Show-Off Coworker

Question:

Bruce started 2 months ago (a transfer from a different department)-I used to work in his old department and have talked to his ex co workers and they warned me he was a back stabber and would try to make me look bad. At this job Bruce literally runs around like a chicken with his head cut off-he has spread false rumors about me and has made everyone love him because he does some of their work-he has ruined the work coverage ratio with his speedy work and is very high strung-he has went off on us once so far but the bosses stand by this 2 month employee because of his speedy work. we kid around some but he gets mad when I come back with great remarks. How can I deal with this?

Signed,

Not Impressed


Answer:

Dear Not Impressed:

If you read your question with the eyes of an outsider you will certainly see why there may be several ways to view your new coworker and his actions–and several ways to view your thoughts about him. However, your question is about how you can deal with him, which is a valid concern. That’s where I will focus my response.

The foundation for your efforts should not be on changing your coworker, since that isn’t likely to happen. There doesn’t seem to be anything happening that requires HR intervention or a request for an internal investigation. He doesn’t seem to be keeping you from being effective in your work. Basically he’s irritating and an apple polisher (to use a cleaned-up expression) who likes to make himself look good to the boss.

Your efforts should instead be on how to peacefully coexist and to maintain your reputation and influence to such an extent that his actions don’t create problems for you.

1. I think you should keep your conversations limited to work and stop kidding around. You don’t like him, so any “joking” you do is going to have a bite to it. Your come-backs won’t be taken as good-natured fun with a friend. Everyone, including him, knows it. So, make your conversation more about work and general small talk and you won’t have to worry about stepping over the line, creating conflict or being viewed as being rude or inappropriate.

2. Focus on getting your work done to the best of your ability. All of us are paid to do our best work as speedily as possible so we can do more work. That’s a harsh way to put it but it’s true. You don’t indicate that you’ve gotten in trouble because you’re not as speedy as your coworker, so just keep working. If he has the skill or knack of doing work more quickly, perhaps you can learn the same methods. Or, if you don’t want to do that and your supervisor is OK with your level of work, just keep being a steady employee and let your coworker work at the level he and his supervisors are comfortable with. I assume he isn’t getting paid more nor are you getting paid less.

3. The biggest concern I see that you have is the issue of spreading false stories about you. If you can prove that he has said something detrimental about you to others and it was unprovoked, untrue and has hurt your ability to be effective, you have at least three options.

Option One: You can ask your supervisor for assistance. Give the name of the person who told you about the rumor, describe how it has had an effect on your work and ask that the matter be investigated.

Option Two: Talk to your coworker about it and find out what was the reason for the remark, then ask him to stop talking about you. (I doubt you will want to do this but it is a good option.) Option Three: Count on your good reputation to keep a false rumor from being believed. You’ve been there longer than him and unless you have done something that makes the rumor sound credible, most people won’t believe it anyway. Leave it alone and it will go away.

3. I know this last suggestion will be hard to consider, but it might be worthwhile for you. You apparently are in a small team. Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to try to find a way to form an alliance with someone who is productive and also who seems to be, as you say, loved by others?

Is it possible you might be able to at least communciate in a pleasant way and share ideas about work? Could you take a leadership role in helping the whole team find ways to have fun while still working hard?

That would be the essence of win-win, if you didn’t view that you had to squelch him in order to be happy yourself. It also is the essence of Dr. Gorden’s signature phrase, WEGO. That just means that working together we can achieve much more and have a much better workplace.

I hope you can consider ways to reduce the tension between you and your coworker. You can each have different styles, work speeds and work habits, but still work well together.

Consider this solution, since things are strained now: Back off of anything not directly related to work for a few days. Get your work done, your work area organized or your priorities straightened out, according to your job. Be friendly with everyone but limit your interactions. Then, start again. Be civil and friendly as though you and everyone else are new employees. Reach out to everyone in a courteous way. Don’t obsessively notice what the coworker is doing or saying, just stay focused on your own work. Don’t gossip about him to coworkers or those where he used to work. Behave the right way no matter how others are acting.

Then, see if you can build a bridge of communication with the coworker. It will be easier to do after a brief break. Next, include others. Be the one who helps to bring people together and no rumors will be able to harm you, even if they start. You also will show a strength that contributes as much to work as speedy work might do. Best wishes as you find a way to deal with this frustration for you. You can do it, even though it probably will be a challenge!

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.