"It isn't fair!"
One employee is the boss' pet. They come in late, leave early, do not perform their job duties, have their work assigned to or covered by other people and spend the rest of their day surfing the internet or making personal calls. Other employees get reprimanded for doing all of these things. Yet this person gets away with it.
I hear this complaint a lot with other colleagues and with clients. How do you deal with it?
In most every job there is unfairness. This is a fact of life. But the statement, "It isn't fair" suggests that it should be. This expectation that things should be fair creates a lot of resentment and different employees act out that resentment in different ways.
Bill comes to work late, leaves early, fails to complete work in a timely manner and spends a lot of his day making personal calls and surfing on the internet. He is very obsequious and complimentary of the boss and has earned her favor. As a result, the boss fails to see his failure to perform his duties. She assigns him easier and fewer tasks and does not respond to complaints about his tardiness or other activities while at work.
Jamal works hard and is very good at his job. The incompetence and lacadaisical work of Bill is especially annoying to him because of his very high work ethic. He vociferously complains to the boss about Bill and makes it his personal mission to point out every time Bill fails to perform, to the boss and everyone else. He has even gone over the boss' head to lodge a complaint with her supervisor. Jamal is probably the Scapegoat in his original family, for this is a familiar pattern for the Scapegoat, that of the Truth Teller. Scapegoats typically say what others will not. And they say it loud and long. Though what Jamal is saying is the absolute truth, it does not serve him well. He is annoying the boss, who doesn't like to have her behavior criticized, especially not publicly or by an underling. He also makes himself a target by the boss and perhaps by their colleagues. The boss may feel threatened by his constant attacks, especially after he goes over her head to complain to her supervisor. Other colleagues may agree with Jamal when he grouses about Bill in the privacy of their offices or the lunch room. However, when the boss looks for who is causing this rabble, Jamal's colleagues will disappear into the woodwork and leave Jamal standing alone as the sole complainer. If Jamal responds by saying that his colleagues are also fed up with the favoritism, he then becomes a target of his colleagues for exposing their complaints to the boss. He also fails to change the situation. The boss cannot change her behavior without it appearing that Jamal was right. So Jamal becomes the target for change rather than Bill.
Tatiana was the Hero of her family, the "good girl" who always did everything right. She also has serious issues with Bill's performance, or lack thereof. Tatiana gets to work early and leaves late. Because of her perfectionism and the seriousness with which she takes her job she not only has a lot of her emotional well-being wrapped up in it, she has very little life outside of her job. Her job is her life. Tatiana takes on responsibilities which are not hers in order to make things work better. This often involves covering work which Bill failed to do or didn't do properly. Tatiana keeps her head down and doesn't say anything to the boss because she doesn't want to be identified as a problem, she wants to maintain her Hero image. But she joins with Jamal and Salima in complaining behind the boss' back. Because she is so competent and doesn't complain out loud, the boss tends to give extra assignments to Tatiana rather than assign them to Jamal, who will complain, or Bill, who won't do them, because she knows Tatiana will get them done, on time, correctly, without complaint. Tatiana sees the disparity in how she is treated and resents the extra work, but does not say anything to the boss and quietly fumes. Her stress level and blood pressure are both rising as a result and her doctor is urging her to change jobs. But it probably won't help, because Tatiana repeats this pattern at whatever job she has.
Salima also works very hard and is very competent. She has been working at the job for 7 years and is experiencing a great deal of job dissatisfaction and burnout. Instead of addressing her own unhappiness with the job and making the changes she needs to move up in the field or over to another position she focuses on Bill. She too resents the favoritism shown to Bill and the additional work she has to do to cover for him. She resents his constant chatting on the phone which is very distracting to her. She channels all her energies into forcing the boss to change Bill rather than working to change her own life. However, she is very shy and afraid of direct confrontation. Instead of direct confrontation, like Jamal, she works quietly in the background being sure Bill's incompetencies are exposed to the boss without living her "fingerprints" on the smoking gun. Yet coincidence has made both Bill and the boss aware of Salima's activities and she too is starting to become a target, like Jamal. Her activities make her look like an insidious influence in the office, secretive, hidden and dangerous. This makes her the problem rather than focusing the problem squarely on Bill, where it belongs.
Javier is a happy go lucky guy who enjoys his work and has a full life. He, like Carol, is very responsible and competent. He arrives at work on time and leaves on time, but does not put in extra time. He doesn't get embroiled in the complaining because it "brings him down" and prefers to work happily in his office, then go home. When the boss tries to assign the duties to him which are not his own he quietly, but firmly asserts that this is not his job and asks that it be removed. The boss then gives it to Carol who won't complain or to Bob as punishment for annoying her. When deadlines are not going to be met because the "pet" has not completed his part of the assignment, Javier is careful to be sure that his part of the assignment is complete and on time and to have it signed off by the boss as to when it was received. When Carol and Bob come to him distressed about the deadline not being met Javier listens politely, without comment, then states that he has to get back to work. He does not allow himself to be emotionally pulled into their stress or unhappiness. He is confident that he has done his part of the assignment and leaves the anxiety about meeting the deadline to the boss. He chooses to focus on the parts of the job that he likes and to looking forward to whatever he has planned with family after work.
Now, which worker would you rather be? Javier faces the same problem as others, but refuses to take on emotional baggage he does not want and is not responsible for. Nor does he allow himself to be used to make up for Bill's failure to perform his duties. He hands the problem back to the boss, where it belongs, without animosity, attack or manipulation. This is a good example of maintaining healthy boundaries.
Javier also maintains a healthy home life where he retreat from office politics and draw sustenance. His full life also puts his work into proper perspective. His job is not his life, only a place where he works. He finds his happiness and fulfillment primarily from his home, his family and his friends.