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Difficult work colleague - sorry long

(7 Posts)
mumincov Sat 06-Oct-12 01:39:12

I lead my team at work, but not in an official sense - the head of dept does so officially but doesn't have time so asked me to fill in. It can be a little awkward as I do the supervisory/admin stuff on top of a full workload, but I accepted it and to be honest wanted extra responsibility. My team are generally OK with it to be honest.

However I work with another team manager who has taken umbrage at me. Before she stepped into her role, her job also involved managing my team - the head of dept took my team away from the previous manager well before she even applied for the role.

Even before she got this manager post, the lady was pretty ... well ... moany. She's quite thin skinned and can get quite defensive and is prone to ranty outbursts. I find myself having to really be careful with her - I can't email her without going round to speak to her directly to make sure she hasn't read things the wrong way. Our manager is out of the office a lot so I do have to deal with her directly - to be honest I wouldn't want to have to do otherwise - but I do find that I get brushed off or find her annoyed with me.

Now I know some of this is down to me. I'm a lot older with a lot of technical experience which she doesn't have (and doesn't need to manage her team). I love sharing knowlege, both ways, but forget that she doesn't want anyone telling her ... have you tried etc? I'm sure that she thinks I'm patronising and probably quite uppity. However I do need to learn to work with her and I feel quite sad that I'm constantly rubbing her up the wrong way. I seem to be constantly apologising for my existance.

I've spoken to our manager about some of the issues, off the record. e.g. I have recommended mentoring, which I know will be on the cards sometime soon. However, she does seem to have an issue with me personally, and I'd like some advice on how to deal with it. I'm not looking for employment law advice, or how to raise a greivance etc, but how to learn to diffuse or othwise deal with the prickliness.

theoriginalandbestrookie Sat 06-Oct-12 09:40:07

Are you on the same level as this lady - it's quite hard to tell from your post?

Regardless I would stop sharing any knowledge whatsoever, as you know its a red flag to her and although you are doing it with the best of intentions she is interpreting it the wrong way. I'd also back off with the advice to your manager on how to treat the situation. I'd keep presenting any evidence where this person has had an outburst with you but I would leave it with the manager to find the solution.

On the email front I would speak to your manager and advise that where you feel it is necessary you are going to start copying in your manager to all communications.
This serves two purposes A) your manager can see that your emails are not worded incorrectly and B) it will save you a lot of valuable time having to go over and speak to this lady.

It won't diffuse the situation at all in fact it will escalate it, but you shouldn't be tiptoeing on eggshells around a work colleague

I get really annoyed at people who go out of their way to take offence at an email, happened in a chain of mine recently although it wasn't something I had posted and I just told the person that was getting themselves worked up that there was nothing to get worked up about and to ignore it.

mumincov Sat 06-Oct-12 10:17:24

Are we on the same level? This is not clear and is part of the problem.

My team are technical/creative experts, each with slightly different specialisms (one of mine is problem solving/process design unfortunately so I naturally stick my nose in everywhere). All of my team paid more than she is, let alone her staff, though I'm not sure she knows this. I wouldn't dare tell her either. Most of my team have moved over from another industry and are used to working semi autonomously, often directly with senior management, so I will talk to clients, other managers, and she generally won't mix unless our boss instructs her to.

However, she has the job title, line manager status and a big team to look after etc. She's been in the job 6 months now. There's no way I could do what she does and I have a lot of respect for her. She should be paid more for what she does and she needs more training/support.

But I can't just back off as our two teams unfortunately need to work together and we're mixed up in the office. She also feels that I am not allowed to talk to her staff (there was an outburst) so I need to take things to her. Everything is OK with this as long as I am deferential, and I know a lot of it is down to me being threatening/undermining to her.

Bilbobagginstummy Sat 06-Oct-12 12:03:09

This does sound a difficult one, and I think your manager should probably get more involved in helping your colleague (sounds like you don't need any help), to give her the confidence to accept your help when she needs it and push back when you're over-doing it [from the best of motives].

I would try to step back a bit more, I think, and consciously let her do her job. Obviously don't know about your set-up, but can she/her team come to you for your expertise, rather than you "pushing it on them" [as it might seem to her]? It sounds like she may well feel you are trying to tell her how to do her job - when its not your job to do so. From your posts that's not at all your intention - but it's a lot about perceptions.

Th management structure does seem to be a bit odd, generally, and the lack of clarity on roles/fact that you're not officially in charge of your team while she is in charge of hers are not going to help. Is there any chance of a meeting with you, your boss, their boss, this lady, and any other management-types to look at how things might be better structured?

mumincov Sat 06-Oct-12 20:30:03

The way that we work, what her team does is the foundation for the work that we do, so I do admit to having a vested interest in the way that things done. She doesn't seem to grasp either point.

It does look like my team will have a formal manager within the next 6 months, but I am really not sure that this would stop her resenting me (should I actually get the job). If I did and then stuck it out then I suspect I would be managing her within a year or two. Do I really want that? Not if I have to keep on treating her with kid gloves.

HoleyGhost Sat 06-Oct-12 20:48:53

Quit apologising for your existance. That is a red rag for stupid people like her. You need management training.

pippop1 Thu 11-Oct-12 17:11:26

Are you able to give her praise, as in one colleague to another? If you constantly say "have you tried it this way?" I can see how she might get a bit rattled.

Of course you would have to be careful with the praise so that it doesn't sound patronising!

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