Co-Worker Bosses and Criticizes!

Question:

I started at my job, which is a clothing retailer, almost a year ago. For the first few months, I was one of the most popular employees. I never put anyone down, and I did my job. A few months after I started, a new guy started. At first I really got along with him. Lately, he’s been getting more and more obnoxious. He constantly points out things I’m doing wrong, but he’s not a manager. I know that he’s trying to become a manager, but right now he is not one, and should act that way. He became a lead cashier over the holidays, and I did not. This got me a little angry, but I went on with my work.

The whole time he was a lead cashier, he would constantly push me around and be blatantly rude. If I were to walk fast over to the register to ring up a customer, he would go “Steve, can you ring?” even though he knows that is why I’m running over there. He would tell me to do things, and after a few seconds, he would say “NOW!” He also told me not to fold on a specific table. I stopped doing that, and then a couple of hours later, one of his friends was doing it right in front of him. When I asked him about that, he said “Oh, I’m not a lead cashier right now.” I really think he was just embarrassed about this, and made up an excuse. He constantly points out things I do wrong in front of my general manager and tricks me into saying things. For example, he said he was leaving, and asked me what time it was. I said “2:05” and he immediately said “You’re late!” Luckily, I was 2 1/2 hours early, so I told this to him. I don’t know why this is his business.

Also, whenever I tell another coworker something, for example about how I write for a music magazine on the side, he yells out things such as “He only got it through his ex.” He, along with 2 other people with the same personality get all of the hours, and I don’t get any hours anymore. He’s also not even a lead cashier anymore, because the holidays are over. What can I do about this? Whenever I snap back, he just acts as if he’s doing nothing wrong. Thanks!

Signed,

Working With Mr. Critical


Answer:

Dear Working With Mr. Critical:

Sadly the poor personality and attitude of your co-worker is likely not going to change. The only thing that can change is your response to him. The other thing that can perhaps change is your relationship with your actual supervisor. Perhaps I can share some thoughts that will be helpful. As I said, likely nothing will change his approach–but maybe you can make the situation more tolerable!

1. You know your job situation better than I do. Be clear in your own mind about what the organization requires of you and you in relation to him. You don’t want to be caught in the wrong; you just don’t want to give him more status than required. Once you know where you stand, move forward confidently and without hesitation. When he is “the boss” you might need to be accepting of his orders. When he is not, you can ignore him with impunity. You have an obligation to your supervisor or manager and that is all. You don’t need to be discourteous, simply don’t be jumping at every word from him.

2. Be the most effective employee you can be, so that you do not have to worry about his efforts to make you look bad. Losing hours to him IS a real challenge. I wonder what the boss sees as his strong points, compared to those of others? Establish yourself as dependable, effective and not likely to cause problems. If you are those things, you will be valued and nothing he can say or do can shake that.

Are you in a situation where you could ask your supervisor for more hours? Don’t complain that someone else is getting more than you–just ask for an increase for yourself. Would you feel comfortable asking your supervisor if there are areas he’d like to see you gain some skill in? Show your supervisor that you value his or her input. Do it in a sincere, not phony way. It’s one thing to have a reason for an interaction and another to be just an apple polisher!

3. Are there other employees who have been supportive of you? Link with them and swear you will not gossip about the other guy anymore! No good comes of it and you end up feeling and acting negative. Talk about how to do better work, how to make more money, how to deal with customer problems and so forth. Show that you are an active member of the sales team and can be counted on to get along with everyone. If you do that, the remarks of this guy or his friends, will be diluted appreciably.

Think about it–isn’t it better to be the one who simply is focused on work and helping everyone, rather than being the one who puts people in the middle of a conflict? He’ll be viewed as the trouble-maker and you’ll be the dependable worker. He may never get his just desserts–but at least you won’t have been pulled into his plot!

4. Develop a strategy for reacting to his irritating actions. Keep them in perspective for one thing. What does it hurt if he tosses out some obnoxious remark? Yes, it’s frustrating and makes you angry, but only feeds him if you respond. So, he says, when you comment on the other job you have, “He only got it because of his ex.” Try smiling and saying, “Very funny” then keep talking. Or, “Not likely!” and keep talking. Or, “Yeah, yeah, sure.” and keep talking. The thing is to add a pitying smile as though his repartee is sadly lacking. Then go back to the conversation.

He tells you to not fold on a table. If he is in the role of the lead cashier, ask him why not–and ask in a very interested manner. Then move to another table–what difference does it make? If he tells you that and he’s not in the role of the lead cashier, just smile and say, “This works better for me to get the work done.” If he tells you to do something in his lead cashier role, do it in the same way you would if he was really the boss. If he pushes it by adding “Now!” just continue at the correct speed or doing the correct thing. No good will come of confronting him unless it gets so offensive that you simply must–and in that case you go to your supervisor. If he tells you to ring, even though he sees you hustling to do so, simply say, mildly and pleasantly, “Absolutely. That’s what I was doing.” Be mild, tolerant as much as possible and let yourself be seen as doing it for the good of the team and the company.

When it comes to things over which he has no authority, just pleasantly ignore him or explain that you find it better or easier to do what you do. Are you the only one he’s doing this to? Maybe he has decided you’re the one who he can bother the most. Don’t give him that satisfaction!

If you’re not careful you will be in a back and forth, hissing match (to use the term) that will never end. And after awhile people will resent you as much–or more–than him. You don’t want that!!! Be the strong one. Be the one that helps others. Be the one who can never be quoted as being nasty or mean-spirited. Be skillful and a great resource for others. In short–be more than him in every good way!

As I said, he is not likely to change. So, if you want to keep working there–and you don’t think he’s going to be fired or quit–then you’ll need to develop a very thick skin and make yourself a difficult target.

Best wishes as you work within your own situation to develop options. I know you can be the winner in this–without trying to make him the loser. He’ll do that on his own! If you wish, please let us know how this works out over time.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.