Frowny-Faced Egg

A Blank Slate

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey,

I’d like you to weigh in on a problem I’m having. 

A co-worker is retiring and I couldn’t be happier. She has been a negative force in our department for years. I know her home life is a mess and that she’s been unhappy forever. I used to try and understand her better. For years, I listened when she’d gripe about her husband. But then, she’d turn right around and always be so critical of everyone and everything. I figured out it was just best to keep my distance. 

Other people we work with are throwing her a retirement party. It’s what we always do when someone leaves. They are pressuring me to attend. I don’t understand why they think it’s so important that I’m there. They say it would be the “right” thing for me to do, to show her that I “own up to” my side of things and that I wish her well. This woman and I both know we don’t care for each other. I am okay with it and I’m pretty sure she’s okay with it to. Wouldn’t it be hypocritical for me to show up at a party honoring her?

Waiting to hear your opinion.

Want to stay home

Dear Reader,

You and your co-worker have shared a rocky working relationship for many years, which must have been exhausting and frustrating for both of you. But wisely, you two seemed to have arrived at a place where you managed to stay out of each other’s way in order to get your work done. That is no small feat. I hope both of you will be happier now that she is retiring. 

I am trying to understand why your co-workers are pressuring you to attend her party. Is there something important you’ve left out of your letter? You mention that your co-workers feel it would be good for you to show this woman that you “own up to” your side of things. This seems like a strong statement for them to make and I can only guess that it reflects something about how you have behaved over the years? Attending the party might give both of you a needed fresh start.

Naturally, having a clean slate with people is important but both people have to care enough about the other to make this happen. From what you write, neither you nor this woman sound invested in smoothing things over. 

However, if you think about this situation from a different perspective, wishing this woman well in her next life chapter would be a perfectly valid reason for attending her party. Why? In my book, which very well may be different from your book, people may have disagreements but that doesn’t preclude them from hoping life goes well.

You seem content to skip the party and that can be all the reason you need. Regretfully, your co-workers don’t understand your logic. It happens, right? I just hope that your decision doesn’t ultimately cause you any friction with the people you continue to work with. If there is even the slightest possibility that you might alienate co-workers, I say get yourself to the party! It will be over soon and you will have preserved what is important to you, positive relationships with people you care about. 

With this woman’s departure, it feels like your entire department may experience a more positive environment. This will be a wonderful development for everyone. I hope all of you take full advantage of it.

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