Do-nothing Coworker, Do-nothing Boss

Question:

I am writing out of desperation, a situation at my work is close to driving me to quit. I work in a small, seven-person department of a very large company. Our boss, who is always nice but lacks the all-important backbone, as you will soon see, has always been a pleasure to work for, as mundane as my work can sometimes be. Here’s the problem: About six months ago, he hired somebody new. Her job also closely affects mine. Without going into too much detail, she scans paperwork into our system that I need for my own audits; therefore, I cannot do my audits until she is done with hers. So we have to sit right beside each other, much to my chagrin with her constant melodramatic personal phone calls and “presenteeism”.

This girl (she’s older than me but acts like a teenager, as you’ll see) has no work ethic. She is constantly on personal calls, texting at her desk, surfing the net, chatting online, and even the past two days stooped to the new low of completing and filing her TAXES online at work, on a work computer! On top of that, she is away from her desk for 30-45 minutes at a time about every two hours socializing. She is loud, rude (interrupts constantly for one) and even manages to play her radio loud enough to be heard across the room, without the consent of the department on the music (which really bugs me personally).

I’m not the only one in this small dept who is annoyed by her, several in our dept as well as people in other departments have made complaints to our boss that she comes over and talks to them while they’re trying to work, chats via computer w/them constantly when stuff needs done, etc. When any of us have complained to our boss, he tells us essentially to “mind your own business” and that he’ll tend to her in her next review. However, she’s had two reviews and nothing has been done! Still she’s gone more than ever and obviously abuses company resources by doing things like playing games online.

My boss has even made the comment that if (this was during an unrelated discussion) anyone ever went over his head on something, he would have it out for them, and “make sure he did all he could” to get them fired. Plus, since she’s behind on her work from goofing off all the time, she puts me behind as well since our jobs work so closely together. My question is this: Is there anything any of us can do or should each us leave this as soon as we can and find new jobs? Is there anything unethical in this that you think HR should know about? I have been here for seven years (longer than all except one in this dept, including our current boss) and have put up with MANY bad coworker/boss situations, but this one takes the cake. Any advice you could give would be great. Thank you.

Signed,

Desperate


Answer:

Dear Desperate:

You can log what you describe above and have others, who also are frustrated by this new employee’s behavior, to log what they see. Note specific time spent by her in non-work activities for several days. Then compose a firmly written request for this matter to be addressed. Especially point up how this forces specific delays in your auditing. Take that written request and log to a face-to-face meeting with your boss. Acknowledge that you remember his warning to “mind your own business” and his promise to handle this by his review. However, state you need action now and that a lengthy investigation and/or further delay for another review will continue to slow up your audits and drive you up the wall.

I assume that your seven-year tenure is proof of your high work ethic and productivity and that you have a solid working relationship with your boss who is “nice but lacks the all-important backbone.” Bosses sometimes have more tolerance for misbehavior of those they manage than do those they manage have tolerance for their coworkers or their bosses’ short-comings. However, it is also true that some bosses need to be confronted for overlooking their subordinates’ irresponsible behavior. If you are as adamant about your “desperateness” as you are in this question you sent us, I predict that your boss will not once again delay his evaluation of this new employee.

In your “desperate” description, I see no time in which you told Ms. Socially Busy (for sort I’ll call her SB) how and when you need her work in order to do yours and how clearly is SB’s job defined in relation to yours? Are you or your boss remiss in not establishing this understanding and cooperative working relationship? Did you treat SB with respect and acceptance from the beginning? And yet another question, did you tell her about your displeasure with her work ethic and failure to scan work through to you before you complained to your boss? These are questions you should ask as you look into the mirror. They might remind you not to simply complain angrily about, “Who is not the fairest of them all?”

Can SB be salvaged? Should you asked for a job transfer within your large company or look for work elsewhere? Should you bypass your nice but weak-backboned boss? These are questions that can’t be answered from this distance. But my general feeling is that it is in the best interest of SB, your own productivity, and that of your company to make a concerted effort to help her be a responsible employee. It is also in your and your workgroup’s interest that you are happily engaged in adding value to what you do and earning that. If you are so frustrated about your job and the failure of your boss to correct a dysfunctional situation, you should say so to him and despite his warning not to by-pass him, you should inform him that you want to go with him to HR and/or his superior to get some relief for what is spiraling downward. Surely, since you say you work in a large organization, there must be guidelines and process protocols for addressing the kind of problem you describe. Check those out. Don’t make this annoyance more than it is. Don’t allow it to be an obsession. Don’t make it subject of gossip. Don’t let it sour you. Be of good cheer in spite of it all. The sun is still shining and life there is much to enjoy if you have a life outside of work.

This current worst of many “bad coworker/boss situations” that “takes the cake” has distracted you from the best in you. You are free to see my advice as no quick fix, but hopefully it will guide you in determining what might work. My best to you. Please after a couple of weeks tell me what you role is in addressing this matter. I think you can do more than just be desperate. My signature sentence “Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS” suggests that shaping good working relationships require courage and that will pay off.

William Gorden