I can’t get along with the chatty older women at my work

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a 40-something woman who works a sales job. I’m having a hard time getting along with the older women on my sales team.

These women are all around age 60. They’re convinced that the office should be a place for conversation, and are always gathering together in little groups and chatting loudly about one boring topic or another without considering the people around them.

I took part in their conversations at first — until they started to belittle me for being single, at which point I got mad and stopped talking with them. I reported their behavior to our boss, but instead of apologizing they began to ignore me altogether. I changed seats to get away from them, but I haven’t found a way to completely resolve the problem.

The older workers never switch to other teams, leaving me stuck in a kind of living hell. I know the system of rehiring older workers has recently taken off, but if these kinds of things happen in the office, I have to wonder if elderly people staying in the workforce is really such a good thing.

I have a lot of customers who prefer working with me, and I really like my job. What’s the best way to live my life in the future?

C, Shiga Prefecture

Dear Ms. C:

Despite working your hardest, your office environment is a constant nightmare for you. I know this must be difficult. The only thing to do is keep the faith that justice will surely win out, and devote yourself to your own work.

You need to come to the realization that associating with such low-level “colleagues” is a complete waste of time.

Still, I don’t think reporting their behavior to your boss is such a good idea. There’s no way they’re going to say: “Thank you for pointing out my actions. I apologize.” Rather, going to the boss is more likely to provide them with an excuse to become more mean-spirited toward you.

Instead, it might be better to wait for your adversaries to sow the seeds of their own destruction. It’s a law of nature that people who take their work lightly eventually get weeded out, right?

All you can do is cling fast to that belief and work hard in your own way until you become indispensable to the office. I have high hopes that you will display this attitude at your job from here on out.

One more thing. You mentioned you have doubts about whether it’s really a good thing for elderly people to continue to work. There are certainly problems with your coworkers, but these problems aren’t rooted in the fact that they are older. Constantly engaging in idle chit-chat at work is bad form, but it’s better to attribute this to their individual attitudes about work than to their age. This is my belief.

Soichiro Nomura, phychiatrist

(from June 26, 2019, issue)Speech

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