should I speak up about my coworker’s lack of professionalism?

A reader writes:

I was wondering if you could help me figure out how to approach an issue with another coworker. I was recently hired to work as a scheduler/administrative assistant in a busy doctor’s office, and while I love my new job and most of my coworkers, I’ve noticed that the other scheduler, who has been here for almost 2 years, doesn’t have quite the same level of professionalism as my other coworkers and I do. The admins all work really well together for the most part, and pride ourselves on giving great service to the patients in our department. The scheduler in question (I’ll call him John) just … doesn’t have those standards. He shows up wearing dirty jeans and sneakers, while the other admins and I make an effort to look professional and well-put together, his grammar and spelling is atrocious (most of our job is done via email), and he consistently shows up late. Worst of all, I’ve heard him on the phone with patients, and they way he speaks to them and leaves messages for them is less than professional, especially since we have specific rules on what we can and cannot say in a voicemail.

I know our manager sees how he dresses and how he writes his emails, so I’m assuming that if she considered it a problem she would address it with him, but I feel like the way he acts, and especially the way he interacts with patients, negatively affects how the doctors and patients view us as a whole, especially since we work so closely together. I’ve seen you offer advice on here regarding annoying employees that basically says to let certain things go if it’s not directly affecting you, and I’m wondering if that’s the case here, or whether I should speak to my manager about this. I’ve been getting extremely positive feedback since I started, and the other admins have noticed the difference in the way I work versus John’s, but I wonder if it’s too soon to bring up something like this, if I even should. Any advice would be appreciated!

That would annoy me too, but it’s not really your place to speak up about it. As you point out, his manager sees the same things you do, and it’s up to her to address it. If she’s not doing it, then it tells you something about what her standards are, which tells you something what kind of manager she is … which actually points to the bigger problem being with her than with him.

Of course, it’s also possible that she is addressing it with him. That’s not something you’d typically know about, since managers don’t generally broadcast to the rest of the staff when they’re having serious conversations with someone and issuing warnings. Once the behavior has gone on for a certain amount of time with no chance, it’s safer to assume that nothing is being done — but even then, different workplaces take different lengths of time in addressing these things. Personally I’m a big fan of relatively short warning periods, because generally, if you’re going to see the improvement you need, you’re going to see evidence of it within weeks, not months … but there are an awful lot of workplaces out there that give people months and months to improve.

In any case, the point is that your manager already has access to the same information you do, so you wouldn’t be providing her with anything new. That doesn’t mean that it’s never worth raising issues if your manager already knows about them — there are times when it makes sense to raise it anyway (for instance, when it’s impacting your morale or making it hard to get your own work done or when you see a different piece of than she does). But when you’re new? No. Can’t do it.

Because you’re new, it’s likely to come across as … well, lack of standing. They have their way of doing things, you’re still figuring out what it is, and it rarely goes over well when someone new comes in and — without the authority to so — tells people to change what they’re perfectly content with.

This one isn’t your problem to solve.

{ 95 comments… read them below }

  1. mollsbot*

    I worked at a doctors office for years with a frustrating coworker.

    The way I handled it was by continuing to work hard and follow the rules. Before you knew it, a lot of patients (and some doctors) were asking for me specifically. That was the biggest reward, especially after I left and I heard from my manager that patients continued to ask for me months after my last day.

  2. Poe*

    Shouldn’t it be “…grammar and spelling ARE atrocious”? I might be wrong, but it just kind of taints that comment for me.

    1. OP here!*

      Thanks so much for pointing this out – I’ll never say my grammar is perfect, but I can assure you, his is far, far worse than a simple “is/are” mix-up.

        1. Rana*

          I love Muphry’s Law! (It’s also why I try not to play grammar police when I’m not on the clock – I seem particularly prone to falling victim to it under those circumstances.)

          1. Ruffingit*

            I was once a reporter and copy editor for a publication and while I can more easily spot a lot of errors in writing, I usually won’t point them out when it’s a blog or e-mail (unless it’s a work-related situation). I don’t expect perfection when people are quickly writing a Facebook posting, e-mail to a friend, etc. In fact, I find the correction of errors more irritating than the actual error in those situations. But that’s me.

    2. Anony1234*

      I agree. Regardless if this is an informal letter to a blog or an email she sent within her office, it detracts from that one particular complaint.

      1. Cat*

        Why? Even if this particular letter was representative of every thing she had ever written and will ever write, it’s irrelevant how good the OP’s spelling and grammar are. The question is about what the other employee is doing and the advice given is the same either way.

      2. Anonymous*

        Although I am picky about my own spelling and grammar, I see far more egregious errors than the OP’s on a regular basis. In my opinion, if a message can be read once at a normal pace and the meaning easily understood after that reading, its quality probably won’t reflect badly on the organization or person sending it. If multiple people have to put their heads together to interpret it, then there’s *definitely* a problem.

  3. COT*

    OP, you mentioned that you have specific rules about what you can and can’t say in voicemails. If your coworker is violating these in a serious way (releasing too much personal information, violating HIPPA, etc.) AND you don’t think your boss is aware of this part, that might be worth bringing up.

    1. Runon*

      I agree with this. If there is danger (HIPPA brings with it serious legal implications I believe) that the coworker is potentially putting the office at risk that needs to be brought to the managers attention.

    2. OP here!*

      I thought about it, but it’s not (to the best of my knowledge) a HIPAA violation. It’s just that I work in a hospital that deals exclusively with a certain type of serious illness. He’ll leave a message that says “Hi, this is John from Dr. Doe’s office, please give us a call as soon as you get this. Thanks, bye.” And it’s not an emergency, it’s just a simple call to schedule a follow up appointment. Our patients will call back, completely panicking because they think something is seriously wrong, and he doesn’t understand that you shouldn’t leave overly vague messages like that to people who are dealing with cancer.

      1. OP here!*

        Aaaand I just realized that I gave away what illness we work with in the last sentence. Oops.

        1. Nancie*

          Since we don’t know anything that would identify any of your patients, you’re good.

          If the Dr. or facility that John states in his messages deals only with cancer patients, that may still be a HIPAA violation.

      2. Runon*

        In this case I’d say just follow AAM’s words of wisdom for all of it. Do your job, do it well, recognize it isn’t your job to fix your coworker.

      3. KellyK*

        Wow, yeah. Really, you shouldn’t leave overly vague messages for *any* patient, especially if they sound urgent, but that should apply doubly for people with cancer.

        Since that’s a pretty specific problem, I would talk to your boss about that particular thing and phrase it as a question, asking how to leave messages for follow-up appointments, noting that you want to make sure you’re not violating a patient’s privacy by being too specific, but also that you’re not worrying them by being needlessly vague. You could mention that when John leaves X message, patients seem concerned, so you want to make sure you’re handling it correctly.

      4. Marina*

        I think that’s worth bringing up to your manager, because it’s not your concerns with your coworker, it’s your clients’ concerns. Clients calling in a panic is definitely information your manager should have.

      5. big picture*

        Oh, geez, I would freak out if I got this message on my voice mail. I am a cancer survivor, 15 years, but I am nervous every year when I get all of my regular tests. This message would cause me to lose sleep until I finally spoke with the office – I have gotten a message like this before, so I know. One of my better doctor’s offices tacks on “it’s not urgent, just call us as soon as you can.” That little phrase helps a lot.

      6. Anonymous*

        Some places won’t even leave a voicemail with the doctor’s speciality, hospital, treatment center, or business name in it because of fear of violating HIPAA.

        1. OP here!*

          Yeah, we don’t leave the name of our hospital. It’s an immediate giveaway. We just say “Dr. So and so’s office”.

    3. Jessa*

      This is the first thing I thought. If the manager has not heard this guy on voicemail you might want to point THAT out to the manager. There are huge fees if he’s violating policy on that. But you being new submit that as “Manager, I had a question, I heard John say x,y, z, I thought we weren’t to do that, has that changed? I just don’t want to be doing it wrong and he’s been here longer.”

    4. Melissa Renee*


      Not HIPPA

      It’s health insurance portability accountability act

      Let’s stop the misuse of the acronym before my head explodes

  4. Nancie*

    [the] way he speaks to them and leaves messages for them is less than professional, especially since we have specific rules on what we can and cannot say in a voicemail

    If he’s leaving messages that could be HIPAA violations, that may be a concern. If that’s the case, I’d approach it by asking the manager if patients typically authorize having medical information left on their voice mail.

    1. Jessica*

      Still, I’d talk to the coworker first. Say something like, “Oh, you may not have known this, but we’re not supposed to give that information in a message. It can be a really big fine, if we do! But it’s okay, you didn’t know.”

      HIPAA can be really confusing, so he may very well not know he’s doing anything wrong.

      1. B*

        I would go about this differently, especially since he has been there for 2 years.

        If you wanted to talk directly to the coworker you could say “I heard you giving out this information, I thought we weren’t allowed to because we would be fined and it’s a violation of HIPAA law. Is that incorrect, are we allowed to?”. Then if they say yes, and you still believe they are incorrect you could ask your manager.

  5. Jessica*

    None of the things the OP mentions her coworker doing seem to be all that horrible. Maybe coworker is going through a rough time and finding it a little harder to be perfect than his coworkers who have no trouble with such things. Or maybe he is just an uncaring schlub. Worse comes to worst, he’ll make the OP look better in comparison. Still, it might be nice to dial down the superior attitude and maybe see if some friendliness and compassion would be well-received.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I didn’t see a superior attitude at all! The things the OP is concerned by are things any conscientious person is going to be bothered by in a coworker.

        1. OP here!*

          I was going to say, if AAM thinks my attitude is superior, then I probably have something I need to work on :) But I love working in patient care and I just think it’s really important for patients to see a professional-looking office. Obviously, some of the things he does bother me, but if the manager considered it an issue she would say something (I hope?)

      2. Jessica*

        Maybe that was a bit of an uncharitable reading. I guess I just don’t get why people get so concerned about others’ work habits/presentation if it’s not affecting their own work. I can understand being concerned if he is really being rude to patients but that doesn’t seem clear from the letter.

        1. OP here!*

          I think you’re projecting way too much of your own experience onto mine. Also, as I stated, the reason I was concerned is because I was worried it negatively affected patient’s perception of our office as a whole, which IMO is a legitimate concern. I’m also perfectly willing to accept that it isn’t my problem to solve and there’s not much I can do except to keep calm and carry on.

        2. big picture*

          “I guess I just don’t get why people get so concerned about others’ work habits/presentation if it’s not affecting their own work.”

          Some of us take pride in the work done by the organizations that employ us, and take pride in the organizations themselves. This goes beyond our own jobs. When co-workers, particularly those that interact with the public and other outsiders, behave in a sloppy or negative way, it can make the entire organization look bad.

          1. AB*

            “Some of us take pride in the work done by the organizations that employ us, and take pride in the organizations themselves. This goes beyond our own jobs. When co-workers, particularly those that interact with the public and other outsiders, behave in a sloppy or negative way, it can make the entire organization look bad.”

            +1. I’m glad I never experienced this problem, but it would be extremely hard for me not to care if a coworker was doing something that put my organization in a bad light.

            1. Ruffingit*

              I had a job once where my manager was horrendously incompetent and the work we did was very public. Many people questioned me in public places about this manager’s work product and my co-workers and I got tired of trying to be neutral and deflecting the comments. We started telling people we agreed with their assessment. There was nothing else to do when multiple members of the public stopped us every day to ask about this guy and why he was doing some of the things he was doing. We had to do this because he was literally putting our names on some of his bad work that was very public so it looked like we did it when we had nothing to do with it at all.

              So yes, the bad work of one person in an organization can reflect on the whole. I hope the OP’s manager wakes up and does something about this guy, especially because he works at an oncologist’s office. You really need to have some compassion in the way you leave messages when people are dealing with serious illness.

        3. FD*

          When you’re in a job that is primarily about interacting with clients, the way your office presents itself is really important–and one unprofessional coworker can give the entire office a bad name.

    1. Ellie H.*

      I don’t have a lot of sympathy for someone who works in a doctor’s office, where behaving casually and unprofessionally toward patients could cause great emotional distress and leave a really bad impression, and doesn’t make an effort to communicate in a sensitive and professional fashion that is attuned to the needs of the patient. In short I think giving the patients a good “user interface” is a lot more important than thinking up reasons to be accommodating about an employee’s low performance. I didn’t really get an impression of superiority, just that the OP is reasonably concerned because poor communication to “customers” has more of a consequence in a doctor’s office than it might somewhere else.

    2. Brooke*

      I didn’t get the idea of “superior attitude” either. I just read it as thought the OP was frustrated with co-worker’s lack of professionalism and I can relate to this. Unprofessionalism is one of my biggest pet peeves! I also work in a doctor’s office and am constantly having to explain how to handle situations with professionalism. Professionalism is a quality to be learned (and I say that because I knew nothing about how to be professional until someone taught me in great detail). Perhaps this guy was just never taught how to be professional. I could argue that he possibly should have learned some from co-workers depending on how long he has worked there, but people don’t always follow the example that other’s set, but rather, they must be told how to be professional.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’ve had multiple requests for a post on “what it means to be professional” and am thinking of throwing it out to the readers to tackle at some point, since it’s such a massive topic.

        1. A teacher*

          Please do this! I read on here how people wish we taught it in high school (I do) but I’d be happy to use your advice along with that of other posters (Joey, Jamie ftposte, Mike C., Kelly, Etc…)

        2. KarenT*

          I’d love to see this. It’s such an important topic. I look back on things I did/said in my early career and cringe.
          It’s also something that can vary wildly from industry to industry, region to region, and company to company.

    3. Anonymous*

      This is admittedly an assumption, but it sounds like you’re projecting a little bit from your own experience. Why shouldn’t we take the OP at face value when she says that her co-worker doesn’t dress in line with the company culture, doesn’t communicate correctly or professionally, and comes to work late? All of those things are very valid concerns to have about someone at your own level. She’s not asking for him “to be perfect,” she wants him to maintain basic office professionalism like she and her other peers do. Obviously, AAM is correct that there’s nothing she can do about it, but it’s not invalid for her to be bothered by it, regardless of his personal life.

      1. -X-*

        I think that even though the OP isn’t John’s manager, she should mention these things *once*, clearly to a leader in the organization.

        In an vaguely collaborative work environment, we are responsible for trying to improve things. While it’s likely the organization’s leaders are aware of these problems and don’t care much, I think a responsibly employee shouldn’t ignore things that are being done badly. They also shouldn’t spend a lot of energy trying to change things that are not directly part of their job, but bringing this issue up once is not a large use of time and might have some effect.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t see it as that either; the OP seemed concerned about the overall professionalism of the office as relating to the coworker’s interaction with clients. Granted, it’s not her place to say anything, as AAM advised, but it’s a valid concern nonetheless, given the sensitive nature of their work. Especially the business about the voicemails.

      I don’t know any forward-facing office dealing with clients that would put up with a schlubby appearance. I can only imagine there is something going on that the OP doesn’t know about, or that the manager is aware and dealing with it behind the scenes.

  6. SMCR*

    John is the practice owner’s nephew.

    Just kidding–I don’t know that for a fact but would not be surprised! I agree with Alison. Continue to be as good as you are at your job, and let John crash and burn on his own (or not–after all, he is the owner’s nephew!)

  7. Adam V*

    When I read this, I thought “isn’t it possible that she *is* addressing it, by hiring someone to take over that will be more professional (i.e., the OP)?”

    1. Angela*

      Good point! I see that quite a bit where a manager wants to let someone go, but wants to hire someone and get them up to speed before making the change. I am not saying that this is the right way to handle a poor performer, but it does happen.

  8. B*

    Agree with others regarding HIPAA. If that is the case then you should mention this to your manager in question form. You can ask if it is ok to leave information for certain patients or if they are all off limits. Since you are new there may be some patients who have already given their authorization to leave information and you don’t know.

    This comes into play with you being new. For certain people I am going to be more friendly and may sound different if it’s someone who I have a relationship with and have cultivated it that way. But as a new person you would not know this.

    His attire may be being addressed, he may have a reason for it, he may be someone’s nephew, cousin, best friend’s son. Whatever the case, it does not truly and directly affect your work and the manager sees it. Continue to dress and act how you are as that is the only person you can truly take care of.

  9. AnotherAlison*

    Reminds me of when I had to schedule surgery with someone who insisted on calling me “girlfriend.” Like, “Alright girlfriend, let’s get you set up with an appointment,” or, “Okay girlfriend, you’re good to go for next Wednesday. Good luck!”

    That office also had a Friday jeans day, which I had not seen before and found off-putting. Medical offices show so much hierarchy through their clothes that it’s confusing when everyone’s in jeans AND they’re name badges are on their hip or something where you can’t see them.

    I agree it’s not the OP’s place to mention John’s behavior, esp. so soon after starting, but someone should take care of the issue.

    1. mollsbot*

      When you say everyone is in jeans, do you mean nurses and doctors too?

      I worked in a doctors office where we had jeans day on Friday, but no one in the office wore scrubs, ever and the doctors did not wear jeans on Fridays.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        It’s been a while, so I’m not sure about the doctor. IIRC, the nurses and medical assistants were normally in scrubs while the office staff wore business casual, but all were in jeans. I know some offices (where my sis works) also have office staff wear scrubs on normal days. I feel like this is bad practice & possibly meant to conceal from patients what the qualifications are of the person they’re seeing.

        (TBH, I’m not a huge “jeans day” fan in any type of office. I do wear jeans on Fridays, so I don’t stick out, but I always wear full length jeans and shoes, not capris and flip flops like some people at my office do. I think a lot of people look like they’re going to the beach, not work.)

        1. mollsbot*

          Yeah doctors offices are weird places.

          Jeans day is tricky for me, because I think it really depends on what the field is and if there is any interaction with the public. For example: let the kids at Walgreens wear jeans, but make teachers dress business casual!

        2. Chinook*

          I can see why some medical offices also have their office staff wear scrubs as a cleanliness thing. My local clinic has everyone in scrubs and the front desk people are often the ones being coughed on by sick patients. This way, they are able to strip off their work clothes and put them in the wash when they get home without worry of bringing any of those illnesses into their own home and closet.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Yeah, I understand that is the whole point of scrubs in the first place. I guess it’s paired in my mind of the trend a while back to go from people’s badges having titles like CNA, LPN, and RN to Patient Care Tech, Specialist, etc. I don’t know if that’s still a thing or not, since I’ve more or less been out of hospitals, etc. for several years.

            My sister’s office, where they can where scrubs, is an OBGYN, so *mostly* healthy patients, or not something you’re going to get from coughing! I rather see scrubs than jeans. : ) Sorry for being so old fashioned & weird!

            1. FreeThinkerTX*

              I just had my left hip replaced and am (most likely) about to have my right hip replaced [and I’m *only* 46!] so I’ve spent an unusual amount of time at the local county hospital. They make all the different job titles / job levels wear correspondingly-colored scrubs. (i.e., RNs are in red, NPs are in light blue, PAs are in dark blue, surgeons are in green, etc.). All the admin staff are dressed business casual. It’s *very* helpful to know what level/type of person I’m talking to, so I know what is and is not appropriate to ask them.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          I think jeans are fine (I get to wear them every day!) but DIRTY jeans, which the OP said the coworker wears, should be verboten. You can dress nicely even in jeans–it does require that they be clean and not ripped / stained.

          1. Emily K*

            My office has a dress code that is basically “anything goes” (nobody interacts with the public except over phone or email). Recently as part of a seminar we all had to rate ourselves and our coworkers (anonymously) on four dimensions, one of which was professional image. Literally everyone in my office got a 1/4 (lowest score) in that category. We all thought it was hilarious that we all KNOW that we all dress completely unprofessionally, but we all do it anyway because we know that none of us actually care, including our bosses, so it’s not holding anyone back. We all know what proper dress is and many of us have adhered to strict dress codes in prior jobs, and we all know to throw on a suit the two times a year we go to a networking event or something…but the rest of the time, we’re all so grateful we work for a place that lets us just be comfortable.

        4. Tinker*

          I’m also not into “jeans day”, but probably for different reasons. Either the office is one where the nature of the business permits jeans (or permits them sometimes, based on factors that are likely not dependent on the day of the week) or it is not. Having a more restrictive standard on four days of the week but not the fifth implies that the standard is arbitrary and makes the fifth day seem like an indulgence extended to children.

          I figure one of the many upsides of having earned my high school diploma is never having to deal with a “hat day” ever again, and I intend to enjoy this privilege to the hilt.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        My doctor wears jeans, and I love it! Her office is the best I’ve ever been to — a totally old-timey doctor’s office experience that I didn’t think existed anymore (tons of time spent with you, etc.).

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I really can’t think of one clinician that I’ve seen or taken my kids to, ever, that’s worn jeans & I live in KS, land of hillbillies and rednecks. Dentist, chiro, therapist, surgeon, oral surgeon, ob, ENT, GC, pediatricians. Is it common now & I’m just out of the loop?

        2. Ellie H.*

          I have the same kind of doctor. It’s a small practice (family practice style) right in my neighborhood that I can walk to. I’ve atypically had a lot of cause to go to the doctor in the past year and I can always get a same day appointment with someone there. My doctor is actually a nurse practitioner but I get full service, prescription writing, everything. It’s great.

        3. Rana*

          I wouldn’t have a problem with a doctor with jeans, so long as they were professional in other ways. My doctors (all women) generally tend to wear skirts or pants-plus-blouse or dresses under lab coats; their assistants wear scrubs.

    2. BCW*

      Hmm, maybe you should find another doctor’s office then if little things make you so uncomfortable. I mean, I can “somewhat” see how the girlfriend thing could make you mad. But I mean I’m a guy, and I’ve had receptionists and stuff call me sweetie or something. It actually makes me feel a bit more comfortable. And getting mad at the jeans thing? If the people are doing their jobs well, what does it matter? It just seems that you are finding nitpicky things to not like. And thats your prerogative, but if it bothers you that much, maybe its best to go somewhere more stuffy that makes you more comfortable.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I’m glad you can jump into my posts and make personal judgements about me. (More than once).

        I consider breast surgery kind of serious, and I rather talk about it in a professional atmosphere, not one where it feels like people can’t wait to get out and start their weekend. Other people might rather have a relaxed and casual atmosphere that would put *them* at ease. WTF do you care what I prefer???

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I had a breast cancer scare last year (I’m fine), and one receptionist I dealt with was pretty cavalier — and I agree, it *really* put me off. This was a hugely serious thing I was potentially dealing with, I was in a panic, and the casualness was out of place.

          (I do still like a doctor in jeans though.)

          1. mollsbot*

            As a former receptionist at a mental health clinic, I believe in making sure the patient feels as comfortable as possible with you. You are the face of the clinic, and can make or break someones experience.

            To make sure you are using the right tone of voice for that person you:
            1. Start every conversation with a new patient 100% business professional. Letting them know you take your job, and their health seriously.

            2. Every appointment after, maintain that professional tone. As your relationship develops, a good receptionist will be able to tell if they want you to proceed in a more casual/friendly tone of voice.

            3. Always remember that people’s preferences change.

            1. FreeThinkerTX*

              I totally agree any interaction where you are a customer/client should always start off 100% professional. I was pleased when I switched doctors 6-7 years ago and his nurse referred to me as “Ms. Patient”. By the 2nd or 3rd visit, however, I asked her to call me by my first name (especially since I address her by her first name), but for all these many years she has refused to do so, even though I ask her / point it out to her Every. Single. Time. I speak to her. She’s very sweet, but it drives me bonkers. :-)

              Please, anyone out there in any customer-facing role: Take the customer seriously when they tell you how they preferred to be addressed.

              (I was once married to someone in the Navy, but I kept my maiden name. The only way I could get anyone in the Navy’s healthcare or financial system to address me properly was to completely ignore them when they called me by his last name.)

        2. BCW*

          Hmm. I don’t think I made a personal judgment. I just said you seemed to not be comfortable with the general culture of that office since they allow those things like casual Friday. Which is basically what you said right? If I misunderstood then i’m sorry. My only point was if its not to your liking, then you don’t have to stay there. I’ve had serious surgery myself. It was a more laid back doctors office, and I liked it. I think everyone should be comfortable in their doctors office. It did say you were nitpicking, because to me, when it comes to my health, I consider whether the person is wearing jeans or dress slacks a very minor thing compared to say their competence.

      2. Forrest*

        Because its unprofessional – but it wasn’t her doctor it seems but the receptionist. And just because one lady does it doesn’t mean its the culture. At work we have one person that calls everyone sweetie and honey. Those of us who don’t like it ignore it but that doesn’t mean its acceptable to our culture. It means one person gets away with it. I think if it bothers her she should tell the doctor though.

        And I’m not sure what your gender has to do with anything.

  10. Alaine*

    I know how you feel, OP – this sounds a lot like the admin assistant/receptionist in my office. While she does a good job with admin tasks, she’s horrible at the receptionist part. She has been rude and short-tempered with clients, and has even yelled at some of them and was swearing at them on the phone. She has a very dour attitude and complains a lot. And she has been here for 8 years. Management has heard her swearing at people on the phone and has done nothing, so it’s just one of those situations that will never change. The most you can do is do your job well and be an example of professionalism, and others will notice the difference.

    1. OP here!*

      Oh my goodness! He’s definitely not nearly as bad as that – how are they letting her get away with swearing???

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        Oh my, you need to meet someone in my office, who does this whenever he is stressed -approx 1 a week, if not more….

  11. OP here!*

    Hi Alison, thank you so much for addressing my question! I figured it wasn’t something I should be bringing up with the manager, but I’m a relatively recent grad and new to the workforce, so in some ways, I’m still trying to figure out what’s acceptable and what’s not. This isn’t something that drastically affects my quality of life in the workplace, but the difference in the way he presents himself versus the way the other admins do is something that everyone notices. I think the only thing I can do is focus on doing my job to the best of my ability and try to be more polished while doing it.

    1. Rob Aught*

      That’s the right attitude.

      Worrying about the performance of others when you’re not the boss is not going to be a productive use of your time and will just cause you undue stress over a situation you cannot control.

      If there are legal or ethical concerns you can certainly bring those up. You already said there weren’t, so the best thing to do is focus on your tasks.

      I know this is frustrating, but those kinds of co-workers tend to put themselves out of work over time.

      1. OP here!*

        Yeah, it can be frustrating. I’m trying to focus only on things that directly affect my work, and dirty jeans and shoes with no socks (which is a HUGE personal peeve of mine, haha) doesn’t directly affect me. My biggest worry is that people will view both of us in the same light, since we work so closely together as the schedulers, but so far, I don’t think that’s happening. Thanks!

        1. Rob Aught*

          It might reflect poorly on your office which means it could reflect poorly on you, but maybe not as directly as you think.

          When I was consulting I had a co-worker who dressed very inappropriately. That didn’t represent us very well at the client site.

          However, the client liked me and my performance reviews were great. Sure, it was awkward around those at the office that just knew of us collectively as “the consultants” but for the people I worked closely with and my supervisors it was no impact.

          1. Nancie*

            I think the no-sock look is ridiculous with loafers — about as silly as socks + sandals.

            Boat shoes and sneakers look ok without socks.

        2. MovingRightAlong*

          I agree with AAM’s advice and reccomend, as others have, to be sure to differentiate yourself by continuing your own good work. If, however, a patient mentions something to you, offer to share her comments with your manager. It can be comforting to a client to know that her concerns are being addressed and that what she considers a poor experience is not the norm for your office. And, obviously, important for your manager to hear people’s feedback, good or bad.

      2. -X-*

        “Worrying about the performance of others when you’re not the boss is not going to be a productive use of your time and will just cause you undue stress over a situation you cannot control.”

        We shouldn’t worry a lot, but we should care a little. It affects the organization as a whole. And we might be able to influence it by talking to a leader in the organization. I’d urge the OP to mention it once to a trusted manager. After that, let it go – she’ll have done her part.

  12. Chocolate Teapot*

    I couldnt help but wonder if the unprofessional coworker was a close relative of the boss, or perhaps I am just being cynical.

    1. OP here!*

      Nope, it’s a good thought, but he’s not. The manger is fairly new to managing though, and judging from how she approaches work-related issues, I think she just hates conflict. I like her, actually, but I wish she was more … manager-y.

  13. Anonymous*

    With some more info provided in the OP’s follow up comments, I’d have to say I disagree now with AAM about letting it go. Because of the nature of what’s going on at that doctor’s office, with the emotions and the multiple testing involved, I think the coworker is a real detriment, because of their impact on patient care, and OP should say something. A simple error of saying test instead of test could have a real impact on a person. I wonder if the doctor has really considered how the coworkers behavior is impacting hir patients emotional well-being.

    1. Tinker*

      I think the question of the “coworker’s professionalism” is kind of a red herring here — the relevant issue here is what is or is not being said to the patients by the representative of the office.

      To a degree, that doesn’t change the answer to the question that much assuming that the manager is definitely known to be aware of what is going on — but I think there’s more latitude to ask questions, raise ideas, or express concerns based on “you know, X practice might have Y effect on the customer” (which is something that’s appropriate for any employee to consider) rather than “Bob is doing X, bad Bob” (which is not).

  14. Illya*

    I know the post is a year and a half old, but I would definitely tell the boss. The “little things” that you see might slip by the boss; in other words, the boss might not notice those issues until you bring his or her attention to them. As always, be polite and act with the utmost professionalism, but politely suggesting to the boss that “John” might be bending (or outright violating) the rules for phone calls, might be a good idea. As a patient I know that I wouldn’t want sensitive information left on my voicemail; that would be like walking up to me on a crowded street and saying “Oh hey! How’s your {insert mortifying ailment here} doing? I saw your test results, man that must really itch!” haha.

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