Is My Co-Worker Trying To Show Me Up?

Question: I was taking a vacation day and my boss wanted to make sure that the daily tasks I do were covered, so I showed my co-worker. She said it would be easy, but she wondered why she couldn’t do the project on her own computer. I told her, because the project is assigned to me and my computer.

The next thing I know, she sent an email to one of the managers, asking why she can’t enter the data through her name on her computer. (I know that’s what she did, because she asked me about it.) I was only going to be gone for a day, so why did she do that? Is she trying to take over my job?

Also, when I told her the other things that needed to be done while I”m gone, she said, “Oh, I’m not doing that. I have my own work to do”.

What do you think about her behavior?

Answer: If you are trying to figure out whether or not your coworker wants to take over your work, consider the big picture of the situation. Does she often volunteer to do your work? Does she ask you to give her some of your work? Does she do your work without telling you? Has she, on some occasion, suggested that she would like to have your tasks instead of her own? If the answer to most of those is No, she probably isn’t interested in taking over your position or tasks.

Look at the examples you discussed. The first one was about entering data on her computer rather than yours. She probably just wants the comfort of working on her own computer, in her own space. The second example was about her saying she didn’t want to do all of your work, because she has her own work to do. She doesn’t seem anxious to take on more work, nor does she seem interested in giving up her work to do yours.

A good rule about workplace communications is, “When you’re wondering, ask the person who can explain.” In this case, rather than wondering what your coworker meant by asking about the computer, you could have asked her directly. “Why do you want to enter the data on your computer instead of mine?” Or, “Why do you want to log-in with your name instead of using my log-in” (Or whatever was your biggest concern.) In that way, you could have gotten a quick answer to your question of what she was trying to achieve.

It’s a good thing that you feel ownership for your work, if it inspires you to do your best, all of the time. However, every task is part of the overall work of your organization, from the top, down through managers and then to employees. Communicate often with your manager, so he or she knows of your commitment and is aware of any concerns you might have. Then, be a good member of the team–willing to help others with their work, when you can, and also willing to share your work, when you’re not there to do it.

I hope this will help you see the actions of your coworker in a less-threatening light. If something further happens, let us know.

Tina Lewis Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors