Re: Problem Co-worker

Subject: Re: Problem Co-worker
From: Janice Gelb <janice -dot- gelb -at- sun -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 27 Apr 2007 11:10:39 +1000

abby initio wrote:
> 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.

I agree with you that confrontation, or even
meeting with her in a non-confrontational way,
is probably not the best option. I'd suggest
going to her manager and framing everything in
terms of how it affects the work of your team.
For example, if her behavior makes your team look
unprofessional in the eyes of the engineering
teams with whom you have to work, or if other team
members have to spend extra time because they avoid
meeting with her, or if other team members are being
accused by her of acting unprofessionally (changing
files when they haven't been changed and so on),
those are legitimate work-related complaints.

Also, if your company is large enough, HR might
actually have documents that require certain
standards of behavior in the workplace. Several
years ago we had a writer who regularly was a
bully in meetings and we were finally able to
get some redress when he resorted to cursing out
another writer with witnesses because "inappropriate
language" was an HR offense.

It's really a nightmare when you have to work in
an uncomfortable environment. Good luck!

-- Janice

Janice Gelb | The only connection Sun has with
janice -dot- gelb -at- sun -dot- com | this message is the return address

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Problem Co-worker: From: abby initio

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