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Know when to give up

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I have a coworker who just talks and socializes and doesn't work, forcing me to pick up the slack. After more tearful conversations between my coworker and my boss and frustrating conversations between myself and my boss, he called a meeting between the three of us. During this meeting he went over types of communication and expectations of the front office staff. I was told to watch my tone, as it might come off as snippy. She was told to learn to keep personal problems away from work. She denied having that issue right in front of him, and he didn't bring up examples of why he thought she might have a problem in that area.

Basically, I felt like my boss just accepts that my coworker is "relationship oriented" and prefers not to work, while I am "task oriented." I feel like in any professional setting, everyone should be task oriented, as that is what we get paid to do -- work. I realize my boss has too many other responsibilities to really give this much time, but it's starting to affect the work environment up front. I'm torn because in any other company, my coworker would not be allowed to keep up her unprofessional and bad behavior. I've tried to just ignore her, but that doesn't work, seeing how our workload is shared. I've tried being nice, but that only encourages her to chat and slack off on her work. I've gone to my boss, but he doesn't seem interested in the problem or flat out doesn't have time.

I've gone to the HR manager, but her advice is to just ignore the issue. It's getting bad enough that I'm considering finding another job. I love the work, but I can't stand to be in this type of environment. I'm hard-working, young and I earn my keep. With the economy the way it is, I'm not sure that I can find a job that pays the same or more. Any suggestions on how to deal with the coworker that keeps on giving?

You deal with this type of coworker by recognizing that you cannot fix her. You can talk to every manager and every HR person in the company and your boss is still going to ignore the chatter-box-non-working coworker.

So, give up.

Not by curling into a fetal position or laying on the couch and watching a marathon session of "Law & Order," but by realizing it is time to stop expecting the company to fix her.

Your boss ignores the slacker coworker. You can't make him fix her. So you find a new job, or you stop being nice to her and start being direct. "Please leave my cube right now and finish this project. I need it on my desk by 1:30 so I can finish my part." You can suggest a realigned workload where you have complete responsibility for set projects and she has responsibility for a different set, so you don't rely on her to do anything.  But what you don't do is keep on hoping that your boss will step in and fix the problem, because he won't. He's already said he won't. HR won't fix it either.

This is very difficult to hear, because we often think, "If I just explain to my boss one more time, he'll understand and then he'll fix it." But he knows the problem and he doesn't care, or he has other things to worry about.

I'm reminded of when we learned all about the evils of smoking in elementary school. We even learned about this "Surgeon General" who sounded very important and very smart to my eight-year-old ears. Our next-door neighbor smoked, but I was absolutely convinced that the only reason he did was that he had never had it explained to him that smoking was dangerous. Somehow he hadn't seen the black lungs in the jar or heard that smoking kills. So I took the obvious path -- marched up to the neighbor and said, "The Surgeon General has determined that smoking cigarettes can be hazardous to your health!"

Not one of you will be shocked to find out that he didn't thank me profusely, crush out his cigarette and spend the rest of his life smoke free. Instead, he said, "Shut up, little girl" and continued to smoke. He already knew the dangers and he'd decided he preferred smoking. Your boss already knows your coworker is not functioning properly and he decided that he'd prefer to keep things that way then face the difficult task of either fixing or firing her.

So you build your life around how it's going to be. You deal with her or get a new job, but give up on the idea that there is something you can do to fix her. If your manager won't manage, you won't be able to manage him into fixing her.

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