Ask E. Jean: My Co-Worker Is Difficult to Work With

Life & Love

Dear E. Jean: I’ve always struggled with self-confidence, at least professionally. Fortunately, I’m pleased that my career is flourishing at a prestigious law firm. However, I have a female colleague who publicly maligns my ideas. (This has been a running theme for an entire year.) She approves of nothing I do and barely hides her contempt for my intelligence; yesterday, she wrote an email to my boss about how my work sucks. I cried in my office.

Aside from her email yesterday, there’s little concrete proof that she’s targeting me deliberately. She knows how to make me feel unwelcome without coming off as a bully or harasser. My boss, who has never managed people before, is in way over his head and has brought in HR to help. They believe she and I are just struggling with poor communication. I am 100 percent sure that “communication” is not the issue. The worst part: It’s damaging my self-esteem. How do I stop this woman from getting to me?—Impostor Syndrome

Impostor, My Parsnip: “Contempt” for your intelligence? Bah! Fear of your intelligence is more like it. I looked you both up—thank you for sending the LinkedIn links—and I see that you’re not only wittier and probably smarter than she is, but you’re also 15 years her junior, with your own cool feminist podcast. Of course, of course, of course the poor woman wants you out. Stand up, Impostor! You’re the real deal! Defend your ideas! Prove her wrong! (Is that enough exclamation points?)

This letter is from the Ask E. Jean Archive, 1993-2017. Send questions to E. Jean at

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