that she’s (Ratcheted) is incompetent, wouldn’t this make her look worse? Not to mention that the young blood would probably go straight to the supervisor spinning it to make it look like Ratcheted is the problem?

          • gemma471 says:

            i don’t know. always keeping quiet so that someone doens’t get offended or always being scared of losing your job – which i really don’t think would happen here – sounds like a sure fire way to live your life as a victim. mostly people are scared of consequences that never happen when they stand up for themselves. so go Ratchet go – stand up for yourself!!

  • Anastasia says:

    I think your being too sensitive. If you as professional as you claim, your work ethic should speak for itself. Your coworkers have their own brains and should be able to come to their own conclusions about you. Maybe she’s just trying to pull up the level of excellence in the office?

    • Eva Sloane says:

      I disagree – no matter how professional you are, having someone constantly nagging at you and giving the impression that you are not doing your job well is unacceptable and creates a bad impression (unless you are an utter spazz and need constant correction, in which case you probably shouldn’t have gotten past your probationary period).
      This person is basically being harassed – I mean blue pen versus black? really…?

  • Winnifred says:

    Two can play that game.

    Maybe next time, thank her for reminding you and ask her to show you where you didn’t do what was required? Put her on the spot! If she can’t physically show you then she doesn’t really have a leg to stand on does she?

    Chances are SHE forgot to do something, got talked to from her supervisor and felt the need to let it trickle down the line…

  • Jenny says:

    Seriously??? Who hates purple pens???

  • Eva Sloane says:

    I agree with Dharma – be direct and take it up with her yourself. She won’t get better if she doesn’t even realize she’s doing it (possibly).
    This is where your years of experience need to come into play to get you happy with your day to day and create a better environment without stooping to her level.
    But if all else fails, you need to call her out on her behaviour. Go ahead and ask her, in front of everyone (she brought it on herself by following up with you in front of people), where or when exactly you didn’t do ______ that she is bringing it up with you now. Spin it back to her in a confident way when she can’t list an example – such as “I appreciate you trying to remind me of the various tasks in my role, however I would benefit more by receiving feedback in a private manner when I have actually made an error”. Can’t argue that it’s a fair request.

  • Anonymous says:

    I can’t believe this person is acknowledging your “mistakes” in front of customers and other co-workers. This just makes the trainer look like a complete idiot. You NEVER do that kind of thing in front of customers. I hope your manager walks by and notices her doing this in front of everyone. If I was that manager, that woman would be in a lot of trouble!!! I agree with Dharma, you need to be forward with this woman.

    • Ratched says:

      Well, that is the thing, we don’t have a manager. We have a head office in another city but we are clinical therapists. We have two medical office personnel who work with us but as a group we are autonomous and shouldn’t NEED supervision. I have never been in a situation like this before! Even my coworker didn’t train me per se, she gave me an orientation and reviewed the company policies and procedures since I was hired for my pre-existing knowledge and skills. Of course, every job has an orientation and learning curve but this woman is NOT checking the quality of my work, she seems to have some sort of grudge against me and is trying to make me look incompetent. She is a good therapist and doesn’t need to make herself look better since she has a very good reputation already (in fact, this is part of the problem because it makes her off-handed comments appear more veritable). I enjoy my patients but am starting to dread the office atmosphere. It may be a few years before I can consider a transfer so I have to settle this with diplomacy…

      • Dharma says:

        I think you definitely can be diplomatic when you address her – you just need to be clear with her that this behaviour isn’t helping anyone. Would love to hear how it goes if you decide to call her out on it!

  • […] Also, to see a similar situation, check out One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. […]

Whether you agree with Dharma or think she missed the mark on this one, leave a Comment!

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