Overbearing Lead Worker

Question:

We are currently in the position of not having a supervisor. Our lead worker is always trying to make it look like she is over- worked, and she constantly makes comments like, “I do just as much as all the workers.” We are all over-worked due to being short-handed. She has a close friend who works with us and tries to make it look like she does more than the rest of us as well. She often makes comments directed at the workers and snide remarks about her and her friend doing more than anyone else.

We really don’t care what she does, as long as we can all work together to get the job done. She had the chance to apply for supervisor and turned it down. Do I go over her head and let the personnel director know or just keep my mouth shut? We are sick of hearing it, but you can’t talk to her without her being offensive about herself or close friend. I just want to work in peace, do my job and not cause any hard feelings. It could after all be worse; she has already accused me of being a spy because the head over our department moved my office next to hers and her friend.

Signed,

Confused


Answer:

Dear Confused:

I think you are more than confused. You are frustrated and angry. How have you handled these remarks so far? Have you responded to them in any way or have you bit your tongue and/or gossiped about them with your coworkers? It would be natural to vent your hurt to coworker friends when someone puts your down by putting her/him self up. Snide remarks distract you and others from feeling good about your work, and work is hard enough without being insulted. You have some choices: · Ignore · Confront · Report

To ignore is not to approve; however, even if you simply smile and turn your back on your lead and her friend, it doesn’t stop them. You say “she constantly” makes these remarks. Have you ever logged them; when and what was said on which days? You might try that. It could be used should you decide to confront or report. To confront is worth a try. What are the words you might use? You might say, “Sally, (or whatever is her name) I know you are a hard worker. All of us are. You don’t have to tell us you are better and faster to make yourself feel superior. Just do your job and we’ll do ours. Making snide remarks won’t get the work done.” Or you could say, “Sally, you’ve been telling us you are better too long. Just keep that kind of talk to your self.” Or you could say, Sally, if you have ideas that will make our jobs easier or more effective, I honestly want to hear them, if not, please just do your job and the rest of us will do ours as well as we can. We are all over-worked.”

Put-down habits aren’t stopped with a one-time confrontation. You might need to call Sally’s attention to what she does again and again with, “Sally, I’m sure you don’t want me to remind you again, but just now, you again made an unwelcome remark about how good you are. Stop it.” After hearing you say this a couple of times, all you will have to say the next time she opens her put-down mouth is, “Stop!” And from then on, all you will have to do is to raise your hand like a stop sign. An assertive confrontation is better than biting your tongue.

Report them? Should you report the “we’re better than you” talk, snide put downs, and the accusation of your being a spy? You have that option. Although you don’t have a supervisor now, you do have a head of your department and a personnel director. If you choose to report, what should you say? The best way might be to simply say, “I’m coming to you because several of my coworkers and I are fed up with snide remarks by Sally and her friend. We work hard and it hurts for them to constantly put us down. We’ve told them to stop, but it continues. We don’t have a supervisor and so we have come to you.” That should work, particularly if you add, “Would your please investigate and get this stopped” and if you show a log of ten or more those put downs.

Reporting can be seen as childish, if you say, “Sally and her friends talk mean and we don’t like it.” Rather you might schedule a meeting with your head or personnel to discuss your commitment to doing good work, and in the course of that, you could report the distracting snide put downs of Sally and her friend.

Such a conversation might be like this: “Ms. Johnson, my coworkers and I have been doing our best to do effective work and meet our deadlines. We know that you are doing your best to hold down costs and increase the output of our office. We want for find ways to cut wasted supplies, wasted time and wasted money. We want to work as a team and to stop distraction form doing our jobs.” This kind of talk should cause Ms. Johnson to say to you, “What are you trying to say?” Then here is when you could say, “We don’t have a supervisor who can bring us together to find ways to work more effectively. You know like a volleyball team needs to have a coach to improve how teammates might play more effectively and not put each other down.”

This indirect approach has the advantage of stating the kind of supervisor you want and don’t want. In short, you have an opportunity to say, “We need a supervisor-coach who can help us to work as a team. Now we are not a team.” Scan our Archives. There you can see many more Q&As of dealing with troublesome coworkers than with whom you could every want to work. Do any of these suggestions make sense to you? If not, they should at least prompt you to think of other ways to answer your question. Tina Lewis Rowe, my associate Workplace Doctor, has a wonderful site with more advice on effective ways to cope with difficult people. http://tinalewisrowe.com/page/3/ For example, her post on this past July 7, “Spite and Malice-Only Good For A Card Game” addresses the problem of a Sally kind of soul. Tina’s posts make good sense and inspire Finally, think through the meaning of my signature sentence to see how it applies to your work group: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden