Not Boss But Is Showing Power

Question:

I work in the same office with a guy who is not my boss but he likes to use power. He would yell and argue with anybody without any obvious reason. He is higher ranking than I am and has been there for years. I was assigned a job that when I was done, I would need him to finish the last phase. That was his responsibility. When I was done my part, I asked him to complete the last phase that just took a few minutes. He did it carelessly. As a result, the job turned out missing something. When I asked him to do it again, he started yelling with a hateful attitude before re-did it again carelessly. That task had not been done properly. Worrying that the job was not able to be done completely, I went to report it to my supervisor because the responsibility would fall on my shoulder. Obviously, my co-worker got mad when he knew I talked to the boss. He confronted me and asked me with the hateful attitude that I had to talk to him first. One more thing, I hear the rumor that he is selected to be the new boss when the current boss retires in the near future.

What should I do in this case? Should I talk to my current boss about his behavior and his performance? Isn’t that dangerous for me in the future? My plan right now (I am finished with the job with him) is getting very busy (or sometimes, pretending) to focus on my current job. I try to stay away from him as much as I can. No eye contact, no greetings, just come to work in the busy mode and go home. Do you think it is OK? I really don’t want to contact with him in any mean. Thank you very much for your advice, Wonder

Signed,

Wondering About The King Of The Hill


Answer:

Dear Wondering About The King Of The Hill:

I emphasize with your situation! It is quite common in workplaces today. Sometimes co-workers think that ordering/bossing others around is “management,” and they are comfortable taking out their bad moods on those they think of as subordinates. Sometimes, they actually bully employees, and will often target the most qualified people, not the weakest, as people often assume. Your co-worker sounds like he could be a bully and if you do an online search, you might read up on that subject.

Does this individual treat other employees this way? Often, these non-team, bossy types are well-known around the office. If he has done this to other people, ask how they handled it. See if you can gain some insight from them.

Do you have an HR manager? Smaller companies often do not, but if you do, try to let him or her know what has happened.

Your approach of seeking guidance from the supervisor was a reasonable one. The fact that the co-worker was hostile to you shows that he isn’t very willing to look at himself or the negativity he creates in the office. Did you relay the boss’s hostile attitude to the supervisor? That might be a good idea.

One thing to keep in mind when raising issues to upper-level managers or supervisors: Try to raise your concerns and tie them to your productivity losses. Talk about how your work is impacted and how time is lost. Also try to suggest a few ideas to solve the problem so you look less like a complainer and more of a problem solver. Ideas might be how the projects are managed, how the communication takes place, etc. I always suggest that communication about tasks be backed up in writing. If you have a conversation, then follow up with a brief e-mail that states your understanding about when the work will be done, and how it will fit in the project guidelines.

Your idea to avoid the angry co-worker/boss might be a practical one, and could help to minimize your exposure to him. In the meantime, keep a daily log or calendar of your work output, as well as any outbursts or problems with this fellow. Always document these things. You will be less able to be scapegoated, and you will also have a record of problems you could relay to your supervisor in the future. It might also be worthwhile to meet with your supervisor about general procedures so you know how things are to be done. That can also provide you with some cover if things blow up again.

Good luck!

WEGO is working with others to find practical solutions! Possibly a three way (your co-worker, supervisor, and you) can collaborate on what communication rules and attitude will make for a good and productive working relationship.

Steven H. Carney