My Co-Worker Makes Problems For Me

Question:

I’ve been on this job for twenty-eight years. My co-worker has only been on the job for six years. We do same type of work on the job. She copies everything I say. I never in my life saw anything like this. She never thinks for herself. She’s very nosey. She gossips. She lies on her time time sheet. She’s late most of the time. She even lies on the time that she takes her lunch.

She has no manners. We both answer the phone and there are times she will get up and not say anything and leave the phone ringing off the hook while she goes to the restroom, or to get a drink of water.

Other people notice, but no one says anything. They like her more than they like me and I get no credit for my ideas and thoughts, which she steals from me. They give her compliments.

She’s very jealous and competes with me. It’s so frustrating. The Supervisor knows me longer than she, but he takes sides with her. I hate coming to that office working with her.

Just last month we all received a memo about laying off. Whatever she sees me do, she tries to do it better, but she has no common sense at times.

She’s in her early forties and I’m in my early fifty. It’s terrible the things that she says and does. She gossips and spends time on her cell phone when she’s supposed to be answering the multi-lines on the switch board. She puts the client on her hold while she answers her personal call on her cell phone.

No one pays attention to me when I complain about it. They say to document everything that the co-worker does. I’ve been doing for over a month about her being late and lying on time.

What can I do to stop this person? I’m sick of it. Someone told her she does a better job than I do, but I was the one that taught her some of it. She wants me to be laid off and not her.

Every day she tries her best to impress people and please them and she goes out all the way and her pay is the still the same. I make a little more than she does. I think the company wants me to quit. There’s so many things that I see that she just don’t know. I work “my butt” off for this company and this the thanks that I get. I got nothing for my 20 years, 25 years and nothing now for my 28 years. What can I do. I’m fifty-two years old. Who’s going to hire me? I’m too young to retire. The age is 65 years.

I refuse to work any longer with this woman. This is the first real job that she ever had, and the longest years on a job that she ever had. She has no skills, just only high school education.

I can’t say that I hate her. It just what she does. Just recently someone told her to watch and see everything that I do and to keep up with me. She’s making my job unbearable. Someone suggested that I should ignore her because of her ignorance, but I don’t know if that will help.

What should I do?

Signed,

Sick and Tired of The Coworker


Answer:

Dear Sick and Tired of The Coworker:

I can tell you are very upset and I can imagine how you must feel. It’s frustrating when someone else seems to be viewed in a better manner than you, when you have been there longer. Add to that the fear about lay-offs and I’m sure you’re upset.

I don’t know that I have any solid solution for your situation, but let me share some thoughts that you might use when you think about what you want to do.

First, I think you need to separate the issues that concern you, so you can think about them one at a time.

1. You want to keep your job and not be laid off. 2. You are unhappy with the poor job done by the coworker. 3. You are hurt and irritated that others seem to think more highly of her than of you. 4. You are frustrated because she seems to copy you and try to outdo you on everything.

Those are each separate situations, even though they are tied together in some ways. But, as long as you keep them together you have a giant issue to deal with. If you separate them you can better decide if you should do something and what you should do.

Let me suggest some things about each of those problems.

1. You don’t want to be laid off from work. I don’t know the business you are in, or what kind of jobs are being reduced. I do know this, if there are two people doing a job and one is going to be laid off, and there are no union issues about seniority, they will keep the person who does an acceptable job and who also is the most pleasant to be around and work with.

The factors for doing acceptable work are, taking care of the job that must be done, doing it the right way, getting few complaints and being present when work needs to be done. The factors for being pleasant to be around and work with are, a high level of personal hygiene, friendly conversation and actions, support for others and the group, and an overall positive outlook.

When there is a tough choice, my experience has been bosses will settle for less work to have a more pleasant person, but work has to be done well enough to not hurt the business.

So, that can be something for you to consider. The issue is not to compete with your coworker, but rather to compete with yourself to be more effective and pleasant to deal with than ever.

If you have received evaluations, look at those and see if there have been suggestions for how you can improve any aspect of your work. One way to know that is to look at the areas where you were rated anything less than outstanding. You need to be outstanding in every area to be solid in your job.

If you have a friend there who you can talk to openly and honestly, tell her you want to be so good there will be no question but that you will keep your job. Ask her if she has suggestions for what you could do to improve work or your personal relationships at work. She may not want to say anything, but she might have ideas.

As far as a pleasant demeanor goes, that includes a kind word now and then, a pleasant greeting smile, a willingness to volunteer to help, a work area that is tidy and represents you well, actions that show people you are trying to do good work and want to be helpful to them and to customers.

2. You are frustrated about the work of your coworker It may be that unintentionally you have created a negative situation by complaining about your coworker. I’m not saying that you should never complain if she is doing something that keeps you from working effectively.

But I don’t think you should complain about things that don’t really impact your work. If you are going to complain be sure to be able to show how what she did hurt the business or kept you from being able to do the job right. Otherwise, let her supervisor be the one to find mistakes and problems.

For example, if she can handle the phone and still talk on her cell phone, and her supervisor hasn’t stopped her, it isn’t your place to report her unless some aspect of it creates more work for you and hurts your ability to work.

On the other hand, if she leaves without telling you and you can’t answer the phone, or if the two of you are supposed to keep each other informed, that is something to be concerned about. Even then, you should talk to her first and if that doesn’t work ask her to meet you in the supervisors’s office so you can hash it out in there.

One thing is for sure–if one of you is going to be laid off work (and hopefully that is just a worry but not a real likelihood)–you will not likely be kept only because you can point out the things she does that are bad. You are more likely to keep your job because of the things YOU do that are good.

3. You are hurt because others seem to think more highly of her than of you. That’s understandable, although it might not be true. It could be that she talks to them more or that they find her to be more approachable, but that they value your work more or as much.

OR, it could be that they find her more enjoyable for some reason. That might be something else to ask your friend about. Or, try this–observe her interactions with the others for a few days and notice what it is that seems so positive about their reactions to her. Are there particular things she says and does? Are there particular topics she talks about? You say she tries to please everyone and impress them. That sounds good! Could you do those things? Is it that you think she is being phony or insincere? The reality is that our internal customers respond well to good customer service. And, like all customer service, sometimes we act more pleasant than we feel!

It may be that the others think your coworker does a better job for them, even though the other things aren’t done well. Maybe you can identify what tasks would be helpful for them and try to assist them when possible. I’m not suggesting that you live your whole worklife trying to make points with people–but apparently your coworker has found a way to do that.

Keep this in mind–if she is well liked, you certainly do not help your own cause by complaining about her. A boss told me once about a complaint one employee made about another. He said, “I know John is right about Hank’s work. But even with Hank’s work being a problem, he’s easier to get along with than John, so I’m not going to upset Hank over a few little problems.”

That shows you how sometimes getting along goes further than perfection at work!

4. You are frustrated because your coworker seems to copy you. You say she is jealous of you. If she is as well thought of as you say, it would seem she has little reason to be jealous. It isn’t a bad thing that she sees what you do and tries to do better. I suggested essentially that you do the same thing about her!

Maybe you can find a way to focus so much on your work, that none of that can bother you quite so much. If you are the one with the knowledge and skills and she is just copying you, she won’t be able to fool people for long. And, if you are seen to try to help her or to teach her, that will make you look far better than resenting her.

I know that’s not easy to do, especially if her style is irritating to you. But you’re talking about saving your job and your enjoyment of work, so maybe it would be worth it to you.

Here is something else about all of that. You mention your time on the job and hers as well. But keep in mind that to most people six years is a very long time. She isn’t a newcomer and she likely doesn’t feel she owes anything to you for your time there. To others it probably seems as if both of you have been there forever.

Neither does the fact that you have been there for so long mean that you do the job better than she does. You might–and you probably do. But in six years you probably knew how to do things, and she does too. You know what they say…some people have twenty years of experience and some people have one year of experience, twenty times.

If you are not fulfilling those two areas–work performance and pleasantness to work with–your length of time won’t protect you if a choice has to be made, and they feel that your coworker is doing a good job AND is pleasant to work with.

If you both are about the same, THEN your length of time would be considered a key issue.

Really challenge yourself in the next few days to determine if there are any areas of your work or actions that have ever been mentioned as things you could change or do better. Then, start working on those. Focus on yourself before you ever start even thinking about the work of someone else.

Stop documenting the things your coworker is doing wrong. That just takes up your time and makes you look badly. If it’s so bad you can’t get your work done, or if she treats you meanly or rudely, don’t take the time to document, just tell her you are not happy about it and you are going to ask the supervisor to talk to both of you about it, unless she changes.

Instead of resenting what she says and does, see if you can be so focused on your own work that what she says and does doesn’t bother you. Let your supervisor find out about her problems on his own. Later, when all of the concern about layoffs are over, THEN you can worry about her work.

Talk better times to everyone–remembering that there are probably many people who are just as worried as you are about their jobs.

All of these thoughts may be ones you have already considered, but perhaps they might be useful. You sound like someone who wants to do good work and wants to be happy in your work. Life is too short to let one other person get in the way of that.

I know you must work closely with her, but maybe you can make it a project to ensure that neither of you are laid off, because each of you are doing good work, are helping the business and are pleasant to be around. That would be a great win/win solution!

Best wishes as you deal with this issue. I hope it becomes better and that you are able to keep moving forward in a positive way.

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.