How Can I Show My Coworker Didn’t Have My Best Interest at Heart?

Question:
One day I did not turn up to work at the expected time. My co-worker, who I do not get on with, was stomping around the office asking other co-workers why I had not turned up, intermittently going into a shared office and asking “has she not turned up?”

Later he asked where I live and my phone number to contact me. He distracted quite a few people who were tying to get on with work. Basically he made a show of it.

My boss who is controlled by this co-worker did not check that I was actually off work and had in fact notified others. So she called me on my mobile. I replied and said I was off work and it was on the roster. When I returned to work at least 4 other co-workers were asking for my home address and telephone number when normally I do not share with every co-worker although we have an administration office that keeps a list of numbers and addresses in emergencies, so it is available if needed.

My boss also reprimanded me and said I did not notify them beforehand, etc etc. When I challenged my boss that she should have checked the roster or asked other senior members of staff she said, “well we were worried about you”.

We lost a coworker (who died unexpectedly the morning she was to turn up to work, in her sleep). I feel this is an excuse and quite insulting to both the deceased person and myself. So is there a way I can articulate this ? Thanks

Response:
No doubt about it, it’s very irritating and frustrating to take a day off, then have it ruined by an office meddler and a boss who didn’t handle the situation correctly. It might help to take your emotion out of it and look at the reality of this situation:

*You took the day off, but those you notified about it didn’t let your coworkers know you would be gone. (First mistake).
*Your coworker “stomped around” and asked about you repeatedly, but wasn’t stopped by those who now say he interrupted their work. (Second mistake.)
*Apparently those you notified were nowhere around the office, so they didn’t realize anyone was asking for you. (Third mistake.) As mentioned above they also hadn’t told your coworkers that you would be gone and questions for you should be held until the next day.
*The roster was not available for easy reference by your boss or she didn’t look at it. (Fourth mistake.)
*Considering that this was just one day off, it seems even your coworkers made a big deal of it, by asking for your contact information, when they know there is an emergency file. (Fifth mistake.)

The positive side is that when your boss called you, you were able to clear up the matter. When you returned, your boss explained her actions by saying that she was concerned about you. (Which may have just been a way for her to explain her error in not checking the roster.) It appears that the confusing situation is over.

It won’t help your cause to put your focus on trying to show that your coworker had a negative motive for asking about you. Most other involved employees probably realize it and your boss probably won’t believe it. Even if your boss could be convinced that your coworker was just trying to stir up trouble for you, I think it would be considered a minor issue and nothing serious enough to justify further action.

Keep in mind that you weren’t there to hear or see exactly how your coworker asked about your absence, you are relying on what you were told (perhaps by someone who is also trying to stir up trouble.) So, the worst thing you could say is that your coworker asked about you several times. Why should he not do so, if even your boss didn’t know where you were? He could probably justify his actions by saying he needed to ask you about a work issue. It would be impossible to prove otherwise.

The people who should be complaining are the employees who allege to you that they were unable to do their work, because of the coworker’s repeated questions about your absence. Ask them if they will go to the boss and express their frustrations with the effect he had on their work. I’m betting they won’t do it.

Instead, your focus needs to be on finding out if you used the correct method for notification about your absence—and if you did, why did the process not work? If there was a problem with your situation, it could happen with other employees. Perhaps you could be the one who helps make it better in the future.

The first thing for you to do is to be very clear on the requirements for requesting time off and notifying the correct people that you will be off or late. Then, talk to your boss and ask if there is a way to ensure you are making the correct notifications and that those you notify have a protocol for ensuring that your boss knows or can easily find out, that you are on an approved day off.

You can do that in a way that is casual and not accusing anyone of wrong doing. If she hears in your voice and demeanor that you are trying to solve a problem, she will appreciate your mature approach about it—and it will allow her to save face as well. She probably realizes now that there were other ways to find out about your absence.

She may also be encouraged to think about your coworker’s role and whether he could have handled it differently. If she does, that will be a good thing. If she doesn’t, nothing you say will make a big difference.

Your best approach, after working to clarify this policy and procedure, is to move on with work and show through your actions and words that you offer more than the coworker you dislike. Be at your best and help others be at theirs.

Best wishes to you in this matter. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know how it works out.

Tina Lewis Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors