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Colleague making lives a misery, what can we do?

(20 Posts)
muttimalzwei Sat 10-Sep-11 09:22:30

I am working part-time and have two colleagues, one full time, one part time doing the same role in a college. The full time colleague has better technical knowledge and overall idea about diaries/apointments etc as she is there all week and sees more than we do etc. But we have other strengths...
She likes to make us look incompetent at any opportunity and bosses us about. If you ask her to explain something that wasn't clear she will say 'I sent you an e mail', she sees explaining something face to face as a waste of her time and that you should be able to take new procedures on board just by reading an e mail attachment. (I need to be shown, learn by doing etc)
She is also presenting herself to colleagues as the main one in charge and dominating any discussions.
Bascially we feel like she resents us and does not feel we do enough work.
She talks in an aggressive and condescending manner and it is making work so unpleasant.
I am spending half my time thinking about snide comments she has made to me and it is really affecting my confidence. I feel quite depressed.
Our line manager gets the same condescending treatment really as he is away from the office a lot and quite disorganised and when he tries to ask her about things she will say 'well, if you had read the e mail you would have known'...'yes, I did tell you to do that, but you obviously weren't listening'. She's doing his head in too. He knows he needs to speak to her and has promised to do so but I think he is avoiding it.
Does anyone have any experience of dealing with a colleague like this? I know I need to challenge her in some way as her tone is unacceptable but I just don't know how to do it. She is really starting to affect me, which is not good.

Petesmum Sat 10-Sep-11 09:33:28

If your boss is aware of the situation, then I think you should leave the conversation down to him. Though you might want to keep a diary of especially annoying examples of this behaviour so he has some reference material.
It may also be worth while discussing with your boss how responsibility can be shared out between you all so she has her own work and you have your own work. That way she isn't the percieved "expert" on everything.
Good luck!!

muttimalzwei Sat 10-Sep-11 09:38:57

Thanks Petesmum. He is totally aware of the situation and I have begun forwarding particularly 'cutting' e mails on to him. But I honestly think he can't find it in himself to talk to her about it. She's so difficult to talk to, she would not back down, basically we're all a bit scared of her. I am trying to get my own area of responsibility which is working ok until she interferes and wants to know what I am doing. (She won't share with me but expects me to share all info with her). She is always telling me what I should and shouldn't be doing and any new ideas I have are taken over by her or dismissed before understanding the whole story and benefits for students.

plupervert Sat 10-Sep-11 09:59:59

It is his job as manager to deal with this sort of thing. Maybe he is a bit incompetent in that way, but he has to do it; it's unproductive to let you (and himself) be undermined like this, rather than supporting all of your work.

By the way, she is definitely undermining him with her e-mails and "yes, I told you"s. It sounds as though she is giving him instructions!

It sounds as though she covers her arse with e-mail quite a lot, and that is not working, so he should for a start insist more on meeting-style communication. It's a bit of an arse if you and your other colleague are part-time, but it could be time used well. Also, in a meeting, the communication dynamic would be changed to 3-on-1, rather than her 1-to-1 approaches.

SageMist Sat 10-Sep-11 13:01:41

I've used email to cover my back in the past, and it sounds like she's doing that too. You could throw things back at her and say her emails aren't as clear as she thinks!

As Plupervert says, I've found it helpful to have meetings as an additional aid to communication. You have the meeting (3-1, not 1-1) and then follow it up with an email to consolidate what has been communicated in the meeting. Or your ask for a meeting following a receipt of an email, to discuss the ramifications (great word!) and practicalities of the email contents.

You may find it useful to point out that many people have a visual learning style, so demonstrations and whiteboard sessions are the way to go, rather than a written format. Although written instructions are good for detail, and for refering to afterwards.

Petesmum Sat 10-Sep-11 13:28:59

If it won't upset your boss too much, perhaps you could talk to your HR manager? They might be able to work with your boss on ways to discuss your shared issues or perhaps suggest a team working / learning styles away day...know it sounds a bit HR-y but I've seen it work before

An0therName Sat 10-Sep-11 15:31:44

actually a team building day could help -you might need someone to facilitate - it does sound a bit HRy but it can work
look at different styles -have you come across belbin? and generaly have a disscusion about how best to work together - she may not realise how she comes across - and when you are having a dicussion in general it can be easier to raise , sounds like there are things that need be sorted out anyway - like who does what etc
but she does sound quite difficult - so keep record too

haveigotnewsforyou Sat 10-Sep-11 21:32:06

Yes, I've had this before.

Things started off okay but became strained quite quickly. Her behaviour was absolutely appalling. We then had a bit of a 'to do' and I basically told her to 5od off. Although I apologised I received a very snotty response and things were never the same again. I kept my head down, only spoke to her when I had to and bided my time. About three months later the company asked her to leave. I thought all my Birthdays had come at once!

I personally would muddle through as best as I could without her help. If I did need to ask her something I would put it on email and be prepared for a sharp reply. Console yourself with the fact that not everyone is as enlightened and professional as you are and you will feel better! With any luck she will get the push soon...

plupervert Sat 10-Sep-11 22:08:18

I agree about covering oneself using e-mail, SageMist. I've done it myself, too! It's unfortunate, though, that this woman seems to be doing it only to make others look bad, rather than protect herself, and is monopolising the "coverage"!

OP, can you see any way in which she is abusing it? For example, does she send e-mails and expect "action" before you could have had a chance to read them (unless you were, in fact, acting as full-time staff and constantly checking your e-mails)? Snowing people with loads of e-mails they won't have a chance to read can also be considered an inappropriate burden on productivity. At its extreme, it is a mirror of that scene one of those law dramas (either The Firm, or Class Action with Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), in which the lawyers of a guilty party send the material they are legally obliged to send.... but buried in piles of irrelevant material which the beleagered defence has little chance of getting through in time...

muttimalzwei Sun 11-Sep-11 04:03:40

Thank you for all your input. Ihave to do something about this on Monday as she has ruined my weekend. I am already thinking "is it really her, perhaps it's me", and trying to find excuses for what I know is unacceptable behaviour. I will keep you posted. I think I will have another word with my boss and encourage himto have a word with her as this can't go on. I am dreading going into work.

plupervert Sun 11-Sep-11 15:55:33

Sorry to hear she has cast this shadow over you. That's a dreadful way to live, especially if you are meant to be part-time!

StillSquiffy Mon 12-Sep-11 09:40:33

You must keep in mind that the real culprit in all of this and to whom you should direct your anger at the situation is your manager. It is his job to ensure that the team works to the best of it's capabilities and it is his responsibility to resolve it.

I wouldn't say a word to her, I'd simply tell your boss that if he doesn't address it within the nest two weeks you will raise it with HR yourself.

StillSquiffy Mon 12-Sep-11 09:45:46

...and what your boss needs to do is to establish the behaviours that need to change and present them to her as a set of targets to reach in the next year. He needs to motivate her to be more reasonable to you and the only way he does that is by either rewarding her for it (the easy way, done via targets for personal development) or by talking through the issues and getting her to put herself in other people's shoes (very difficult in practice if you are not naturally good at this kind of coaching).

TBH I think a team building day or similar will not work - I honestly think this woman sees nothing wrong in her approach - she will cite profesisonalism, establishment of formal processes, evidence of good work done and so on. A team building event for 3 people can make people 'like' each other more, but won't alter their established work techniques a jot.

doublestandard Mon 12-Sep-11 09:52:14

I think with many people with bad behaviour didn't start out that way. One day they get a bit riled with something and cross a boundary and nobody says anything to them, so next time they think it's ok and the boundary of what they believe to be acceptable behaviour creeps further away from the collective position.

So, while your manager is hugely at fault I do think it's also your responsibility to call her on any inappropriate comments/behaviour. You will need to give an example when you do this so try to say at the time. If you're feeling that's too much face to face use one of her cutting emails. Simply reply with "I'm sure you didn't mean to be, but I found this email quite rude."

Yes there are some nasty bullies in the workplace who can grind you down but if the behaviour is known about and no one says anything to her then you are all, indirectly responsible for that behaviour.

If having a word/drawing attention doesn't work a letter to your boss (cc HR) outlining how your colleague is behaving and how it's making you feel is the next step.

muttimalzwei Tue 13-Sep-11 23:07:14

Thank you for your insights.
My strategy so far this week has been to be ultra pleasant to her, which is annoying but working for now. Very helpful and pleasant, hoping some of this will rub off onto her. She seems to respond well to this (so far..) Her behaviour to my boss is still awful though, concentrating on making him look an idiot or misinformed. See what tactics come into play tomorrow..

Bohica Tue 13-Sep-11 23:23:18

<marks place>

Off to bed but looking foward to reading and supporting tomorrow evening.

muttimalzwei Wed 14-Sep-11 22:24:12

Was v helpful and professional with her again today, it's exhausting tho. She was still on my boss's case though. In fact I am being ultra pleasant to everyone, it seems to be the best techniwue...

muttimalzwei Wed 14-Sep-11 22:25:09

technique...

Bohica Wed 14-Sep-11 22:51:28

Hello again. Do you a=have 1:1 meetings with your manager? I think you need to speak to your manager and ask for a review, would you be prepared to have a meeting with your jib descriptions and review what is needed by every member of your team?

It must be a nightmare!

Bohica Wed 14-Sep-11 22:53:23

Aghh, tired eyes over here.

Have not a=have AND job not jib <rubs eyes>

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