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I started a new job where I took the place of a gal who was moving out of the area. She was the only one who ran certain computer processes for the accounting department. I had been hired because I knew this particular computer as I’d used one like it in college. In 1975, computers in businesses were still pretty new, and my boss felt lucky to find someone who knew this specific computer. I would be immediately productive.

Things were good except I was not having any luck making friends with two of the girls. Despite working side by side, I was never included when Ann and Sally (not their real names) went to coffee, nor was I asked to join them for lunch. It puzzled me, but I figured they were just too close to welcome a third. 

As time went on I realized it wasn’t just that I wasn’t welcomed, but was specifically excluded and even business matters were handled with little joy and significant reluctance. What was wrong with me that they just did not like me? This was new as I’d always made friends easily and with everybody. I continued to be friendly and just kept on. I would, for instance, offer to get coffee for the three of us if we were especially busy. My offers were never accepted even though moments after returning with my coffee one of them would get coffee for the two of them.

They were never obstructive in getting business done, but it was as if there was a wall surrounding their desk areas and I was not welcome on their side of the wall.

After many months of this, out of the blue, I was asked to join them for coffee! I was not at a good stopping spot but felt I needed to accept for the sake of building a friendship. Suddenly I was asked to join them for lunch, and my offers to fetch coffee were gratefully accepted, and if they fetched coffee it would be for all three of us. Deeply puzzled, I thanked God for the turn around and just kept on.
I realized just how interested Ann was in the computer so when our schedules allowed, and with the permission of our boss, I began cross-training her to my job. This became important, as when I was ready to deliver daughter number one, she could cover while I was on maternity leave. This began an extensive cross-training program in the whole department.

Many years and several jobs later I ran into Ann at a training. We greeted each other warmly and talked of the intervening years. 
Suddenly she paused and became thoughtful. Slowly Ann began to tell me how she had wanted the job I was hired for so many years before. She resented that I’d been hired into the spot rather than promoting her into it. Her attitude had poisoned Sally against me. Over time Ann began to realize that I was way better qualified for the job than she was and that I deserved the spot. She also realized that her resentment was misplaced in that, if she was angry about it, she should be aiming her anger at her own lack of knowledge and experience not at me. Having adjusted her attitude, she told Sally of her discovery so Sally too would adjust her attitude. This was also when Ann began to express interest in the computer and we started the cross-training, which years later had allowed her to apply for and get the job she currently held! 

Her thanks for the care I’d taken to train her was expressed and we cried together for the sadness of the months spent on opposite sides of her wall and in gladness for discovering a new friendship made stronger after so many years.

Rebecca DeShaw

Although retired, Rebecca continues to be an active web and instructional materials designer and data systems specialist.

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