Frying Pan Into the Fire

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I just started a new job at the cross-town rival of the firm I work at for the last five
years. A woman I thought would be my favorite colleague recruited me. She’s
super bright and very ambitious. Secretly I was hoping to replace her when she
moves on, which she’d hinted would be in about two years. But I don’t think I am
going to last that long, and the $15K more than me she makes isn’t going to be
worth having to put up with her controlling, insensitive, hierarchical, and
demeaning style for the duration. I’d expected to be a colleague, not an assistant.
She keeps me tied to her every hour I am there, and never lets me make any
decisions. The way she treats our secretary (a woman I would have walked on
my knees to bring coffee if she’d worked at my last job) is too rude to bear
watching let alone begin forced to emulate. My boss thinks the other senior staff
should come to her, not that her job exists to serve them, which is how I see it. I
know I could it do better, if I survive my probation and her tenure. How can I
make it.
Frying Pan Into the Fire

Dear Frying Pan:
This is a two-stage liberation process. Job one is to earn her trust, so that the
apron strings get increasingly long and eventually disappear. You need to create
an independent identity in the minds of the other supervisors and the ultimate
bosses. That identity should include all her best qualities, because I assume she
is good at what she does. But it should mitigate her worst ones. You want folks to
see you as not only a productive and efficient generator of whatever service you
provide, but someone helpful, with whom interactions are positive as well as
productive. Someone who is a team player, who appreciates a collaborative
environment, the proverbial team player. Show them a clear and better
alternative, but smile at her the whole time you’re doing it.

Become the person colleagues choose to work with during a deadline crisis.
Someone who’s level-headed and who knows how to turn problems into
solutions. Be someone who can make people laugh when they want to cry, and
who makes them happy to see you when you show up at their door. If you do,
management might choose to replace her with you faster than she’d choose to
leave on her own, or she may move on more quickly. Stay with this job at least a
year as there’s lots of potential to grow and be rewarded. And bring the secretary
coffee, often and gratefully, but with both feet on the ground.