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I had a situation pop up at work and it reminded me I still have a lot of work to do on myself.  Hopefully I can get some productive insight.


To give some background, I recently finished another degree, switched career fields, and started a new, high-stress job. I have been hanging in there, but am starting to mentally drain. Not sure it will get better in the immediate future but I am optimistic long-term. Right now, I am not on a regular schedule, and work a mixture of morning, day, evening, and overnight shifts. In a few weeks I will be mostly on days so that will be better schedule-wise and exposure to the person I will be discussing will (hopefully) be less frequent.


When working on an overnight shift, there is a colleague who works with us but in a different job scope. During the day and pretty much any time except when she is working, we intercom page to get her department's services. Being a new person, sometimes her or another colleague are in the area but I don't notice and I page them, see them standing there, and I acknowledge them and apologize. Done. This particular colleague gets very angry when this happens. It happened a few weeks ago, she scolded me, and I said sorry and laughed it off, and explained I was new. This was the only interaction I have had with her until last night.


I worked a very stressful 11 hours at this point, it is 2am, and I didn't see her down the hall when I intercom paged her. She blew up, started yelling. I said sorry and tried to laugh it off. She then accuses me of something else, saying she asked me something and I gave her the wrong information on that too. I don't believe I did and non-confrontationally tried to tell her what happened. She wouldn't have it, and I didn't want to argue with a stranger about something that in my opinion is trivial. I say "ok, I was wrong then" to squash it. On a side note, if I could just page her as we usually do, there would have been no discrepancy or confusion about the "wrong information" I supposedly gave her. I then walk past her a few minutes later and asks me if I am going to XYZ, and without looking at her I nod because I have had enough, and she aggressively says "I am over HERE" (because I didn't look at her) so I look at her and nod and she says I better bring XYZ back (which is not my job, her job) (I don't mind helping colleagues that ask nicely and are nice to me). As I am walking away, the answer I gave to where I was headed wasn't sufficient, and I could hear her loudly talking about that down the hall. Later, for an unrelated incident, she was slamming things and swearing while working. It made me super anxious and was nervous she was going to blame me for what she was mad about, even though it wasn't my fault. 


I was so rattled. I try so hard to get along with everyone and be friendly. I know that you can't win everyone over but regardless of how I feel about someone, I like to have a baseline of professionalism and respect. I have major social anxiety so socialization other than work-related topics has been tough for me, but I believe I am kind. The problem is, once people burn that bridge with me, in the past, I tend to become spiteful, awkward, or passive aggressive and it spirals. I know these are protective defense mechanisms that my brain jumps to in order to protect myself, but ends up adding to the problem instead of fixing it. (Again, things I need to work on). This time, I want to do better. I also ruminate about issues like this, which causes major emotional and physical distress. I want to be done torturing myself.


The problem is, I am not sure what my choices are here. I just know I don't want to work in a toxic environment, get a bad reputation this early on, and am not interested in getting her in trouble. I don't want to have anxiety or obsess about this. But I also don't want to be "picked on" or a door mat. I am too old for that. I debated walking up and saying something to her, but I already apologized for my "mistake", which really was her wanting control over things. There is nothing to be "sorry" for. Not making eye contact was probably my passive aggressive mechanism, but she just yelled at and embarrassed me; what did she expect? Respect? That she doesn't give to me? I feel like she knows she can get away with it and I am being targeted. I also don't think talking to her would work because I don't get the impression she is rational. I could go into work and do my best to get a clean slate; fake a smile and pleasantries could work but I am not great at being fake. I feel like it's only a matter of time before something else makes her mad, she bosses me around, or she makes rude comments and I am not here for it. I am afraid either I will gain an enemy by standing up for myself (using my ineffective tactics/defense mechanisms) or become a doormat for her anger (by accepting, ignoring, avoiding or resorting to a victim mentality). 


I also am trying to see her point of view. Perhaps she is unhappy in her own life, feels a loud page when she is around is insulting (although not intentional from me, perhaps in the past it was from others), feels insecure and has to assert dominance, or perhaps being mean to the new person makes her feel good. Differences in cultural backgrounds may be a factor. Maybe she is worried about money or has sickness in her family. Maybe she doesn't think she's being mean at all. Maybe she doesn't care either way. We never really know whats going on with people. 


I came home this morning and have been thinking about this non-stop. I went to bed thinking about it, woke up thinking about it. I have a tightness in my chest that isn't going away and my heart keeps racing. Why do I let this effect me? How do I handle this without compromising my self-esteem, integrity, or sanity? And the answer comes back to the fact that I need to be a better master of my emotions and probably work on my self-esteem. I need better tools to effectively handle the complexities of people and issues that arise. I need to go to bed and wake up knowing that despite what happens in life, I trust myself to be the best version of me and have that be enough. This is where I am stuck because this takes time. I can/did start today but it won't happen overnight.


So, I am looking for advice on how to handle this in the meantime. I work again in two days and I need a game plan. I cannot allow this to effect me the way it did last night.


Going to the boss isn't an option. 

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I’m going to guess you don’t want to talk about involving the boss for some reason. I’m curious as to why or what that reason is, because that seems like the simplest solution. What you described is really the boss’s work, or responsibility. 


But there must be something you want, other than that, and I can only assume it’s to be able to calmly, confidently, handle it yourself satisfactorily. Maybe more so, to not be thrown off or moved by the actions & behaviors others, regardless of what mood they’re in, what attitude, energy or vibration they offer you. 


So what comes to mind along that avenue if you’d like to explore, is reaction or being triggered vs responding or integrity. 


Confidence & empowerment vs apprehension, fear, powerlessness or insecurity. 


Empathy & compassion vs othering, isolation, stress, tension and anxiety. 


Am I in the ballpark? 


I also hear that you’re looking for productive insight. I’m offering the suggestion, that the first productive insight is that engagement, talking about it, is the key. 


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