I hated my last full-time job for a variety of reasons — because it consisted entirely of unchallenging grunt work, because the higher-ups encouraged a culture of snitching, and because almost everyone there was actively looking for a new job — but what actually made me quit was my deep and undying hatred of one of my coworkers, whom I'll call Angela. As the most senior of the junior staffers, she was ostensibly my superior. Every morning she would arrive at the office and immediately change into a pair of Orvis slippers, while ritualistically rubbing her hands together with anti-bacterial gel. Soon after I started the job, and on the eve of a three day weekend, I asked Angela what she was doing for the mini-break. "I'm handing out hot dogs at a homeless shelter," she informed me. "I began volunteering there when I first started this job and I was low man on the totem pole. I needed to have someplace to go where I was in charge of everything."
Volunteering at a homeless shelter for the "power" it conferred upon her? That was pretty much Angela in a nutshell. There were other things: Bragging that she regularly manipulated emails (forwarding emails from other people after she had changed the content of the messages); lying to management about my making personal phone calls during work hours; berating a Subway employee for giving her less than "perfect" tomatoes. In an already-unfulfilling job, Angela was the proverbial straw: I could put up with the other bullshit, but the idea of seeing her weasel face for one more day made me want to die, so I quit even though I didn't have another gig lined up.
Apparently I'm not the only one who suffered from workplace "collenemies" as Time blogger Lisa Takeuchi Cullen termed them. Cullen relates the story of a colleague who ratted her out about freelance work, and quotes a study that says coworker strife can lead to "a wide variety of workplace problems, ranging from lost productivity and higher turnover to increased and open hostility." And in yesterday's New York Times "Thursday Styles" section, Lisa Belkin discussed strategies for dealing with malignant coworkers, as outlined in a book called Toxic People: Decontaminate Difficult People at Work Without Using Weapons Or Duct Tape . Author Marsha Petrie Sue divides workplace evildoers into three categories: "Steamroller (a bully who is not necessarily right but is determined), the Whine and Cheeser (who finds the dark side to everything, as in: "Cheez, I got a raise. I'll have to pay more taxes"), and the Backstabber (enough said)." Belkin describes a woman whose nasty female coworker dumps her lunch detritus into the first woman's garbage can just to piss her off; Sue suggests that the victim of the lunchtime sneak attacks should pick up the garbage "and carry it into her tormentor's cubicle when others are watching."
As for my revenge on Angela, I never got any, and it continues to bother me that I never got any sort of closure on the situation. In fact, I still fantasize about running into her at a bar, downing some liquid courage, and telling her where she can stick her goddamn slippers. Thank god for the virtual Jezebel office and my lovely coworkers, whom I would never, ever want to cornhole with indoor footwear.