Armchair Psychologist Gets An Update On "Help! My Coworkers Hate Me"


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Help! My Coworkers Hate Me

Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have struggled for many years to sustain gainful employment. I'm currently a level 1 Sommelier at an esteemed restaurant. I love to work, I'm very productive, and I am proud to say that I'm always one of the top performers. Also, I'm gregarious, kind, loving, and respectful to my coworkers but, eventually, I become the odd one out. In jobs where productivity is not measured against someone else, it tends to be less of a problem, but I frequently find myself on the receiving end of some blatant jealousy. Somehow, I think it's just human nature that if you are deemed a threat, your coworkers start putting more and more energy into getting you out of the equation. I'm embarrassed to admit this but I've been bullied out of many jobs that I was great at and loved — it's happening again at my current job. I recently learned I'm bipolar and while I'm totally fine and most people would never guess, I am learning that I really need my space. I've been in the restaurant industry for many years, I can make people laugh and smile, and I really can sell anything I believe in. I never finished my degree but if the opportunity presents itself, I am considering reinventing myself in a career that is mostly independent. So my question is, as a woman who should be planning her retirement, how do I plan to reinvent my career path?

Dear Lonely@TheTop,

I'm sorry to hear that your coworkers are teaming up against you. It's remarkable that you're an overachiever who prides themselves on excelling while also managing such a challenging disorder as bipolar. It concerns me that you have been an outcast repeatedly at many jobs. Is it possible your bipolar disorder is affecting how you interact with others and it simply may not be apparent to you? If that's not the case, perhaps it's something else.

I agree with you — human nature is human nature; it's not something you can fight about nor justify or logic your way to. It is what it is. But if you can't leap five feet in the air, it's not gravity, it's you. No matter how much you want to justify whether or not you are right or wrong in these work situations where it feels like your coworkers are teaming up against you, it's irrelevant. It's like gravity — you just have to learn to deal with it. Therefore, the only thing you can change is you, as you can't change gravity. You have to look inside yourself and examine what you can change in order to cohabit with other humans.

I recommend you take a coworker that you like, (or your boss), out for a drink, and tell them how much you like everyone at work and explain you're having trouble connecting, then ask why? I bet you this feedback will be very useful and as a result, (instead of being bullied out of a job you enjoy and are great at), you can eventually uncork a bottle of old Mousigny with your newfound peers!

- The Armchair Psychologist

The Armchair Psycholgist Gets An Update!

The woman above wrote to me about being a threat to her coworkers and not getting along with them. I suggested the problem may lie within her inability to connect gregariously and look into discussing the matter with her boss.

Dear Armchair Psychologist,
So update about my coworkers hating me, (I never said that but that was your interpretation). I was direct and asked my coworker and boss directly what's going on. Turns out it was a big misunderstanding. My coworker is, in fact, jealous of my sales, because I double hers, but she actually likes me a lot, it just made her feel insecure in her position so she was constantly trying to prove herself in other areas. My boss was under pressure that had nothing to do with me and didn't realize that it was coming across as being hostile. We've cleared the air and it's back to chill and that this happens all the time was really just my own projection and anxiety. I was amplifying the reality. I actually asked to work somewhere else most of the week so I could give her the space to thrive and she really has. I'm great at sales but what I learned was sometimes there's so much more value in taking a step back, considering someone's feeling about their seniority and contribution. Now she's caught up to me in sales at our location, it's changed her feelings about herself and me. I don't have to be number one. I also learned if something makes me uncomfortable I'm quick to want to run because I avoid stress. It was literally one long eye-opening conversation with my boss and I'm happy to report that most of what was concerning me was easily and immediately resolved.
-Not-So-Lonely @ The Top Anymore

Need more armchair psychologist in your life? Check out the last installment or email armchairpsychologist@swaaymedia.com to get some advice of your own!

5 Min Read

Judge Tanya Acker On Overcoming Racial Barriers And Her Rise To The Top

You may recognize Judge, Tanya Acker, from her political and legal commentary on different networks and shows like Good Morning America, The Talk, Wendy Williams, CNN Reports or The Insider. Acker is more than an experienced commentator. She is also a Judge on the fifth season of Emmy nominated CBS show, Hot Bench.

The show, created by Judge Judy, is a new take on the court genre. Alongside Acker, are two other judges: Patricia DiMango and Michael Corriero. Together the three-panel judges take viewers inside the courtroom and into their chambers. “I feel like my responsibility on the show is, to be honest, fair, [and] to try and give people a just and equitable result," Acker says. She is accomplished, honest and especially passionate about her career. In fact, Acker likes the fact that she is able to help people solve problems. “I think that efficient ways of solving disputes are really at the core of modern life.

“We are a very diverse community [with] different values, backgrounds [and] beliefs. It's inevitable that we're going to find ourselves in some conflicts. I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.

Acker's career has been built around key moments and professional experiences in her life. Particularly, her time working right after college impacted the type of legal work she takes on now.

Shaping Her Career

Acker didn't foresee doing this kind of work on television when she was in college at either Howard University or Yale Law. “I was really open in college about what would happen next," Acker comments. “In fact, I deliberately chose a major (English) that wouldn't lock me into anything [because] I wanted to keep all of my options open." Her inevitable success on the show and throughout her career is an example of that. In fact, after graduating from Yale, Acker served as a judicial law clerk to Judge Dorothy Nelson who sits on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

It was not only her first job out of law school but also one of the formative experiences of her professional life. “[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law," she exclaims. “She delivers it all with a lot of love." Judge Nelson is still on the bench and is continuing to work through her Foundation: The Western Justice Center in Pasadena, California, where Acker serves on the board. The foundation helps people seeking alternative ways of resolving their disputes instead of going to court.

"I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.

“It was important to her to try and create platforms for people to resolve conflict outside of court because court takes a long time," Acker explains. “I'm proud to be a part of that work and to sit on that board."

After her clerkship, she was awarded a Bristow Fellowship and continued building her career. Outside of the fellowship, Acker's legal work incorporated a broad variety of matters from civil litigation, constitutional cases, business counseling, and advising. One of her most memorable moments was representing a group of homeless people against the city. “They were being fought for vagrancy and our defense was, they had no place to go," she shares.

As part of her pro bono work, Acker was awarded the ACLU's First Amendment Award for her success with the case. Though, she has a hard time choosing from one of many memorable moments on Hot Bench. Acker does share a few of the things that matter to her. “Our show is really drawn from a cross-section of courtrooms across America and the chance to engage with such a diverse group of people really means a lot to me," she discusses.

How Did Acker Become A Judge?

In addition to Judge Nelson, Judge Judy is certainly among her top professional influences. “I think it's incredible [and] I feel very lucky that my professional career has been bookended by these incredible judges," she acclaims. “I've really learned a lot from Judy about this job, doing this kind of job on television." Before Acker was selected for Hot Bench, she hadn't been a judge. It was Judge Judy who recommended that she get some experience. Acker briefly comments on her first experience as a temporary judge on a volunteer basis in traffic court. “I was happy to be able to have the chance to kind of get a feel for it before we started doing the show," she comments. “Judy is a wonderful, kind, generous person [and] she's taught me quite a lot. I feel lucky."

Judge Acker in white pantsuit with her dog. Photo Courtesy of Annie Shak.

Acker's Time Away From Home

Outside of Hot Bench, Acker took recent trips to Haiti and Alabama. They were memorable and meaningful.

Haiti, in particular, was the first trip she excitedly talks about. She did some work there in an orphanage as part of LOVE Takes Root, an organization that is driven to help children around the world whether it's basic aid or education. “Haiti has a special place in my heart," she began. “As a person who's descended from enslaved people, I have a lot of honor and reverence for a country that threw off the shackles of slavery."

She was intrigued by the history of Haiti. Especially regarding the communities, corrupt government and natural disasters. “They really had to endure a lot, but I tell you this when I was there, I saw people who were more elegant, dignified, gracious and generous as any group of people I've ever met anywhere in the world," she goes on. “I think it left me with was a strong sense of how you can be graceful and elegant under fire." Acker is optimistic about the country's overall growth and success.

“[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law."

“There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," Acker says. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving."

Her other trip was different in more ways than one. She traveled there for the first time with her mother as part of a get out to vote effort, that Alabama's First black House Minority Leader, Anthony Daniels was organizing. “It was incredible to take that trip with her [and] I've got to tell you, the South of today is not the South of my mother's upbringing," she explains. Originally from Mississippi, Acker's mother hasn't been back in the South since 1952. “Every place has a ways to go, but it was a really exciting trip [and] it was nice for me to connect with that part of the country and that part of my history."

Overcoming Racial Barriers

As a black woman, Acker has certainly faced challenges based on her race and gender. But it doesn't define who she is or what she can accomplish. “There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," she says. “There's no sort of barrier that someone would attempt to impose upon me that they didn't attempt to impose on my mother, grandmother or great-grandmother." In a space where disparity is sometimes apparent, she recognizes that there is no barrier someone would try to impose on her that they didn't attempt to impose on her mother or grandmothers. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving," Acker states. The conversation continues truthfully and seriously. Acker shares what it can be like for black women, specifically. “I think we're underestimated and we can be disrespected, whereas other folks are allowed the freedom to enjoy a full range of emotions and feelings," she articulates.

At times black women are often restricted from expressing themselves. “If someone wants to make an assumption or jump to a conclusion about me because of my race or gender, that's on them, but their assumptions aren't going to define me," Acker declares. “If something makes me angry or happy I will express that and if someone wants to caricature me, that's their pigeonholing; that's not my problem." A lifelong lesson she learned and shared is to not let other people define who you are. It is one of three bits of wisdom.

Three Pieces Of Advice From Judge Acker

The Power Of Self-awareness

“It's really important that you have a really firm sense of what you want to do and be, and how you're moving in the world because when people try to sway you, judge you or steer you off course you've got to have some basis for getting back on track."

Know Your Support System

“Have a strong community of people who you trust, love and who love you," she advises. “But also learn to love and trust yourself because sometimes it's your own voice that can provide you the most comfort or solace in something."

Learn From Your Experiences

“Trust yourself. Take care of yourself. Don't be too hard on yourself. Be honest with yourself.

“There are times when it's not enough to say this is who I am. Take it or leave it. Sometimes we've got things that we need to work on, change or improve upon," she concludes.

Acker stands out not only because of her accomplishments, but the way she views certain aspects of her life. These days, she's comfortable accepting what makes her different. “I think there's a time when you're younger when conformity feels comfortable, [but] I'm comfortable these days not conforming," she laughs. She enjoys being a decision maker and helping people work through it on Hot Bench.

This article was originally published May 15, 2019.