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  1. #1
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    Default Coworkers' behavior at work disturbing

    I hope this doesn't turn out to be too long. I switched jobs to a smaller middle school almost 2 years ago. I won't be there much longer - i will go on maternity leave in about 2 months - so this situation will resolve itself, I guess, by then, but it still disturbs me.

    i used to teach in a fairly diverse district. there were a lot of minority students there. i grew up in the district i teach in right now, and i remember feeling isolated, as one of very few Asian-Americans that attended my school. anyway, there are more minority students in my current, 'hometown' district than there used to be, but i still notice sometimes that the minority kids seem to get slightly different treatment from fellow students, if not from staff - sometimes people seem to snap at them for no reason; their friendly questions are met with curt replies, though nobody ever says anything overtly discriminatory. its enough to make you think a little paranoid and that there is something wrong with you when its actually nothing you're doing wrong. so, i identify with the minority students a little bit more than others and sympathize when i notice what i perceive to be cold or curt behavior towards them for no obvious reason. i never say anything, just take notice.

    the problem is the people i supervise lunch with. many of them are counselors (not all.) last year i had no problem whatsoever with these coworkers. we didn't always chat, but we got along just fine. at least it seemed so to me. they were friendly, i was friendly, i thought nothing of it.

    this year for the first couple of months i noticed a big change in their behavior. there was a new supervisor added to the ones i used to talk to. suddenly, it seemed like nobody wanted to talk to me. i tried to think nothing of the fact that they were always on one side of the cafeteria when i was on the other side, somehow. tried to think it was no big deal. i did notice that the new supervisor seemed especially cold to me, and inwardly, i wondered if her behavior wasn't influencing the others somehow.

    one day i tried to approach the 'group' or clique or whatever you want to call it, to ask a simple question related to our supervisory duties. i walked up to the group; they were deep in conversation. rather than interrupt, i stood to the side to wait for a break in the chat. i kept my eyes on them so it would be obvious i had a purpose, something to ask.

    another teacher came by and they stopped talking to say hi, then resumed their chat. a student walked by and they stopped what they were saying to chat with her. i was alarmed that my presence hadn't been acknowledged at all - should i have just broken in and interrupted, after all.....? i walked off, a bit frightened, actually, at being ignored - i wasn't sure what to do.

    soon after that my supervisory duties with that crowd ended and i tried to say hi to the counselor who i'd done duty with last year a couple times in the hallway in the interim. not the new supervisor. it was the one who'd been friendly last year. maybe i'm too sensitive, i don't know. it just seemed like she always turned away and started talking to someone else as i approached. finally, i just had enough and stopped making overtures. i didn't feel i'd done anything to deserve being ignored.

    i think my own irritation has been evident, finally - i just don't think i need to make an effort to talk to such unfriendly people, anymore. i had supervisory duties with another group from Oct-Dec; things were fine. the new crowd didn't always talk to me, but they didn't make me feel like i had 2 heads, either. they were friendly, same as people from last year. they didn't blatantly ignore me when i had questions, or stand all the way on the other side of the cafeteria, or treat me coldly, or anything odd. which made the 1st group - the ones that were mainly counselors - seem all the more strange.

    January started a new crowd of supervisors once again. and the old counselor from last year, the one who USED to be friendly, but hasn't been this year, is part of that crowd. there is also one other supervisor that is friendly, not a counselor. i mainly talk to her, and so does the coworker i apparently no longer get along with. we don't talk to each other though.

    i asked about the counselor's son a few times, who has gotten sick from a severe allergy once or twice. once when i asked if his situation had been resolved - she is worried they may give him the food he's allergic to, in daycare - she gave me the irritated answer that 'allergies don't resolve themselves.' (um, i know that)....i told her, i meant, resolving the situation in that they keep foods around his area at daycare that he is allergic to, on a regular basis. i know that allergies don't just disappear, i have horrible allergies myself. i thought it was very rude of her to imply that i think allergies go away like that, on their own, if that is what she meant.

    she has never asked me about my developing pregnancy. never asked a friendly question back about my own daughter, etc. never showed a hint of concern for me as a human being. i don't think i deserve to be treated like that. whatever my feelings are, i would always show concern for her as a human being, and be courteous and polite. but i don't have to keep banging my head against a wall and try to be friendly to someone who can't behave the same way. i can't control her behavior, or what she thinks.

    i really feel like i am in high school when i am around her. like i am not part of her clique, or something. and worst of all, i wonder if its because of my status as a minority that has sparked all this odd treatment of me. and even worse than that, i have moments where i blame myself. i am a shy person; i suffer from social anxiety sometimes that make it hard for me to approach people; i know i am sometimes different in ways that are more than skin deep.

    there is nobody at work i can talk to about this. nobody who would understand and relate. i am the only minority teacher my school has employed. there ARE other minority workers (cafeteria employees and the cleanup crew) but i don't know if i want to bring this up with them, if that would be gossiping and unprofessional.

    i think a lot of people at my old district would understand - it was a semi-urban setting. but i feel very isolated in my current situation. i am not sure if there is any advice that would help me, even. i think most people IRL would try to laugh it off as my imagination.

    anyway, thanks for listening.
    Last edited by BridalLace; 01-27-2008 at 09:38 AM.
    Our Wedding - 7.06.02
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  2. #2
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    I don't know why they are behaving this way - it's certainly not professional.
    If they do have an issue with you, I would hope that it was something that could be discussed/resolved without this petty nonsense.
    I do think you need to be more assertive. I would not sit quietly and watch a student be treated unfairly (regardless of race) You don't have to be confrontational (at first...)a simple, "Mr. Teacher, I believe Susie asked you a question" with a smile. Or say to the student (loud enough to for teacher to hear) Mr. Teacher must be in a hurry today, can I help you with something?" won't endear you to the teachers, but may to the students (which is more important anyway)
    Also, I would not have stood there waiting for someone to acknowledge my presence if I had a work related question.
    And if you're not coming back to work there, I would certainly use this time to speak you mind
    "You'll never know everything about anything, especially something you love." Julia Child

  3. #3
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    I'm not sure what is leading you to think their attitude is due to you being a minority since you were a minority before when they were being friendly. Is there something specific that has made you draw that conclusion? If you've seen a marked change in their behavior, I would think there has to be some other explanation.

    Unfortunately, you're not always going to be friends with everyone and you can't make people like you. However, if you think someone is being rude or they try to blow you off when they used to be nice, you might want to casually say, "Hey, did I do something to upset you, because I thought we got along and now I get the feeling that you're unhappy with me." You might find out that way if you've unintentionally offended someone. Alternatively, you may find that they aren't specifically trying to be cold or rude.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by hub1176 View Post
    I do think you need to be more assertive. I would not sit quietly and watch a student be treated unfairly (regardless of race)

    Also, I would not have stood there waiting for someone to acknowledge my presence if I had a work related question.

    And if you're not coming back to work there, I would certainly use this time to speak you mind
    i think you're right about my being more assertive....overall, everything i mentioned in my first post is so much about the passive-aggressive tendencies of other people, and even of myself, i guess, since i try to deal with these things in general without confrontation. that is wrong, but i don't know how to change it when it seems like everyone is acting that way.

    i spoke my mind about an exam last year that was given that i thought was unfair. it certainly didn't get a good response. that is another issue, but i think its a good example of how i tried to change something that i thought was wrong and got stomped on for. and yet another example of something that i think would never have happened at my old school, too.
    Our Wedding - 7.06.02
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by keska View Post
    I'm not sure what is leading you to think their attitude is due to you being a minority since you were a minority before when they were being friendly. Is there something specific that has made you draw that conclusion? If you've seen a marked change in their behavior, I would think there has to be some other explanation.

    Unfortunately, you're not always going to be friends with everyone and you can't make people like you. However, if you think someone is being rude or they try to blow you off when they used to be nice, you might want to casually say, "Hey, did I do something to upset you, because I thought we got along and now I get the feeling that you're unhappy with me." You might find out that way if you've unintentionally offended someone. Alternatively, you may find that they aren't specifically trying to be cold or rude.
    i agree that you're not always going to be friends with everyone. and that i can't make other people like me. but i think i should be at least able to discuss the weather with someone, pass a couple of boring minutes during lunch supervision without it being too painful.

    sucks to be me, right, when i have so much trouble confronting people about their behavior. funny, as a teacher i have no such qualms, but then, kids tend to do things that i can point out to them directly ('where is your book?' 'please stop chatting and pay attention' etc), as opposed to the passive aggressive things adults sometimes do, the subtle things that show up in their behavior that are so difficult to pinpoint.

    as for thinking this is all due to my being a minority, well, discrimination is a funny thing when nobody ever actually says they don't like you for such-and-such reason. i wouldn't have thought the counselor that was friendly last year would've ever behaved this way, she was perfectly friendly until this year.


    (there ARE other things that i think might cause a person atmy school to be cold towards me - i raised a ruckus in May last year because some graduating students were given an exam that almost all of them failed, and i had some serious concerns about the test, which nobody wanted to listen to, and which the administration eventually stomped on me for, when i expressed them to some concerned parents. several of the Admin were cold to me for a little while, at least as i perceived it, when the fall term started again, over what i can only surmise was due to my reaction to them pushing through a test result that was not, i was convinced, due to ALL the kids NOT studying (which is what they claimed...i found it hard to believe 85% or more of the kids just did not study, though. especially when i knew how hard some of them worked on a regular basis, since they were in my class.)

    in the end, though, when it comes to the counselors - i don't know why they would resent me standing up for students in such an issue - or why anyone would resent me for that. but that is another story.)


    i tend to think this counselor who is unfriendly now, but wasn't last year, is just not a very strong-minded individual. her co-worker was unfriendly to me, for whatever reason, so she followed suit. that is why i feel like i am in high school again, like people just follow the crowd or whatever. if its discrimination, well, i admit it might not be that, but after living all my life as a minority, its hard to not consider it as one of the possible reasons any time someone acts this way towards me, when all my own friendly overtures are rejected.

    thanks for your reply though. it helps to have people to bounce this problem off of, its been bothering me for a while.
    Last edited by BridalLace; 01-27-2008 at 01:34 PM.
    Our Wedding - 7.06.02
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  6. #6
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    Honestly, I would chalk it up to being their problem, not yours. I work for a very small company - 25 employees. There are just a handful of women and most of them share things in common that I don't share. They are approximately the same age (about 15 years older than me), have kids, smoke, etc. While I wouldn't say they are unfriendly, they generally kind of ignore me. Several times I have been alone in the breakroom with the most senior of the group and I've said "good morning" or "hello" and she says nothing. And this is when we've made eye contact, so it's not like she doesn't hear me. To me, that is totally bizarre behavior, so I just chalk it up to her being rude and I don't let it bother me.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by diam124 View Post
    Honestly, I would chalk it up to being their problem, not yours. I work for a very small company - 25 employees. There are just a handful of women and most of them share things in common that I don't share. They are approximately the same age (about 15 years older than me), have kids, smoke, etc. While I wouldn't say they are unfriendly, they generally kind of ignore me. Several times I have been alone in the breakroom with the most senior of the group and I've said "good morning" or "hello" and she says nothing. And this is when we've made eye contact, so it's not like she doesn't hear me. To me, that is totally bizarre behavior, so I just chalk it up to her being rude and I don't let it bother me.
    there are people like that where i work, too. i don't usually worry about it b/c i don't have to deal with them on a daily basis.
    Our Wedding - 7.06.02
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    Our Son - 3.28.08

  8. #8
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    (i raised a ruckus in May last year because some graduating students were given an exam that almost all of them failed, and i had some serious concerns about the test, which nobody wanted to listen to, and which the administration eventually stomped on me for, when i expressed them to some concerned parents.)

    So you told a group of concerned parents that there were problems with an exam? That probably created some big headaches for your administrators. You've probably been branded a "difficult" person in the building. The administrators are more professional, which is why they've warmed up. But that hasn't changed your status in the eyes of some of the other staff.

    That doesn't mean it was wrong for you to stand up for what you think was right. But you broke ranks with staff by speaking to parents and - right or wrong - some haven't forgiven you for it.

    The cold environment towards minority students in the building is disturbing, too. Does your district or school have an equity team or someone in charge of diversity? A sensitivity training during an in-service might be a good idea.

    Whatever the problem is, just hold your head up high and smile a lot. Do not let people intimidate you.You had the strength to raise a ruckus when you believed it was important. You don't necessarily need to do that now, but you do need to believe that YOU are important and worth standing up for. It's hard to ignore positive people who have confidence in themselves.

  9. #9
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    Sounds like they've been spending too much time with the kids. Now they act like them.

    I don't have much advice but I do agree with Diam that it's just their problem. I know it still feels like crap but this is your career and I bet you've worked hard for it. So if they don't like you, that's their loss. Just keep doing a good job.
    Why do people kill people who kill people to show people that to kill people - is bad?

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