Who Is The Real Problem?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about trust: My coworker is stating to me that he does not think the supervisor “knows what he is doing”.

I wrote several years ago about a project that needed to be completed, but was basically being ignored by management. Your advice was very good so I documented the issues being ignored in a spreadsheet. The management has changed personnel now. My coworker and I have worked the last 15 months to clean this project up after a federal audit detected issues.The new management has been instrumental in helping us organize the project. In fact, we are almost finished with this project.

During the course of this project my coworker and I learned many technical skills about the system so we can “fix” a lot of issues that occur. My coworker and I now have a good working relationship except for one thing: During the course of the project, my coworker commented several times that our supervisor did not seem interested in the project, but let our manager help us. I agreed, and now when new situations come up (that need fixes) my coworker is stating to me that he does not think the supervisor “knows what he is doing”. It is true, that I feel our supervisor has not made much effort to learn our jobs, but he is still the supervisor.

I am afraid my agreement with this statement will drag me into an adversarial relationship with my supervisor if he were to hear this. So far, I am okay. I do not trust this coworker 100 percent and wonder sometimes if he just wants to cause trouble. Should I ignore this statement when it is made, or say something to counteract this? I sit in very close proximity to my coworker. This could get out of control quickly.

Signed, Close To Coworker

Dear Close To Coworker:

This is good news; to reconnect with you and learn that you have weathered being ignored by management and now with a personnel change you are well along on in cleaning up a major project. You have two interpersonal communication concerns: talk about your supervisor and trust of your coworker. I think you know the answer to your question, but here’s my thought.

Developing a sound working relationship with one’s supervisor, like organizing is an on-going process of communication; one that is best nurtured. It might never be communication rich, in the sense that your supervisor is as knowledgeable as are you, but it will be communication poor by neglect. Therefore, take and make time to talk, both informal and purposeful talk about what is going own; your project’s progress and the wider concerns of supervision, such as cutting wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted energy, wasted money and innovative thoughts about ways to apply “lean management” concepts.

We too often neglect talk about talk–straight talk with your supervisor about when and what kind of communication she/he and you want to that will be mutually beneficial. The practice of skull sessions is not just something for before and after a game of professional teams. The kind of talk that can endanger a boss-bossed relationship is gossip about one others failures. That should be squashed. How? By changing the topic to constructive matters, such as the tasks at hand and how we might make each others jobs more effective and them look good.

Saving face is a matter of not saying something about another person that we don’t say to her/him directly. Both trust and mistrust of one’s coworker are earned. It is better not to trust another to never divulge something said about others’ lack of competence in confidence. You sense that. Collaboration with your coworker on projects has built trust. Where to go for help, it seems, has raised the issue of your supervisor’s lack of interest and know how. Nevertheless, you are right that he should be consulted/informed.

Bad mouthing should be countered, not ignored. It is normal that those in charge have other and wider interests and responsibilities. Their failure to show interest in what we are doing may be a failure, but it does no good to criticize that to others. If it is a problem, you should bring it to the supervisor’s attention.Your query reveals sensitivity to the importance of the feelings of others. May your tribe increase. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and I know that is what you want and are helping happen.

William Gorden