A Doorman Speaks: When staff relationships become soap opera

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Gossiping, arguing, bad mouthing, pushing, shoving and fighting. It makes for a tantalizing new reality show or soap opera. And, it has nothing to do with the residents of a building. It’s the staff.

Let’s face it, most of time the staff members of a building are supposed to be on the same page and act like a family. There are those moments, however, when opinions clash, resulting in tension among coworkers. In some cases, it escalates into full-blown boxing matches with the result being instant termination. That’s one thing a building will never allow, no matter how well liked the two participants are.

But, before we get to that level of heated coworker angst, let's figure out how bad blood between staff guys can slowly simmer, then come to a boil. It starts with the job.

Personally, I dread the fact that if working a night shift when it is raining, I must lay down mats throughout the lobby and in the elevators. It's not the task that I resent. Hey, this is standard procedure for every building. It's the fact that I will arrive for work the next day, when the weather outside is let’s say 60 degrees and sunny, and find what-the-hell, the mats are still on the floor of the lobby and elevators. And so it begins.

The first logical approach is to politely ask whoever is on duty to kindly pick them up whenever the weather doesn't warrant their use. As time passes, and your polite request repeatedly falls on deaf ears, you find yourself in a pattern of picking up after someone else, doing their job. You are not happy.

The next step a doorman will take is to “forget” to do some things himself, things that will fall on the other guy's shoulders and add to his work pile. Examples include not writing certain things in the log book, so the person on duty (he of floor mat fame) will be caught off guard when a delivery is made. Maybe we forget to pass on instructions from a resident regarding a visitor or something to be picked up. Or perhaps we don't work the compactor or take out garbage and leave it for the next person on the next shift the next time.

Purposely misplacing tools and equipment, or scheduling way too many open houses on one day -- these are other retaliation measures. Who would think that building staff could be so catty? And then it gets worse. The next step may be bad-mouthing an individual to another coworker, maybe to residents.

A staff guy in some tiff with a coworker will thrive on the complaints and rants of people living in the building, especially if the complaints and rants pertain to the person with whom the staff guy has a beef. Those conversations go like this:

Resident: “I can’t believe so-and-so hasn’t done what I asked.” or “So-and-so tried to fix something and he made matters worse.”

Doorman: “I’m telling you. Many people in the building have been complaining about him. You should call management.”

Yep. Thrown out there with just the right amount of "just between you and me" and "someone should do something about this," a call might be made to management. Or maybe this staff guy gets stiffed on the tips he gets from this resident during the holidays, all because a coworker was pissed off at him and made him out to be the worst person employed by the building.

One story that made the rounds in my building's neighborhood had a doorman, close to retiring, so enraged with another coworker that he threatened him with a hammer. The doorman lost his job and any hopes of netting a full pension.

Many of us are taking this as a cautionary tale -- no matter how angry we get at other staff people, we can't let that be us. As corny as it sounds, we have to go along and get along. Sometimes that means swallowing your pride. Sometimes it means working out extra hard in the gym to get rid of your frustrations. Whatever it takes, like the Nike ad used to say, just do it. 

 


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