Problem Co-worker

Subject: Problem Co-worker
From: "abby initio" <abby -dot- initio -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2007 18:24:22 -0500


I'm a longtime member of the list but, since I'm occasionally a contractor,
I'd rather not use my professional address.

That said, I'm having trouble with a co-worker who is a low-grade bully. She
easily accuses others of changing her files (we have no version control).
She doesn't speak to you quietly, but shouts from her cube, "So and so, did
you change my file?" or "Are you in the foofile?" or just a general
accusation to the whole team.

She raises her voice, uses a lecturing tone, and quickly escalates to
confrontation. It's always a conversation that she dominates. It's hard to
get a word in edgewise without similarly raising your voice and
interrupting. When you do, she accuses you of causing the problem. Or, you
stand there realizing that everyone from the very quiet teams nearby, some
of who work closely with the IT manager, can hear you. Having the good sense
to know this isn't wise, you shut up. Meanwhile, not a word is said to the
person who was shouting in the first place.

I could go on, but her behavior isn't so much the point. Rather, I'm
anticipating the likelihood of a discussion with my project manager and I'm
wondering how to handle it. My own thoughts are:

1. I want to avoid dissing the co-worker. It's true that it's not just a
problem between the two of us. Everyone on the team has spoken briefly about
it. Fortunately, we tend to be professional and have avoided gossiping or
ganging up about her while she's not around. Still, it seems to me best to
avoid hauling out a laundry list of grievances. I have documented
everything, but that was for my own sanity.

2. OTOH, how do I come at this as a problem-solver, without clearly
delineating the problem -- which is mostly just personality. In other words,
if she's "just this way" then it seems hard to see how any of us are going
to be able to get our project manager to sit down with her and ask her to
stop raising her voice and/or stop accusing others of changing her files.
We're all doing what we can do, from what I've observed, which mostly means
we keep our mouths shut, walk on eggshells when she's cranky, etc.

3. My own instinct would be to have a calm, professional conversation with
her directly, using all the listening techniques, but also setting firm
boundaries such as waiting patiently when she interrupts, and then insisting
on completing my thought. But this seems unlikely. She's just not the kind
of person who will do this. She will yak on and on, wearing you down because
you're always interrupting to try to get a word in to the point that it's
just not worth it anymore. And she just doesn't come off as someone with
whom you can talk.

Anyway, enough rambling from me. Thoughts?


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