Nosy Difficult Colleague

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about dissatisfied coworker:

I have joined this company in August 2011 (a year ago) with a little experience. They offered me 6.85 per hour. When I joined, the previous company was sold and almost all members were transferred to the new company. I was hired as an Administrator. I found in the office a lady (transferred over and being paid 10 pound an hour.) I did not care how much she was getting. She was 5 months pregnant. Our boss asked her to train me but she did not want to help me or to train and I did not complain to anyone. I was just doing the job she asked me to do even though she was not my boss but she knew better. She was not getting on well with our boss newly hired but I was. Because she was not training me properly, my boss was giving me more work which she was not happy about. Sometimes she was telling me not to do what my boss asked me to do. Before going on Maternity, my boss offered me if I were interested in doing all the work with a salary increase because of 9 pound an hour which I accepted. I reorganized physically and processes wise the entire office and streamlined all the processes and procedures. everyone was happy about it..Everything was in order. before you needed 3 persons to do the job but to be honest one person and a half can do the job now. She came back from maternity month ago and I am living a nightmare.

She came twice in the office the week before she re-started without letting us know while my boss was on holidays which I do not appreciate. Example of her behavior: When she came that day, she said to me can I have my desk back which I gave back to her without problems. All desks are the same except that the phone is on her desk, her computer is bigger and when you come in the office it is her you see first. I do not mind at all but it just the fact to ask to have a desk back. I would have given it to her without asking.

When she came back from maternity I sat down with her to train her, she does not listen. she will comment every single thing, asking me to amend things and criticizing my work without even listening what I have to say. It got to a point where it seems like she was training me as she won’t let me explain and finish.

One day I had enough and I told her that I do not appreciate her criticizing my work. I said to her that me and my boss treated her so well on her return trying to make her comfortable but it seems like the more we are kind to her the more she asks. She asks to do 7am till 3 which my boss accepted. Her salary has not changed, the job is easier and she is still complaining. She replied to me that day turning things around saying that I was being rude to her. Last week we had a meeting when my boss decided to divide the tasks in the office so each of us will have her own responsibilities.

My boss asked if we were both happy with the division and we were both affirmative. But in fact she is not happy she said as now she is sharing her job. I confirmed to her that I was hired having the same title as her but she said she will take it further.In the morning I let her do the most important things as she just came back but she will pester me about other things saying that she is eager to learn. Fair enough I said but in few weeks you will know everything. Be patient and it will come naturally. But she does not listen or care about what I say.The most annoying things are when she finishes her work and will come on my desk to ask me about other things. One Friday, she came at my desk and said that she would like on Tuesday to sit on my desk and go with me through my personal email and see how I reply to the emails I receive. I asked her why do you need to know that? She replied that she would like to know how I fill my day. I said to her that sometimes I will receive emails from other people or my boss or someone asking me to do things and I will do it and that in few weeks it will be the same for her, that she does not need to go through my emails for that. But she would not listen.

She said ‘I won’t touch or do anything, I will just watch you” I am not sure if it is insecurity or afraid to lose her job or? She is really stressing me with delicate questions and I am not comfortable in the office. I have a portable phone on my desk but as soon as the phone rings she will pick the one on her desk but not sure about what to say as she does not know the answer. Then she will answer wrongly as she does not want to involve me in things. Also, when someone come in the office and asks me a question she will answer before I start talking. I don’t know what to do. The problem is my boss is not strong enough to tell her things. he does not want to upset anyone. he just ignores her instead. Also, we have 2 different personalities: I am calmer and quieter and do not like to undermine people or to be rude with them but she is bubbly, extrovert and always undermine people or shows that she knows better.

Now, she put a grievance against my boss as she said she is under stress and her role has changed due to the fact that she went on maternity. My boss confirmed also that she will bring a representative to the meeting with Human Resources. My boss told me about it. So she decided to go through my file and look for my contract which she couldn’t find. The key disappears few days ago and she asked maintenance to come open my drawer where all contracts are. Fortunately, maintenance declined her request as they do not know her. The maintenance guy told me what happened there is no day when something is not happening in the office. I just want her to let me work. She is constantly asking me for things which are not her business. I hate going o work now since she is back and my boss does not talk on the phone or to anyone when she is there as my boss and I do not trust her. My colleagues are telling me to ignore her but even though I ignore her she will come to me with a sweet voice but she is not sweet inside at all. Please give me advice.

I have spoken with my boss who spoke with her but I believe nothing is going to change. I have also spoken with another manager in our company and he asked me to be tough with her the way she is with me. But she always surprises me with delicate questions and sometimes I don’t know what to say and I don’t want to be rude. Thank you and sorry for long post.

Signed, Don’t Want To Be Rude

Dear┬áDon’t Want To Be Rude:

It is an understatement to say that Ms. Sweet But Not Sweet is making your work day less than a joy. Some of the incidents you describe are annoying; others distract from your job and consequently adversely affect productivity. Most likely you will have to toughen up and risk being rude to define the boundary lines Not Sweet is crossing. However, that should not be only your responsibility. Your manager, about whom you say Not Sweet has submitted a complaint, is charged with creating structure and resolving conflict. Who does what and when should be defined in job descriptions. Apparently these need clarification after Ms. Sweet has from maternity leave and since you have re-organized your office operations. Job definition is not a one-time matter; in some measures it is an on-going process. You say your boss had a meeting to allocate assignment, but that Ms. Sweet is not happy about that. Apparently your manager will learn that old habits aren’t resolved in a one-fix meeting. He probably needs to schedule several timeout meetings.

Rather than just talk about who does what one tact is to collaboratively chart tasks on a vertical axis and label whose is to do each across a horizontal axis, what apparently is currently debatable. Also spelling out do and don’t communication rules should prevent misunderstanding.You say that Ms. Bubbly has submitted a grievance to Human Resources. Therefore, much of what is causing trouble for you and him is now up for investigation and problem solving. The boss should not have to be on guard lest Ms. Sweet will misconstrue what he says. He should compile examples of her actions that have make trusting her problematic.

Probably he has been too permissive and should have counseled and placed her on probation if he had evidence of trust-destroying acts. Of course his actions should be in keeping with your company’s protocol. HR can assist with that. Meanwhile, you might reprogram what is circling about in your head. Your long story has now been told Ask The Workplace Doctors. Hopefully you can feel that it isn’t necessary to repeat it again to others or yourself. Most of us have to live with some unpleasant aspects of our work. I challenge you not to obsess about this; rather focus on beautifying your space, cutting waste, adding value, and pleasing internal and/or external customers. Possibly for a while it will be better for you to just work so that you can focus on good things beyond your job. Work is hard enough without the hassles of a Ms. Sweet Not Sweet, but steps are underway to cope with her distraction. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that includes doing all you reasonably can to assert yourself and at the same time to realize that Ms. Sweet, however provocative her action, also wants to come to a friendly workplace.

William Gorden