Q and A: Keep 'copycat coworker' at a professional distance
QUESTION: You have previously written about "copycat coworkers," but my copycat is really extreme. "Megan" has started dressing exactly like me and even went to my eye doctor to get the same glasses. She always duplicates my order at lunch and ha...
QUESTION: You have previously written about "copycat coworkers," but my copycat is really extreme. "Megan" has started dressing exactly like me and even went to my eye doctor to get the same glasses. She always duplicates my order at lunch and has items similar to mine on her desk.
Last week, I happened to meet someone who is friends with Megan. This complete stranger knew a lot about me because Megan apparently talks about me all the time. This is getting kind of creepy. Should I be worried?
ANSWER: Some copycat coworkers are pathetic, ineffectual people in search of an identity. Others are emotionally unbalanced and obsessed. But in either case, the recipient of this unwanted attention usually finds it rather unnerving to encounter a mirror image day after day.
If Megan just seems to be seeking a role model, begin gently nudging her towards greater individuality. For example: "Megan, I'm flattered that you admire my taste in clothes, but if we look too much alike, I'm afraid people won't see your own unique personality." Try putting some one-of-a-kind items on your desk or delaying your lunch order until she places hers.
Remain pleasant and professional, but keep all conversations focused on work. Don't become overly friendly or share any personal information. Eventually, her fixation should subside or shift to another target.
On the other hand, obsessions do occasionally escalate into stalking. If this woman ever starts approaching you outside the office, immediately notify your boss or human resources manager, then contact the appropriate authorities for advice on self-protection.
Q: I would like to transition from my current secretarial position to a job in our information technology department. I discussed this with my supervisor and mentioned my interest in taking some technical certification courses. Today he sent me an e-mail asking if I would like to begin this career transition by working part-time on our computer help desk.
I'm not sure what my supervisor's real motives are for making this suggestion. Most technicians view the help desk as an undesirable position, because you have to sit in one place and take calls all day. If I'm trained for the help desk, I may be stuck there forever. Am I being too suspicious?
A: Your supervisor may indeed be trying to kill two birds with one stone, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. If he can help you meet your goals while simultaneously addressing an organizational need, that's just smart management.
Radical career changes usually require a "stepping stone" approach. Because most managers are reluctant to hire a complete neophyte, you must first find a job in which your previous experience adds value. This initial move will allow you to acquire new skills and eventually qualify for more desirable positions.
If the help desk represents a logical first step, your boss may be offering you a valuable opportunity. And once you are actually doing technical work, your company is more likely to fund that technical certification training.