Coworker Not Including Me In Team

Question:

I work in a male dominated environment-an engineering firm. I am an engineer myself. There is a young male engineer that I work with directly(Same age as I am and has been with the company for about 2 years). I have been with this group for 6 months now.

My co-worker always uses the word “I”, as in, “I need to get this done.. I have to do this.. I got it done”. It is never “we”, even though we work together and get things done. And due to the fact that he has been here longer, people call him for everything, and I feel excluded from the loop.

He tries to show himself in front of clients, vendors or management by words. He doesn’t invite me to any of the meetings that I’ve been working on, and sets up meetings.

Also, sometimes he suggests that I get his papers prepared for him for the meeting since he doesn’t have time(according to him). I told him that if I’m not supposed to be in the meeting I don’t need to prepare for the meeting, and he’s started doing his own work. I don’t want to be excluded and want to accept more responsibilities. I don’t want to be rude since I’m new; however, I do not want to put myself down since he has nothing over me. I have supervisors and team leads.

Signed,

Feeling Shut Out


Answer:

DearĀ Feeling Shut Out:

There are probably many issues that are creating some problems for both of you. Since I can’t hear and see what is happening, I will try to cover several aspects of it, and perhaps you can adapt some of the thoughts if they work for you.

You had originally titled this question: Co-worker Looks Down On Me, or something similar to that. I changed it to Co-Worker Not Including Me In Team. I did that to be clear about what is the situation. You do know you are not being included. You don’t know that it’s because your co-worker looks down on you. He may feel superior to you, but unless he has said something to make you think that, you don’t know it for sure.

What could be the reason for his behavior, besides feeling that you are less important than him?

*He may simply not like you very well–a harsh fact, but sometimes true, based on different personalities, style, habits, behavior and work methods. I doubt that you like him very well either, though you probably would have if he had treated you more better.

*He may not have wanted a partner to work with in the first place and would resent you no matter who you were. If he worked with someone before you, perhaps you can find out how they got along. If he was close to that person that makes the transition more difficult. If he wasn’t close to that person he may have a general dislike of working with someone.

*He may feel that his job is not solid and he wants to ensure everyone knows how important he is. He may feel it is crucial that people see him as the strong one of the team.

*He may feel you are not as skillful as he is, and may even be supported by others in that thinking. Thus, he wants to have more control over your work. You have not said how you deal with others at work. The fact they would go immediately to your co-worker instead of you might indicate more than his tenure is involved. Perhaps there are other issues related to your credibility or the confidence others have in your work. I’m not saying that is the case, just suggesting it as a possibility.

*Your supervisors and/or team leaders, may have instructed your co-worker to maintain a leadership role and he misunderstood that. Six month’s tenure for you may mean he views you as still a trainee, not a full-fledged partner with him in the work. Your supervisors may feel the same way. It would not be unusual for him or others to feel you must “pay your dues” before you are fully accepted. That may mean more apprentice time with him than you think is necessary. You didn’t say what prior experience both of you have, but for many people, current experience is all that counts.

*He may feel, even subconsciously, that your role as a female places you in a lesser position than him. Don’t assume that, however. Watch how he interacts with men and women in other situations. If he invariably treats women in a lesser way, that might indicate his overall attitude. But if you are the main one he treats that way, maybe it is more personal than sexist.

However, whatever his reasons, you don’t want to be relegated to a lesser position now that your new-job training time is apparently over. So, what can you do?

First, talk to the person who does your performance evaluations. You’ve been there long enough to have a conversation about how you are doing and if he or she has any suggestions for improvement. Explain that you want to do well, but feel that you still have not been accepted as part of the whole team. Ask if there is anything you are doing to create that, or if there is anything you can do to reduce the problem.

That may be enough for your team leader to talk to your co-worker about including you more. Or, you may find out if there are issues you can control. Or, your team leader may have suggestions. You can bring up the subject without sounding as though you are lodging a complaint. Just express it as a wish to be a full partner in all the work.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your team leader, consider talking to your partner, in an indirect way. If he says “I” about something that should have been “we”, talk briefly about your part in it, to remind him. Send him an email in which you talk about the work of both of you on this or that.

If you correspond with other employees about work, be sure to mention both you and your co-worker, so everyone thinks of projects as a team effort.

You say he calls meetings. Perhaps you should as well. If he calls a meeting, find something to do to be an integral part of it. Tell him you will comment on some specific issue that is part of the total subject. After a meeting, send out an email thanking people for attending. Mention that you and your co-worker both appreciate their participation. Sign it yourself and send a copy to your co-worker and to your team leader. Take a stronger role rather than waiting for your co-worker to allow it.

Be proactive about internal and external clients. Instead of waiting for people to ask about issues, contact key people and ask if they have issues, questions, projects, etc. they would like to discuss with you and your co-worker. Not just with you….that would make you like you co-worker!

Next, focus on how you can strengthen your relationship with your co-worker. Do what you can to remove the barriers between the two of you. Perhaps helping him with some meetings or other issues is one way to do it. THEN, ask him to help you as well. Look for things he could do and that you could volunteer to do.

If the situation continues much past another couple of weeks, I think you should talk more directly to your co-worker. You can do that in a way that is not angry. Instead, approach it in a questioning way: “Jason, the reason I’m pushing to be involved in this is because I get the feeling sometimes that I’m an outsider. If there’s something I’m doing that causes that, let me know. Otherwise, I’d really appreciate being a full member of our team.”

If a few remarks like that don’t help, you will need to talk to your supervisor again, only this time state you are not being treated fairly and you would like to have assistance to resolve the matter.

I hope these thoughts will help you develop a plan of action. I can imagine how frustrated and even hurt you must feel as this continues. Don’t let it take the enjoyment out of work or diminish your own confidence. Be the best worker possible, so others will recognize your value to the company and to them. Present yourself in a way that allows you to be seen as dependable, credible and a good communicator, and as someone with whom your co-worker and others want to link.

Best wishes as you deal with this challenge. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

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.