Disappointed and More

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about prolonged conflict with coworker:

I need advice on how to proceed with a situation where a co-worker attacks my professionalism and his ability to work with me. He exhibits some level of attack against not only me but others as well from time to time. I have saved email documentation from others about his attitude as well as his emails to describe issues he has with others. This is his latest against me in which he addresses it in an email. He is basing all of this on my greeting response to him. I have worked with him for the past few years and this is his 3rd attack towards me. In working with him, I have limited my interaction to him only on a professional level, no more and no less. I don’t interact with him like the others here knowing what type of person he is. I’m a Team Lead without authority.

Below are details about a recent incident that a co-worker sent me via email.. Co-Worker Email ,¬¶..not sure what problem you have with me again. You and I need to work together, and I expect you to treat me fairly like you do everyone else. It is very trying working with you. Every morning when I greet you, I can tell by your tone what day I will get. This is really not professional. As I wrote in 2008, if there is something I did or said, I expect you – as LEAD to come to me and address it and not continually subject me to your moods as this seems to be a pattern. I saw this editorial in the paper the other day and hope you can take this positively and you and I can continue working together in a professional manner. Regards, Co-Worker Summer Slump “Editorial”

The weather is warm, and people are here. Many have been in a slump for the past year. So what can we do? My three top recommendations based on watching and working with people is:

1) Lead with a positive attitude. Negativity spreads like wildfire, but so does a positive attitude. If you feel a conversation going negative, change the subject. You must believe that things will improve before they will.

2) Get outside. Listening to the sounds of nature will make you feel better than sitting inside. 3) Move it or lose it. Be physically active. Take a walk or go for a swim. Something is better than nothing. You will feel better. These solutions require effort, but they are free. Many things that bother us are out of our hands, but these three things are within your control. Writer Address City Email from 2008 If there is anything I did, please talk to me. I have noticed a distinct distant attitude towards me lately and I am not sure what happened – ?! I think we are too small and too few people to be holding grudges etc. It is not conducive toward a healthy productive working environment. You were all friendly and helpful with xxxx and then all of a sudden you have grown evasive. I appreciate if you took a moment and make things clear to me so I can stop worrying.

My Email Response in which I copied our Supervisor Kindness, like a boomerang, always returns. I enjoyed the article as I hope you did and took in as well. Thanks so much for sharing and thinking about me while you read it. Ok, WOW, Really….In 2008 This time you are deemed a response because this workplace bullying has to STOP….This covert, unwarranted, undermined, and invalid criticism is very mean. I will not allow you to intimidate me or make me feel bad about myself. I know my true worth and I won’t forget what that is. First, I need to ask and analyze what it that you want from me… What are you basing this assessment on? My tone only, seriously…. When you mumble a ‘hello’ to me or anyone else, do I/they send emails like this to you questioning your professionalism? Have you spent time with yourself and analyze how you respond and treat others before speaking about patterns of behavior. It’s unfair what you’ve decided to shine in me is a direct mirror reflection of your character. When one attempts to call another out on something not there, then it’s usually a person who is dealing with greater internal issues of self and wants to displace that on another. I have documented, read, listened and watched how you have done this with me among others. Anyway, sounds like you are dealing with a personal issue, not professional. I am at TRUMPF to do a job and do a job professionally is what I do. I AM professional and always will be – sorry, can’t allow you to make feel any less as the LEAD. The content of your email has nothing to do with me acting professional towards you or my title, so please change the direction of your future barrage of insults. I AM human first. As a human, I don’t feed into your negativity, nor do I respond to it. Work is a place for work, not a place for war. Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Men are respectable only as they respect”. I hope you can take my response and continue to work as the adult professionals we are. Regards, Team Lead Co-Worker Email Response copied to Supervisor as well

As I said to Supervisor on 7/3, last week, when I sought help from him, I was feeling bullied and harassed. Seems that Lead feels that way too; why hasn’t he stepped forward to deal with the issue at hand then? Insults? Which ones? Why hasn’t he addressed it with me? I certainly have… A couple of years ago we had a meeting in which our disagreements first came to the surface. Lead came to me later and apologized that he was acting like that as there was a death in the family. I was the one bringing this up as working with him is very difficult. It is rather insulting to bring up my personal life. I wouldn’t dare pass judgment about his. This is very unwarranted.I am not sure how he and I can move forward with our disagreements? This is obviously not a healthy environment. I am very sorry about this. Signed, Co-worker

My next course of action was to forward this response with a reply to our Supervisor and his Senior management asking to intervene since there is a harassment item being brought to light in his email. This was more so a counter-attack due to me mentioning the individual being a workplace bully. I haven’t been counseled about being a bullied or harassing. In this organization, our Supervisor is the HR Rep. We do not have a formal HR Department. Our sister company in another state which has the HR presence. My Email Response to our Supervisor and his Boss Supervisor XX, Both of these responses can’t be ignored. I haven’t been the aggressor. I have emails about his attitude from others. This is a high level HR issue that warrants their attention to a formal complaint. Can we discus? Signed, Team Lead I and the Supervisor met and he is aware of this individual’s behavior.

I have been told that none of these issues presented to the Supervisor have been documented in this co-worker’s personnel folder per someone that works closely with the Supervisor with these personnel issues. Apparently our Supervisor stated that he has counseled the individual, but that’s all. I do not have any documentation about this last incident. What are your suggestions from the above?

Signed, Disappointed


Dear Disappointed:

I am posting your extended description of interaction with your coworker. Your irritation regarding your coworker’s criticism appears justified and the careful documentation you have made explains that. You have assertively responded to this individual. From your perspective you don’t deserve this individual’s advice about civility and professional behavior. It is not easy to say from a distance what more might be done to confront/resolve this situation; however, here are two approaches for you to consider:

1. Request an investigation of this matter. You have responded, but you should not have to fight for respect by this coworker and fend off his complaints. HR and the one in charge of your work group and area are employed to handle interpersonal distraction from what you and your coworker are paid to do. An investigation could lead to a parting of ways and clarification of boundaries. They are responsible for insisting on coworker communication and cooperation. They know that pettiness and bullying distract from your work.

2. Civility comes from more than good manners. It is related to attitude and process that of overarching goals. Your boss should engage your work group in spelling out what are those overarching goals; what, where, when, who, and how they are to be achieved. Years ago such a plan was outlined as PERT; developed by the U.S. Navy in the 1950s to manage the Polaris submarine missile program. Programmed Evaluation Review Technique entail detailed mapping of a critical path to accomplish projects. Ideally, those with skills needed collaboratively diagram what should be done sequentially and who does what. Evaluation and review of progress is a team responsibility. Skull sessions periodically modify and ok projects progress. I don’t know if your work group might benefit from PERT, but it might serve as a model for your supervisor to focus on the big things and mitigate the petty. (See http://www.mindtools.com/critpath.html & http://searchsoftwarequality.techtarget.com/definition/PERT-chart)In short think big and think WEGO captures this point.

Rather than focusing on the petty and inappropriate behavior of one coworker, focus on the overarching goals of what you work group is hired to do.I think a request for an investigation is worth considering. You have asserted yourself one-on-one and likely can’t do much more. But a work group overarching goal approach is something that you might also champion. Does this make sense? Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and from your description I sense that that is something that is missing where you work.

William Gorden