False Accusations Made By Co-worker

Question:

I am a female employee who works with another female work. For two years, we have worked together. Both of us work for separate contracting companies. During the two years, the coworker has not made any effort to excel in the duties of her job. I have done most of the work. At one point, the employee complained I did not provide her tools to do her job. I did and after over a year she still is not using them. Recently she sent a written complaint to her company. My company has not revealed all of her complaints. Apparently she has been keeping a log over the two years. The few complains that I have heard are false. What is my company’s responsibility to me and what rights do I have?

I am very stressed out by all of this. I have tried to assist this person on numerous occasions. Now I do not speak with her. I feel that my character is at risk. Thanks.

Signed,

Stressed Out


Answer:

Dear Stressed Out:

Work can be difficult in itself, and however difficult it is, it can be more difficult when working with someone with whom you do not speak. That is dysfunctional. You are communication poor both in productivity and emotionally.

Does not working without speaking adversely affect you or your coworker from doing your jobs and the quality of work? Apparently, it did in the past because you say that you did much of your coworker’s work. Now she must be doing her job without your help or at least she is getting by without you speaking to her?

So why do you care? You care because you worry that your co-worker is painting a bad picture of you. You say that you each work for separate contracting companies, yet you must be working together for the same company or there would be no reason for you to be located near each other. Right? Do you not have a manager to whom you both report? Since you say you are “stressed out”, you will have to decide if you want to do more than repress these feelings or spill them to family. Are you stressed enough to confront your stress? I will assume that you want to confront working without speaking to your coworker. If you were members of a family living together but not speaking, you would have to decide if you could clean, pay bills, and allocate use of your residence without speaking. Likewise, as coworkers working within the same space, you now must decide if there are aspects of your assignments that are dependent on communication and if the quality and productivity will be better if you collaborate. You ask: What is my company’s responsibility to me and what rights do I have? Your employer does have a responsibility for paying you for working, for preventing/correcting discrimination, and for providing a safe place to work. It does not have a responsibility for interpersonal conflict, but it is in its best interest to have happy workers. That means your superiors should want you and your coworker to work harmoniously and for you not to work in a hostile work environment. Therefore, if you are serious about wanting a productive and pleasant working environment, you will enlist their help. I ask: Is it not past time for you and your coworker to address the issue of who does what, when, and to whom you are each responsible? If you can’t address these two questions together, you need to go to your superior and request that person schedule a meeting to clear the air.

But before you do that, I recommend that you first think through and prepare a list of what has brought you to not talking. Also jot down what would make each of your jobs more productive, efficient and pleasant. Once you have done that, break your silence and request a meeting with your coworker. Take time out to talk out what brought you to “not speaking”. At least, approach her to say that you would like to take time out to talk out your working relationship. If she refuses, tell her that you are going to your superior to request a “clear the air meeting” between you. In such a meeting, your superior should act as a mediator to set forth guidelines of who does what and also what are the dos and don’ts of communicating with each other. Also the superior should schedule follow up sessions to review how well you two are working together and if any of the guidelines need to be changed. Perhaps the most important guideline should be that you two have a regular time to brief each other if your jobs are interdependent. Also an important guideline includes a time for applauding each other’s accomplishments.

Confrontation will not put away all ill will between you or make you like each other, but it should correct some of the complaints that have built up. Moreover, it just might help you two to set some work related over-arching goals that help you put that ill will aside. Let’s suppose that the two of you might find ways to make your jobs easier and more effective. What if you together were to have a bonus based on how much waste you together might cut; wasted time, wasted supplies, wasted energy? What if you were able to make your customers to report that your work was excellent; that it enabled them to make more money? What if you two started thinking and working as a team, rather than at odds?

Conflict need not be destructive. It has the possibility of causing you to think about what a productive and pleasant working relationship should be. Working together with hands, head and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden