Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about coworker dislike:
My coworker seems to hate me. She takes pretty much everything I say or ask offensively. She gets upset when I remind her to do something at work that she is supposed to do but hasn’t done yet. Today she cursed at me in front of clients. She won’t bring up issues and when I bring them up, she talks about them briefly until we both seem to be on the same page but then the same old issues come up again and again. She told me that she doesn’t like me bringing issues to her attention and would prefer me to talk to our supervisor instead, so that’s what I am doing, but my supervisor doesn’t seem to be doing anything, either. I have never had a problem like this with anyone. I’ve been told by my last two bosses that I have a great way of saying things so that people can hear them and not be offended. I don’t understand what I can do so that my coworker is not always muttering under her breath, making snide comments, gossiping, yelling, and cursing at me in front of and around the clients we work with.
Signed, At a Loss
Dear At a Loss:
You and your coworker were and are employed to do a job that neither of you can do solo. You can continue to work at odds with each of you displeased with the other because that’s what you’ve been doing. She curses you when you do something that is assigned to her. Occasionally you can talk about being on the same page and then you tell her she isn’t doing something right and she responds negatively. Or you can do as she says, take them up with your supervisor and nothing gets changed and you work around the issue. Apparently that’s what you are doing. Do I read you correctly? You don’t say explicitly in what ways she does things wrong or fails to do and that you then do.
From a distance, there is no way for us to know what causes you two to be at odds, except that you sometimes do what she has been supposed to do and you don’t like to be cursed or yelled at and hated. Therefore, here’s a possible way to approach this: map out who does what. Personnel Task 1 Task 2 Task 3 Task 4 You ______________________________________________ Coworker______________________________________ Supervisor Assigns _______________________________________________ Supervisor Approves_________________________________________ Such a chart is no sure-fix, but it is a format that enables collaboration and clarification of what needs sequential action and what can be performed solo. In addition, it would be helpful if you two would collaboratively create a list of do and don’t communication rules, preferably in the presence of your supervisor, such as: _ Do -Greet each other and check with the supervisor about what needs to be done. -Bring a happy face to the office. -Ask for assistance when overloaded. -Let the other know your schedule and when available to assist. -Keep your voice low so as not to distract your coworker. -Meet weekly with the supervisor to review what has been going well and what needs correction. Treat your supervisor as a coach who conducts before and after game sessions. -Think we, we, we instead of me, me, me. _ Don’t -Talk about the other, saying things you didn’t discuss with her first. -Criticize or make suggestions unless it is very crucial. -Curse or yell, especially when in the presence of clients. -Roll your eyes, muttering under your breath or make snide comments. Not all or any of these rules will apply to your situation. The value of collaboratively spelling out such a list is in its doing. You talk about talk; about what otherwise has been unspoken except when unpleasant. You say that your supervisor “doesn’t seem to be doing anything.” Possibly, she has done something but it hasn’t worked. Possibly she thinks this is something you two should handle, just as a parent can’t resolve conflict between siblings. Possibly she doesn’t know how.
The suggestions I’m presenting is a way of engaging her is a tangible problem-solving three-some-you two coworkers and her. Feel free to share this Q&A. It should provide grist for a candid confrontation. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS is my way of suggesting work can be a way we are giving of ourselves and in so doing enrich our own and each others lives. But that is not something that just happens out of the blue; it is earned by a can do attitude and process of engaging coworkers and bosses in priorities and skull sessions. Sorry the chart doesn’t translate as it is when I made it as a table.