Dealing with an jealous, unprofessional coworker

Dear Joan,

I work in a small office and I am a female sales manager, in an office dominated by men. I have worked here for two years and by all respects have been successful in my position, and I am well liked by my employees and my managers, customers and peers. 

However, I am beginning to dread going to work and am even thinking of quitting because of the horrible office secretary/receptionist. Honestly, she is good at her job and I am good at mine and our two jobs do not interface at all. But, from the moment I walked in the door, two years ago, I have been subjected to her dirty looks, glares, gossip and sarcasm. This has happened to me before, in other companies with other women like her. I have been called Barbie/Miss Perfect, etc. However, usually these people get to know me and find out that I am smart, capable and down to earth.  

Usually the things she does to me are so subtle and underhanded that it would be impossible to call attention to it. Also, I don’t want to be seen as two women cat fighting, when there is work to be done. She is very warm and friendly to the male managers and the engineers. 

One of her tasks in our office is to celebrate weddings, births, etc. Funny, though I recently got married, there was no mention of it to anyone—no cake, card, nothing. That’s fine, I can handle it but one of the guys in the office got married the same week and she put on a mini celebration in the office and even invited his new bride. 

In company meetings, she is required to take notes, which she emails to everyone in the organization. When I give a presentation she never uses my name-only “sales.” However, everyone else’s names are in the notes. 

She will buy pizza for the whole organization and “forget” to invite me. 

One time I was in the bathroom when a call came in for me (most call my direct line). Instead of transferring the call, she stood on her chair and screamed for someone to take the call.  

I do my best to treat her with respect and kindness. I figure I would never give her the pleasure of seeing me upset or going to the same level.  

A few weeks ago, she called one of my managers in New York and told him I was the rudest person she had ever met. He called me and played the voice mail for me and asked me why she would say that. The voice mail was evil! Since he knows my work and my personality, he was pretty surprised. Since he does not work at corporate he is not aware of or concerned about corporate politics. However, he did call and ask why she left that message. Her explanation was that she had a bad day and felt like venting. In other words, there was absolutely no reason. 

My boss told me don’t worry, she is just an administrative assistant but she is his boss’s administrative assistant. There are many more incidents but you get the idea. I dream of quitting and telling her off on the way out the door. However, I’m too much of a lady to do even that. 


“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful,” the TV model purrs into your living room. Unfortunately, in our image conscious culture, we have a love/hate relationship with good looks. If we don’t have it, we envy those who do and if we have it, we have to work hard to overcompensate for it. Go figure. 

A red flag always goes up for me when I read “this has happened before” but it appears you have won them over, once they got to know you. In this case, the secretary/receptionist doesn’t know you and I don’t think it’s worth trying to develop a relationship.  

The slights and glares are best ignored and probably a result of petty jealousy. However, two incidents cross the line: not transferring a call to you (screaming on a chair? Please!) and the voice message to the individual in New York. In the first case, she isn’t doing her job and in the second, she is undermining and insubordinate. A third (but unsubstantiated) issue is the potential damage she could be doing with her boss. 

I recommend that you document your concerns and give them to your manager. Rather than a long list of petty slights, list examples but emphasize the three issues above. You don’t want to have your list look like, “She doesn’t like me.” Rather, you want to show how her unprofessional behavior is negatively affecting your reputation, the office’s image and becoming a barrier to productivity. 

Did the New York manager save the message? If so, I’d play it for my boss, who should in turn play it for his boss, who should play it back to her and ask her what her concerns are. If he didn’t save it, quote it in your documentation. 

Perhaps you have done something to offend, which you could remedy.  But, no matter what her personal feelings are toward you, she owes you professional, respectful treatment. In this battle she should be the one who walks out the door, not you. 

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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