Follow up on retiree who won’t quit

Question:

Hello there: I have already written in twice with this. Here is some follow-up. As a reminder, I was hired into a prestigious position to replace someone who was about to retire after he trained me. Now he will not retire. I had a meeting with him and our boss today. The boss has decided to allow the retiree to take over half of my responsibilities. He says he is pleased with my job and this is just a “transition” and to be patient as we “sort this out”. So now I am sharing this job with the retiree for long-term. I am really upset about this since I was hired as the scientific consultant (I have a PhD and extensive expertise) and have higher qualifications than the retiree. Plus, I left another job for this position based on the promises of the position. It is frustrating because the retiree acts like I am his subordinate.

So now I am stuck. Any suggestions again?

I have been there a little over 2 months now. I am still in my probationary period for a few weeks more. I am discouraged and again have started a job search. My last position was filled when I left.

Signed,

Frustrated


Answer:

Dear Frustrated:

Yes, I recall your other messages. I’m glad you met with your boss and the employee.

Whether you go or stay I think you should clear up once and for all that you are not subordinate to the other employee. I may not have a grasp of the situation there, but I don’t see why that is an issue at this point. Your boss doesn’t want you to be subordinate, he just wants you to be patient. So, why don’t you push back the next time the employee treats you in that way?

You don’t have to be aggressively rude, just firm in your statement that you are a peer of his not a subordinate. Stick with that and let him fume. Maybe it will make him less likely to want to stay.

“Dave, I don’t know if you intend to be rude to me, but you are directing my work as though you’re my boss. We’re peers. I have no obligation to do as you direct, any more than you have to do what I say. So, please stop treating me like I work for you.”

Right now it seems you only see three options: him gone, him there and you being subordinate to him or you gone. Surely there is a way for you to be valued, to achieve some things and to gain this experience and title on your resume, long enough that it doesn’t look as though you couldn’t do the work. (And that may be what it will look like on your resume if you leave now.)

I can understand that you had expectations that aren’t being fulfilled. But, it seems your biggest upset is the fact that you’re feeling subordinate to a peer. Deal with that once and for all and see if it makes things more tolerable.

Consider writing an email to your boss as a follow-up to the meeting. Say that the one issue that didn’t get resolved was the issue of your position in relation to the employee. Say that you want to clarify that you are not subordinate to the employee in any way, especially given your respective educations and experiences. You may want to ask your boss if that is his understanding too. Cite two or three examples of situations that imply your coworker thinks you are subordinate to him and say that in the future you will be responding by reminding him that you are peers now and that you are no longer in the trainee phase.

That way you will either get support from your boss or you’ll find out you really have been sold a bill of goods and you are actually reporting to your trainer as if he is your supervisor.

Have you considered talking to HR about this? Is your boss the person who made the promises to you? If not, you should perhaps talk to the person who did and let them know what’s happening.

The bottom line is that you can quit, of course. But, that doesn’t seem optimal for establishing a record of success. Instead consider staying but on your terms. I could be mistaken but you seem to still be thinking and acting like a trainee who wants to get out on her own and work without a trainer hovering. If you’re not in training, stop giving your former trainer the status of being your mentor or guide at work.

It will be awkward, I’m sure. But, it needs to be done if you’re going to be satisfied with work until things change. (And they could change quickly at this stage!)

I hope this perspective is helpful. Let us know what develops.

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.