Difficult coworker - tension increasing WARNING: LONG! - VeggieBoards

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#1 Old 10-23-2011, 10:01 PM
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I normally know how to handle problems at work but this is starting to spin out of control. I have a bad feeling about the situation and I'd like some insight or advice.

I work in a department of 6 people (5 regulars, 1 occasional). There is a woman who has been working there for over 10 years. She's the type of woman who is usually nice. She has a good heart and she cares about doing the job properly. I'll call her Joan. This problem of mine mostly comes in two parts.


The problem is that Joan can be very rude sometimes. It can be her tone of voice or actually just words that are rude. For example the other day someone walked up to her to ask her a question and she told him he was a pain in the ass. Or one day I had an extra big workload in the morning and hadn't finished it yet. She walked in, walked over to me, stared at me, and asked me, "nothings been entered yet??" in this very rude tone of voice. I wasn't slacking off. I was working as fast as I could and she just gets mad at me right away. She has always been this way, according to other people at work.

What makes Joan even more difficult to deal with is that she gets offended extremely easily. If she is rude to us and we get mad, she'll get upset that we're mad. If anyone says anything even remotely rude to her, she'll get very upset and complain to everyone about how rude that person is. Sometimes she'll cry.

She gets away with this behaviour because she's good at her job. She doesn't seem very happy and I think our boss feels sorry for her because he lets her get her way. For example, there used to be two of us who worked on a task together until the other girl left. Our boss wanted Joan to be trained in that task so that I'll have someone else to help with it. She told him no. So she doesn't have to do it. This affects my ability to complete the task on time. She knows this. My boss knows this. But still, I have to do it myself. Yet, for about three weeks, he instructed me to do my own work AND get started on her work afterwards. Joan did nothing to help me with my tasks, of course, because she didn't want to. Our boss knows that I really want her to be trained because I asked him about it and he didn't give me a yes or no answer. That was months ago and nothing is happening, so I guess he just didnt'want to admit that she wasn't listening to him. So as you can tell there is some resentment building up on my part towards her.


Me and everyone else in the department have become friends and we're getting pissed off at her for several reasons. First of all, our boss trusts her opinion so if she doesn't like someone, she can usually get them fired. Two people were recently fired within a week of being hired because Joan complained about them; the rest of us thought these people were doing a good job.

Secondly, I know she has seniority but sometimes I think she tries to take advantage of it by not doing what she doesn't want to do. She thinks she deserves to be treated differently than the rest of us (she's made comments), and I can understand wanting to be appreciated but that doesn't make it okay to be rude to us. She is not our supervisor but she expects us to always do as she says which sucks because she tries to micro-manage us sometimes. If anyone ignores her she gets mad and complains. She also gets worked up if we are 5 minutes late, even though the clock on the wall is 5 minutes faster than the other clocks in the building.

I'm probably forgetting to mention some other things, but this is the basic idea of what is going on.

The reason I have a bad feeling about things is due to the level of discontent amongst the rest of us. We're getting fed up. Three of the guys are talking about confronting her about it. One of them is actually leaving the company soon, so he said he has no problem saying whatever he wants to her this coming week. I don't know if this is a good idea or not.

I am torn between feeling sorry for her and angry at her. The tension at work is getting thick. There is an us-against-her mentality which isn't healthy. I am unsure of what to do, or if I should even do anything. I mean what do you do in a situation like this?

It's not in what you say, it's in what you do (Oasis)

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#2 Old 10-23-2011, 10:09 PM
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Spend some time compiling specific details on the things that went down with your coworker and what you think are wrong with them. Send an email to your boss with this information. If your boss can't fix the situation, elevate it.

In the meanwhile, keep a log of other goings on, date and time, who was involved, etc. It's surprising how motivated management can get when they are presented with organized documentation of a real problem.
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#3 Old 10-24-2011, 01:02 AM
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I agree with keeping a record of everything that's happening. Also, she seems like the type who, while she may be good at her job, probably feels insecure and takes it out on others. Just because someone is good at what they do doesn't mean that they're confident. Although by displaying this type of behavior, she's not exactly inviting complements from her colleagues to boost her confidence.
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#4 Old 10-24-2011, 07:01 AM
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Avoid gossiping with co-workers about your boss, poisonous in a work environment.

Do your job to the best of your ability in as polite and professional manner no matter how much resentment you are feeling atm and accept that Joan is human. Unless Joan threatens you or is trying to make you fail in your job so as to get you fired, leave it be.
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#5 Old 10-24-2011, 07:35 AM
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People often find my tone of voice very rude when I honestly, completely intended nothing negative in it. In my head my voice sounds friendly and reasonable, but people find it aggressive and rude. It makes me really sad and in the past I have got really defensive over it because I was being accused of something I hadn't done. However I came to realise that whether I mean it or not I AM coming off that way, and I try really hard to speak in an overly-friendly tone. I thought of that when I was reading part one because I could say to someone "you're a pain in the ass!" in a playful way and because of my voice they will take it as a genuine criticism. Joan's reaction also makes me think perhaps she isn't aware of it.

As for the second part, how do you know it is just Joan's recommendations that the boss based his firings on? I'm assuming you don't get an office memo telling you "Sally has been fired because Joan doesn't like her". It might be your prejudices against Joan and her perceived superiority complex that are making you think that? If she is your superior, even if not your supervisor, then she probably does have the right to delegate work to someone else and pull them up on lateness etc. From your description of her relationship with your boss, he obviously holds Joan in some esteem and likes her to help him/her out in the workplace.

Having said all that I agree with paperhanger. Write everything down with dates, times and witnesses. A few years ago I was having a problem with a colleague and decided to raise it with my boss. I sat down to write an e-mail giving examples of what the colleague had done, and when I looked at it objectively I saw that their behaviour was actually not out of line. Because of my dislike of that person I was reading everything as an attack on myself, when actually it was all quite innocent or at least had an innocent explanation as well as a suspect one. I had nothing to go on and I had to realise that I just didn't like being told what to do by somebody I felt was not as competent as me. That was entirely my own fault and not theirs. In a similar vein it isn't Joan's fault that your boss didn't force her to do that training or help you in your work, if Joan was one of the colleagues you describe as a friend would you blame your boss rather than them?

Just some food for thought!
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#6 Old 10-24-2011, 09:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Chrysalis View Post

She gets away with this behaviour because she's good at her job. She doesn't seem very happy and I think our boss feels sorry for her because he lets her get her way.

They're probably boinking

auto correct can kiss my ask
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#7 Old 10-24-2011, 06:29 PM
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If I were you I would be more upset with your boss that with Joan. There are always going to be people that rub us the wrong way and she seems to be good at that but your boss seems to be letting her run the show. Maybe, your boss also has some experience with her cry baby attitude when she doesn't get her way and has decided it is just easier to let her have her way. This works great for her but not so much for you and your co-workers. I hate confrontation so I would mind my own business and do my best to not become part of the drama.
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#8 Old 10-24-2011, 06:32 PM
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Thanks for the advice. I can't believe I didn't consider keeping track of the incidents and dates, times. I'll be doing that this week.

To the person who asked if I know the new person is being fired just because of Joan, no I don't know that for sure but it seems odd that one minute she'll be on the phone with our boss telling him "nope, she's too slow!" and literally 10 minutes later he comes downstairs to fire the girl. Her training techniques are questionable since she'll tell new people "don't worry about going fast" and then she will complain to management that they aren't going fast enough. Something about it just doesn't seem right.

The weird thing is that I have always had a strict no gossiping policy in place for myself and now I've been going completely against it. We don't even complain about our boss, it's just Joan that comes up in conversations a lot. I realized today that she's not so bad and it's our boss who is acting like a jerk. I'm starting to feel like the company I work for iust does so many things wrong (such as a safety issue I noticed today and will be bringing up with our safety officer this week). I'll be watching my mouth from now on.

It's not in what you say, it's in what you do (Oasis)

Feeling bored? Why don't you wander over to my blog sometime. http://thebohemiankitchen.wordpress.com
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#9 Old 10-26-2011, 04:55 PM
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I would definitely keep track of facts. Facts are key. If you do talk to your boss, be sure you don't come off as a cry baby complaining because you feel over worked and can't handle the job. Not saying you are any of that, but I know how things can look sometimes if you have another employee that's "trusted" telling another story. Keep it professional with your co-worker. If you ever make it personal it will look worse for you. I would say you should tell your other co-workers to keep it professional with this other person too. Ask her to e-mail you if that's possible. Then you have a record of what she says and no chance that it's misunderstood. No need to say anything unnecessary, just yes and no answers or whatever is specific for work related questions. If she wants to complain to you or anyone else about how people are talking to you, say to her"I don't feel comfortable talking about____without them here, it feels like gossip and I know you wouldn't want that to happen." It puts it back on her. If she is not your supervisor, then who cares what she says? Let her make rude comments about how fast you work. Ignore her. I know that is REALLY hard. I have a similar situation. One person who has worked with the business owner for about 20 years. Then there is me who's been there for 2 years. So I can understand any insecurity you have.
If ever the situation comes up you are fired, be sure you are doing your job, following your office protocols. That will be your saving grace. I am sure your employer doesn't want to pay unemployment. And if you're a good employee I'm sure they don't want to lose you.
Hope it gets better for you!
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