Co-Worker Is Obsessed With Her Dislike of Me!

Question:
I’ve worked for my company for about 1 year now. I was promoted 2 months after I started. My old boss is now my colleague as we share the same boss. I was promoted to a trainer position on her shift. Any new employees that comes in, I am responsible for their training and development.

The first day of my new position she came up with the idea that I was trying to take her job. She is known for being extremely rude and unbearable. Plenty of people quit because they couldn’t deal with her behavior. She has loud outbursts on the production floor, she yells at people and cries at the drop of a dime. I’ve always been cordial to her and tried to help her as much as possible.

So going back, she had this weird obsession with me trying to take her job. She would follow me around on the floor and then act like she’s not when I notice her. Any area I would be working in she would pop up and act as though she’s looking for something she cannot find. Any people I trained who were good, she would find a reason to fire. She would keep the people who didn’t know what they were doing In order to have me running around all day training people. This would result in me not being able to do my other daily tasks because she constantly needed me for something.

I told our boss and we had a mediation in which she stated she liked me, thinks I’m a great worker and just wants us to get along. My boss suggested we try to be cordial which I had no problems with, I just wanted to do my job.

About a week later she started up again. Now it’s 100 times worse. I was offered another position which I would be leaving her department completely and working in the office. My boss had a meeting and told her I would be leaving. That was 7 months ago and I still haven’t started this new position. Every day my coworker questions me about when I’m starting my new position. She comes to me constantly throughout the day to complain about people or gossip. I’ve asked her many times to stop and she does not.

She gets upset if people that i have trained come to me for help instead of going to her, but she is extremely difficult to deal with. She follows me around again. She’s been caught hiding inside one of the lines I was working, watching me. If I am training someone she will constantly interrupt and her favorite line is “I know this doesn’t concern you but…” And it will be something that has absolutely nothing to do with me.

She now picks on certain employees who she assumed are my friends, when they are just people I’ve trained. She will pick on the person and then immediately come to me to tell me a situation happened but she’s just telling me before the person says she is picking on them. It’s getting to the point where I try to avoid any area she is in because it is so uncomfortable to be watched and followed, when she’s not my boss. She pretends to like me but I don’t think she does. Sometimes I feel as though she is jealous of me because I get work done,everyone likes me and while she’s micromanaging I help get things back on track.

I stay to myself at work unless I have to interact with people, so I don’t understand why I am her target. I feel like she is passive aggressive with me. She does things I’ve already expressed make me uncomfortable and then tries to justify it by saying she’s not watching me or following me, she just wanted to let me know something that has absolutely nothing to do with me. It’s almost as if it bothers her that I don’t give her attention. It’s extremely draining because I’ve had six meetings with HR ,with documents and witnesses, and they do nothing about it.

She inserts herself in anything that I do when our jobs are completely different or she will try to pull me away from what I am doing. Ive tried everything I could in the most professional ways possible, but she gives me severe anxiety now. It’s like she’s obsessed and stalking me and she doesn’t go as extreme with anyone as she does with me. I love my job, I just don’t like working with her. It is creepy as hell. What should I do? What is wrong with her?

Response: Your question is a description of a ten-month conflict between you and a coworker. You appear to have tried everything we would usually suggest, such as talking to your boss, going to HR with documentation and a list of witnesses and talking directly to the coworker. Your decision to go to work in another section seems to be the best way to resolve the problem. If you were offered the position, perhaps you  can contact the person who offered it to you and find out why there is a delay.

Your boss and HR apparently do not view the actions of the coworker as negatively as you do. In most organizations, when an employee makes a complaint to HR, it is discussed with the employee’s boss. In your case, that would mean there have six times in ten months when HR has talked to your boss about your complaint against your coworker, and six times when your boss and HR have decided that the actions you complained about aren’t serious enough to merit any action. That doesn’t mean the things you complained about didn’t happen, just that they didn’t feel it rose to the level of being a violation of rules or procedures.

If the coworker does something else that interferes with you ability to work effectively (and it sounds like she probably will), make one more complaint to HR. Make it in writing, ask for an investigation about the most recent event as well as the many other events you’ve reported. Say that you would like to have a written response telling you the outcome of the investigation.  

The reason that might be useful is that in the past HR may have taken your remarks to them as casual griping but not viewed it as something they had to take serious action about. If you ask for an investigation it tends to force them to do more than just listen without taking action. If you ask them for a written response when the investigation is complete, it requires them to tell you honestly if an investigation took place and what were the results.

Another approach would be to talk one more time to your boss and ask her why no action was taken about the things you reported in the past. You could tell her again how unnerving it is to be stalked in the workplace. Emphasize the affect it has on other employees too, since apparently the coworker is disruptive in her actions.

At the same time, ask your boss if she has seen something in your own actions that she things were problematic and that caused the actions of the coworker. The reason I suggest doing that, is to get it out in the open, if that is the way she feels.

Continue to say “Stop it” to the coworker, when she does things that are inappropriate or that you have asked her to not do. Be civil but firm about it. If she tries to talk to you about something unrelated to your work, tell her courteously that you don’t have time. As you  point out, she isn’t your boss, so if she doesn’t like it, the  only thing she can do is go to your mutual boss about it—but she would have to prove that she was attempting to discuss serious job-related topics with you.  

The bottom line is that you describe a coworker who seems to be untouchable! She fires people wrongly, but no one appeals. She supervises problem employees, but her boss (who is also your boss) doesn’t find out why no action is being taken about them. She treats employees badly, but her boss either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. HR knows of concerns and has documentation and witnesses to back them up, but does nothing.

All of that is difficult to understand, unless there is much more to it than you realize or want to accept. That’s why I think you should find out more about what is causing your boss and HR to ignore your complaints—and at the same time, to find out why you still haven’t been moved into the position you were offered.

Best wishes to you with this frustrating situation. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know if something you do is effective in stopping or reducing the problem.

Tina Lewis Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors

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.