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How to deal with co-worker
8

How to deal with co-worker

How to deal with co-worker

(OP)
hello all,

I am having some serious issues with a coworker who is product leader. I do not report to this co-worker, I am just assigned to do engineering work as part of their product group.

A couple of months ago when we started to work together, I needed to revise or update some of their reports. This coworker made critics on my work approach for going too much in depth. Long story short, on many instances when I examined details of the work it was often sloppy when not seriously flawed. On a specific project we had to deal with a complicated field survey for a client. The coworker did a quick analysis but it was completely off the mark (wrong data on calibration ranges, bad selection of sensors, etc.). Despite of the results being plain wrong, results were put in a report and ready to send to the client. I was then asked to prepare a power point presentation (not to review the method and results) based on the outcome when I realized that things are inconsistent. I reported the inconsistencies, saying that I cannot prepare a presentation on this ground because things are not matching. This was recognized and I ended up reviewing the work from the start. It took me a great deal of work to put together a final report. Along the way, this coworker was not happy that I pin pointed the issues and was pressuring me to deliver the report on short notice. Honestly such pressure did not make my life more easy. But anyway, it is what it is and the end result is that we sent a proper survey to the client.

I did my utmost to never offend this coworker in pointing or bringing forwarded any issue as I genuinely wanted to nurture our collaboration, aiming at a healthy and long term work together.

Now, that we are interacting on more regular basis, this coworker is not easy to work with. Tasks are assigned without prior consultation on my workload, no background of the project is provided. At the end, I am expected to function as a 'post box' and I am getting literal orders by email to do this and that in such a one way top down approach. I find this coworker arrogant and toxic. On one instance, I even asked the coworker to share or refer me to a procedure or process map on roles and responsibilities so I can educate myself on that; what the coworker did is write a procedure on the fly and sent it to me by email saying this is the work procedure from now on. However we are an ISO certified company with a HSE/quality management system in place subjecting our procedures to document control, management approvals, etc. on how we conduct our work.

All in all, I do not want to continue collaborating with an ego-centric or toxic person. I signaled issues several times but it does not lead to any learning or adjusted attitude. My conclusion, is that this coworker did not like that I did pin point deficiencies even if this was done not to finger point but for sake of doing quality work and I am honest in saying that. So its part of unsaid things but they do not want me part of the group. Time is a precious resource that I do not want to waste entertaining this.

How do I deal with this? I did not speak to management yet and I am looking forward at the prospect of leaving this company.

Any help will be appreciated. Thank you.

RE: How to deal with co-worker

Talk to your direct supervisor about the situation. Do not frame your statements as a complaint about the co-worker. Approach your boss as a "more experienced advisor" asking for his thoughts on how to best accomplish your work in this situation. Bottom line: you're not trying to "change" the project leader, or change your assigned role. You're trying to learn from his experience how to achieve the best results in this situation.

This approach does several things. (1) It is a compliment to your boss in that you respect his experience and knowledge. (2) It alerts your boss to the situation in an indirect, non-threatening way. Now that he is aware of the situation he can watch for it and possibly prevent it. (3) You might actually get some useful tips that save a lot of stress and headaches. (4) Your boss might, unknown to you, take some other action behind the scenes to help the situation.

I have found that people respond much better to requests for help than to complaints. A request for help is in itself a compliment to the one asked.

You're not going to change people, but you can sometimes learn from them.

Last bit of advice (and this is the one that drives my daughter crazy): "This too shall pass."

RE: How to deal with co-worker

You say "I reported the inconsistencies, saying that I cannot prepare a presentation on this ground because things are not matching. This was recognized ..."

By whom?

Can you not go down the same route / person again?

Again "I do not report to this co-worker,..." So who do you report to? This is the person you need to be speaking to, not your co worker asking him for a procedure or process plan. "I signaled issues several times ..." to who? Talking to the co worker will be just stoking up their apparent anger towards you.

You really come accross as just trying to be too compliant and wishing to please everyone - "as I genuinely wanted to nurture our collaboration, aiming at a healthy and long term work together." Unless your co worker ahs the same goal then that's just not going to happen.

In a company, the management also needs to take responsibility or people leave or become less productive.

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: How to deal with co-worker

(OP)
Thanks to you both for taking the time to read my post and for your feedback.

@Jboggs, yes this is good piece of advice. Actually I refrained to speak to the boss because - for what it is worth and valid I am not even sure - I felt I would need to avoid to speak on the back of the person; in that respect however, I think your approach (framed as "request for help") tend to workaround this misunderstanding. For me this is good attitude to have and I thank you for sharing. I would try to approach the boss accordingly and see what happens.

Quoted
Last bit of advice (and this is the one that drives my daughter crazy): "This too shall pass."
Unquoted


I agree, it is bit overwhelming for me but should not be the case. Thanks for your guidance again.

@LittleInch, you've made good points.
Quoted
"...This was recognized ..."
By whom?
Unquoted

This was a site measurement survey, there was literally no agreement between measurement and simulation, which pointed to errors in the instrument data and even simulation model issues. Since the survey outcome would lead to sizing of new equipment, there would be consequences on new equipment selection. This consideration led the coworker to recognize the need to do a sanity check on the study. Finally everything was to be revisited.

I had a bit of mixed feelings; on the one hand, I would definitely expect some internal struggle to have things done right, still it was a bit too much tedious. On the other hand, the fact that the coworker recognized that things need to be corrected sent a positive signal. So, at that point, this is how I felt about it. Trying to see the glass half full.

Quoted
You really come accross as just trying to be too compliant and wishing to please everyone - "as I genuinely wanted to nurture our collaboration, aiming at a healthy and long term work together." Unless your co worker ahs the same goal then that's just not going to happen.

In a company, the management also needs to take responsibility or people leave or become less productive.
Unquoted


I agree wih you, LittleInch. 100%.

RE: How to deal with co-worker

(OP)
Jboggs/LittleInch.

Can I ask you please to help me further?

I am exploring the option of sending a "warning" email to the coworker and advise them to make attitude adjustment. That is to say, no boss involvement at this point. Please, consider this as brainstorming problem only. The discussion with the boss I think is the primary route. That is why your inputs are precious to me so that I leave "no stone unturned".

The bottom line and content of that email would be to strongly underline that an adjusted attitude is requested; since there is no direct reporting line between us, top down / authoritative communications and work under instructions should be stopped (the "post box" style), work/assignment on new tasks should be done after prior consultation, explanation of project context, and mutual agreement of a working plan, which involves working together on setting deadlines, and relax as necessary. Finally there should be review on R&R's based on working procedures /process maps that are the resort of management, these should be elaborated according to HSE/QMS system and adhered to. If adjustments is to be applied to processes, it would be appreciated that it is done in consultation with the stakeholders to take into account all views.

I put the above here a little bit in brutal/ crude terms I know, asking forum community to excuse me for that. But I do so on purpose so I can be corrected, helped adjust content and form. In the end, I want to keep a professional standard and I need your help.

So what do you think of that possibility? some of my concerns/questions would be:

1/ Would it be professional to send this email? Can it be done professionally at all ? how do I (re)frame things to achieve professional communication?
2/ There is a risk it would fire back because the person on the other end is just not reasonable and would come back arguing. Otherwise all of this would not have happened at first place?
3/ Is it proper to signal that if adjustments are not effected, consequences may involve termination of the collaboration.

This is exploring a secondary route. If you think this is dead ended, please let me know. I am a bit skeptical that this would lead to result, or that warning would work, yet probing for orientations.

Many thanks.

RE: How to deal with co-worker

Talk to your manager, and maybe HR first.
Sending coworker an email may be considered harassment, or attack. These days everything is hyper-sensitive.

Chris, CSWP
SolidWorks '20
ctophers home
SolidWorks Legion

RE: How to deal with co-worker

compguy22,
1) You must get over your generation's preference for email and text over direct man-to-man conversation. There is no way that written communication can convey the same total content (respect, urgency, concern, helpfulness, attitude, depth of feeling, etc.) as a direct person-to-person conversation. Written communication is fine for simple messages that are clearly stated, or for legal documentation. But they are easily misunderstood or misinterpreted. In fact, I could argue the case that your idea of an email to your coworker is really just another way of avoiding a difficult conversation with your boss.

The personal conversations I'm recommending should not happen in front of other people. Make it private so that neither of you are concerned about what other people might think.

A good friend of mine who was a professional consultant in business management once told me this and I haven't forgotten it: "Your purpose in good communication is not that you be understood. It is that you will NOT be MISunderstood."

2) Do you have any evidence at all that your coworker will take your advice in the friendly, helpful manner in which it is offered? Based on your description so far, I would say no you do not. In fact, my own personal experience also tells me that he will react in the exact opposite way that you desire. If he is a political player, he will probably take it as his personal goal to get you fired. That way "he wins" in his mind. He probably does not see the world as collaborative teams working together. Instead he sees everyone as a competitor who must be controlled or eliminated. He is not going to take advice from you.

Put your big boy britches on and go talk to your boss. He is the only one that truly cares about your success. And be ready for this: your boss might suggest that you go talk to your coworker directly. You should be ready to do that. Come prepared with examples, talking points, suggestions, offers to help. If he does suggest that you might request that he attend also, maybe as a referee or facilitator.

RE: How to deal with co-worker

Quote (I am exploring the option of sending a "warning" email to the coworker and advise them to make attitude adjustment.)


Bad idea... talk to your supervisor about the problem and then talk to the individual. Let him know, with a clear indication, of what the problem is and why. In my experience, no one wants to talk to HR... they are not helpful people. pipe

So strange to see the singularity approaching while the entire planet is rapidly turning into a hellscape. -John Coates

-Dik

RE: How to deal with co-worker

(OP)
ctopher, thanks for the point on attack/harassement. Agreed.

Jboggs, makes perfect sense. I mean, honestly, great advice there. Thank you.

dik, well noted. Thank you.

There is a convergence so far in the various inputs that this should be handled with the boss, face to face, in a conversation with tact, and preferably skipping HR.

RE: How to deal with co-worker

(OP)
May I ask you another favour please.

I think I have been honest in how I described my perception of things and how I feel about it. Probably if someone talks to the coworker however, they may come up with a totally different view. All in all, I do not have the ultimate truth, but who does. So, as an exercise I want to go one step further and challenge myself; your experience/mileage is precious input.

So when you read the problem description. How would you go about it yourselves?
In other words, am I taking it too much personally, should I question my attitude? Should I just work under these conditions?
Do you see these are (valid) concerns, impacting productivity and good team work? even ground for some emotional distress?

I want to gather views. Self criticism appears to me as healthy exercise, if you agree. This can help increase confidence on what I should stand for firmly and keep aside what I should just ignore/skip.

If you can help on this, just very briefly, or just via some hints, it would be much appreciated.

Thanks again and again for your time.

RE: How to deal with co-worker

You might get more help, tips, etc but in my opinion its time to do something on your own and learn from your own experience, good, bad, or whatever. Either way, you learn something. You might start off your meeting with the boss by simply reading your first post above and wait for his comments.

Tell him you need his help and want his advice. State your case. Shut up and listen.

There's an old engineering proverb: "There comes a time in the course of every project when its time to shoot the engineers and start production." I think you have arrived at a similar point in this issue.

RE: How to deal with co-worker

Jboggs - I haven't heard this one

"There's an old engineering proverb: "There comes a time in the course of every project when its time to shoot the engineers and start production." I think you have arrived at a similar point in this issue."

but I like it. LPS for you!

Steve

RE: How to deal with co-worker

(OP)
I think what Jboggs is saying (actually asserting) by means of this proverb is, we've covered the issue sufficiently at this point, its now time to take action (and make decisions). Just reframing in my own words :)

RE: How to deal with co-worker

Just to jump on the bandwagon, a single email is not bullying as interpreted in Australia, but if you do anything else as well then it would provide written evidence of an ongoing problem, which can be construed as bullying.

I had a co-worker from a different culture, and different department, who expected me to do his bidding at the drop of a hat. My work is planned weeks ahead, jamming 'quick' jobs in on a daily basis is counterproductive. So I raised this with my supervisor, explained what was going on, and since we'd already discussed how long it takes to get back in the zone after an interruption, he was fully aware of my feelings on that. So he wrote a letter to me and bossyboots saying that all job requests and queries were to be addressed to my supervisor, not me. Heehee.

Just in case that makes me sound unreasonable if one of our team members is drowning then if it is something I know about I'll jump in, there's no point in one of us struggling with an issue with a known solution.

Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: How to deal with co-worker

I agree.

Thing to do is have ready at least a few ( 2/3 ) examples you can put into front of your line manager when he asks the question - " can you give me an example...."

Alude to the fact that you find this awkward to address with the person as you are both at the same level and also you are trying to avoid direct conflict and an uncomfortable working environment.

Then if it doesn't work start looking for something / somewhere else.

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: How to deal with co-worker

(OP)
TheTick,

I agree with you but that applies equally to the other end, so we all have to fix something in ourselves. What I mean is if the other end works towards a resolution and I equally do a step toward them then we converge to, maybe not a harmonious state but at least something workable. And maybe with time things will flatten out. But if we exhaust all options, then I do not know what to do anymore.
I remain as I was working for GE, once we were told that every group dynamics goes through the following steps:
Forming - Storming - Norming - Performing. So maybe its part of it.

And because I know I could easily mishandle this issue, I decided to write in here and seek for different views, yours is one.
From there I can try to shape something.

Think the same applies in mariage, well sorry for the parallel, but sometime you try to save your mariage but there is a point where for the sake of everyone's health and mental sanity the separation is the path of least evil, like it seems there will always be a part beyond control as part of nature. It was a bit of a philosophical stance :)

RE: How to deal with co-worker

(OP)
Guys, just to give you a short update.

This is what I did, not exactly what I planned, but anyway...

I spoke directly to the co-worker over the phone. Thinking is, if I am subjected to emotional distress due to the situation, it might be the same for the co-worker, or worse (?). So I thought, who knows if the co-worker would decide to leave the company. This triggered me to view things from a totally different perspective. Hence, I went to the colleague and gently requested if it would not bother them to talk a little. I explained to the colleague that I see them as a real asset for the company, and that I really respect and appreciate the contribution they bring to the business. I apologized if I did not communicate well. However, I stated on the bottom line there are some concerns I would like to share. I think I raised most of the points included in my original post (I kept a small list of bullet points on paper next to me to guide the discussion). The colleague listened and then went on sharing their opinion, the exchange went on like that for a while and then we wrapped up few takeaways.
I have no idea if that will change anything going forward, honestly. Fundamentally, I went this route for preventing myself from being responsible - possibly - of any collateral damage to the business in case resignation would be triggered, as an example.

Will be monitoring the response of the co-worker to this conversation. I am not sure of the success but if the issues repeat again, then probably looking for something else, elsewhere would be my best bet.

RE: How to deal with co-worker

You actually called him on the phone? Who does that anymore? LOL (joking)
Good to have a positive conversion. Good for you. Maybe an eye opener for him.

Chris, CSWP
SolidWorks '20
ctophers home
SolidWorks Legion

RE: How to deal with co-worker

Quote:

I am having some serious issues with a coworker who is product leader. I do not report to this co-worker, I am just assigned to do engineering work as part of their product group.

Quote:

The bottom line and content of that email would be to strongly underline that an adjusted attitude is requested; since there is no direct reporting line between us, top down / authoritative communications and work under instructions should be stopped...

The phone conversation is exactly what I would have done. Kudos on that.

That said, I believe a lot of your issues arise from misunderstanding the proverbial pecking order. When a coworker is charged to lead a project their title, pay, seniority, etc is irrelevant as is yours, for that project they are effectively your supervisor and their decisions outrank yours. Having been that non-management project lead many times I can attest that bad reports from a lead will cause team members' bad annual reviews and/or layoff for-cause. If you believe your lead is making bad decisions then you need to address each circumstance with tact. Disagree but dont argue. Quickly forget and move on from petty/small mistakes, but ensure your org-chart supervisor understands your concerns over the major ones. Ensure that your supervisor or other senior-expert is attending important meetings/reviews so they can help challenge major potential mistakes. If you're struggling to manage your time across multiple projects then do the necessary project planning so you can communicate your needs, others can communicate theirs, and timing issues are visible to everyone.

RE: How to deal with co-worker

compguy22,
I think is was wise to call the person in question and actually talk about your concerns. A dialoge is usually better that the monologe that an email usually becomes. The result will hopefully be positive.

But it does not necessarily mean that you don't write the email. Write all your concerns and frustrations, take it all out on the keyboard. Bet don't send the mail. I have heard more than once of people who write an angry mail and feel better, and they never felt a need to actually send it smile.

Thomas

RE: How to deal with co-worker

Quote (ThomasH)

But don't send the mail

Superb advice - done it a couple of times myself, and also been the person the email was never sent about (or so I'm told). Really effective way of putting things into perspective.

A.

RE: How to deal with co-worker

(OP)

Quote (CWB1)

That said, I believe a lot of your issues arise from misunderstanding the proverbial pecking order. When a coworker is charged to lead a project their title, pay, seniority, etc is irrelevant as is yours, for that project they are effectively your supervisor and their decisions outrank yours. Having been that non-management project lead many times I can attest that bad reports from a lead will cause team members' bad annual reviews and/or layoff for-cause. If you believe your lead is making bad decisions then you need to address each circumstance with tact. Disagree but dont argue. Quickly forget and move on from petty/small mistakes, but ensure your org-chart supervisor understands your concerns over the major ones. Ensure that your supervisor or other senior-expert is attending important meetings/reviews so they can help challenge major potential mistakes. If you're struggling to manage your time across multiple projects then do the necessary project planning so you can communicate your needs, others can communicate theirs, and timing issues are visible to everyone.

I am in line with you. But working as team lead does not give free pass to anyone to show diminished respect towards colleagues (a top down attitude is just one example). My current boss has never exercised pressure on me and is giving me leeway to manage my tasks ; actually this is clever because the end result is more productivity (and fun) at work. So, can the coworker of concern damage my annual review, very possibly and for the reasons you've well stated. Very often, hints or very subtile responses are sufficient feeds for the work interaction to self adjust; I am afraid it is not always the case, as with some other people, you can only push back harder to make yourself heard at the price of a risk that things could evolve out of control.

Edit: About annual review....just a general observation besides main topic. If I look at my personal condition, for years I have been sacrificing (literally) my personal well being for work (including for the sake of obtaining "good" annual reviews, references, etc.). Today, I simply do NOT agree to do this anymore! If the work environment is toxic or if it conveys negative stress, I will depart immediately. I also have the feeling that nowadays the paradigm is changing in that employers/managers more than ever before, are now on notice to make sure they provide perfectly healthy work environment to their employees if they do not want to face retention problems. With that come our own responsibilities of course. This is my take on it, do not know what you think?

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