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How do I deal with this work colleague?

(28 Posts)
user1483836741 Fri 19-May-17 08:14:14

Ok so I work in an highly competitive industry in an relatively junior role.

I am working on a project in which a more senior member of staff from another department is involved - it was her idea for the project.

I, and my colleagues in the department think it's an awful idea and the input from this other woman has been .....WTF?

However she has charmed my head of my department.

At the beginning of the project she asked to meet me for coffee and it felt like she was milking me for info about my department and the people there.

I kept it light and jokey and played the I'm junior I don't really know the ins-and-outs of the dept.

Her job is at risk (FWIW so is mine) and I guess she was looking for other opportunities, which is fair enough.

Anyway, I've had a couple of group meetings with her and group emails.

Probably no more than 30 mins face to face time in total over two weeks.

Anyway, I did an awful lot of work on this project and essentially rescued it.

We went to another meeting with HOD, in which she basically took credit for all of my work.

She's now started to email me individually and is pressuring me to have lunch with her to 'catch-up'.

All filled with lots of 'x's and smiley emojis which in my industry is not appropriate - she keeps on saying "I would really like that".

Each time I've emailed back in increasingly formal style indicating that work discussions are better on email etc. which is actually true, especially as my part of the project (ie all the creative, research and grunt work) is done and dusted.

I've even asked her not contact me on my mobile but via email only.

I don't even get time for a proper lunch anyway and certainly can't be popping out for coffee unless it's a for a proper work meeting.

But she won't stop.

I don't trust her as far as I can throw her - I have massive red flags and alarm bells blaring - how do I deal with her esp as she's senior to me, a guest from another dept and my HOD's golden girl?

FWIW the two colleagues from my dept who have had contact with her (both senior staff) don't think much of her as a professional - and they are all highly experienced and have been there for years.

But she's not emailing them, of course... the last email she sent was "tell me what time on Monday works for you."

I do not need this and don't know how to deal esp when I go back in on Monday and will inevitably get another email asking about a lunch?

665TheNeighbourOfTheBeast Fri 19-May-17 08:24:21

"Are you trying to ask me on a date?"

user1483836741 Fri 19-May-17 08:28:32

665 I know right?

user1483836741 Fri 19-May-17 08:30:39

Just to add, I'm non-NT and do have a work mentor who is one of the staff members who has had contact with her.

Should I bring it up with my mentor? She's super busy and this feels very 'high school'...

WhatchaMaCalllit Fri 19-May-17 08:36:14

As you've asked her to communicate by email only and that she stop contacting you by mobile, I think you have a good case (make sure you hang on to every scrap of communication she has sent you and what you've sent her) to approach management, perhaps not HoD yet but perhaps someone else who reports directly to HoD, maybe the other two colleagues saying "I'm not sure what I can do about this and I'm looking for your advice. Mary <not her real name> has been emailing me with increased frequency about this and at the recent presentation she passed my work off as hers. Have you any advice on what I could do about this?". As you mention they don't think much of her as a professional, perhaps they are waiting for someone to raise something like this as a way to let her go?? You mentioned that her job is at risk and it looks like she is trying by every means possible to hang on to it, but not in a professional way. Have a chat with the other two colleagues and get their advice on your next steps.

JontyDoggle37 Fri 19-May-17 08:41:51

Email back 'I'm so sorry, as I previously indicated I won't have time for lunch on Monday, or indeed any day this week. If there is further work required on the project, please raise it with my manager as he/she will need to confirm whether I or someone else in my department have capacity to deliver.'
Firm, factual, no emotion, the only way to go. Best of luck

user1483836741 Fri 19-May-17 08:46:49

* WhatchaMaCalllit * Thank you. FWIW the reason I instinctively put the email only thing in place is because I wanted everything in writing.

I just don't trust her but I don't know if I'm being fair.

The taking credit for my work really galled though... but it is the type of industry where this is almost to be expected.

I will bring it up with my mentor who is also one of the colleagues who have had contact with her - and a highly respected member of the dept.

My mentor did stop by my desk and ask "if everything was ok" with a 'look' re the project - but this was before the individual emailing/lunch pressure had started.

user1483836741 Fri 19-May-17 08:49:26

JontyDoggle37 What I'm worried about is that she'll tell the HOD that I'm being obstructive/difficult?

She is very charming and personable.

But what you've said is exactly right.

Thank you

BrexitSucks Fri 19-May-17 09:17:45

To what extent can you just Ignore her emails?
I work in an industry where people have ignoring emails down to a fine art. tbh, I think most people in most industries ignore most emails, or at least wait 1-4 wks before replying.

Only reply to the emails that are about specific work questions or that you can use to progress the work. Make sure you reply to these points in the emails within 1-2 working days.

Occasionally you can throw in a final sentence in the email along lines of "Meeting up in person isn't convenient for me this week." etc.

storminabuttercup Fri 19-May-17 09:22:44

I would be just as sneaky I'd reply saying as xyz is now complete and I am backed up with work I couldn't support further as she seems to need f2f meetings, then copy your manager in asking if they can advise on how to 'move things forward'

user1483836741 Fri 19-May-17 10:10:39

buttercup thank you, you're right taking it out further is a good idea.

BrexitSucks I could... but the thing about her telling my HOD that I'm being obstructive is very much in my mind.
Saying that - you're completely right now I think about it, it takes about the same amount of time for most people in my work to respond to emails as in yours - it's just me (as I say I am relatively Junior).

I've emailed my mentor and asked for advice.

I forwarded on the first chain of emails where I asked to communicate via email only for work efficiency and then the second set of emails where she was pressuring me for lunch.

I apologised to my mentor for bothering her with 'high school' nonsense when I knew she was busy and explained that I felt discussions, at this stage would be better over email in terms of clarity, time management and work efficiency and that I didn't feel comfortable with one-to-ones.

My mentor emailed back and said 'no worries' and we'd chat about it later.

So that's a relief - I'll follow her advice to the letter.

Thanks so much for everyone's time and advice - I'll definitely take a lot of it onboard for future interactions for sure.

BrexitSucks Fri 19-May-17 12:41:01

It's true that ignoring emails is a privilege especially afforded to senior staff. Junior people may just get grief for it.

Great that you have backing of your mentor. I presume you can easily get copies of all your sent emails. Keep everything scrupulously professional & stick to your lines about having well-documented work decisions, plus added efficiency of staying at your desk more of the time. This minimises any risk of conversations that could understandably easily veer into social not work topics which is obviously undesirable.

user1483836741 Tue 23-May-17 00:15:40

So the story has moved on...

Another member of staff from my dept has been inserted between the two of us.
To be honest he's a bit wet and will do anything for an easy life so...

He met me in the morning and I briefed him on the work I'd done.

The three of us met in the afternoon - he asked her what her progress was.
She then pulled her normal trick of remaining silent (expecting I would jump in and cover her/field all of the questions as per the last three meetings).

Readers, I did not.

I did not.

She then told me to update him. I said that it was her work he wanted to know about, not mine and I had already briefed him that morning.

She then threw a little temper tantrum.

She angrily started rifling through her notepad, whilst giving me filthy looks. She stood up declared "I'm getting negative vibes from user1483836741, I thought this was supposed to be a team!"

Told other member of staff she needed to get a glass of water.

Whilst she was gone I said to him that I couldn't brief him on her work, as I didn't know what that was. He's started muttering about team work - which I always thought was everyone on the team doing the work they were responsible for but hey, I'm junior so maybe I got that wrong...

She then sat back down and had composed herself and started a pity party about how her job was at risk ( I made sure i was 'looking at work emails') on my phone during this, I didn't point out her job was more secure than mine.

When she finished that she eventually mumbled some nonsense which was very clear that she hadn't done any work, at all.

I made sure she knew that her line of comms was through other member of staff, and I would communicate with him - which is actually the proper procedure.

I then made sure my work mentor knew cos I sense that she'll go running to the HOD.

My work mentor said to make sure my paper trail proving how much work I have done was done - to email everyone involved with the project to make sure my responsibilities were clear and that I was on another project.

My work mentor and I had a good chat about it and I feel secure that I fulfilled my responsibilities and acted appropriately.

This is not over, I'm sure, I'm just waiting to see what will happen, I'm guessing she'll drop it into a conversation with my HOD, not a complaint as such but little hints to drop doubt into his mind...

Anyway, thanks again for your support.

Catherinebee85 Tue 23-May-17 00:22:26

All I'd say is just be careful it doesn't look too much like you're working in isolation too much if it is supposed to be a project you're working on as a team (I think I'm a bit confused as I work in healthcare so a totally different world).

I'm sure you know what you're doing though. She sounds super pushy!

user1483836741 Tue 23-May-17 00:36:33

Thanks Catherinebee - that's really really good advice, hadn't thought of that.

I think she's out of her depth and is trying to camouflage it by pushing me into the firing line...it's a pretty cutthroat industry...

I thank my lucky stars for my work mentor and MN.

Anyway, worked late tonight and have uploaded everything I needed to do onto the dropbox thingy new member of staff made -

Interestingly the only short doc she uploaded was cut and pasted from my brief - which was weird as I sent that same brief to a few people.

- and also to the shared drive which the whole dept can access so...

Catherinebee85 Tue 23-May-17 00:41:48

Yeah I think what I mean is just make sure it can't look like you're being deliberately unhelpful. She sounds like the sort of person who could turn things against you.

You sound like a great worker though!

user1483836741 Tue 23-May-17 00:50:51

Thanks so much Catherinebee - I do invest a lot in my job, - I actually really enjoy it.

Work in general has always been important to me for so many reasons.

This is only the fourth project I've worked on in this dept (not only am I the most junior in the dept, I'm also a newbie) and have worked really well with the other teams and have had very positive feedback.

But...

She sounds like the sort of person who could turn things against you

This - this is exactly what I fear, and what I'm pretty sure what will happen so I will make sure it's clear that I have gone over and above - which is true.

Thanks again for your kind words, I really appreciate them.

ScarlettFreestone Tue 23-May-17 00:58:11

Personally I'd invite the HOD for an update meeting and outline everything I'd done.

I'd take a very positive tone, very professional but make sure my work was recognised.

I'd also make sure my initials were in the footer over every single document

user1483836741 Tue 23-May-17 01:05:59

Scarlett I've watermarked all my docs with my name!

I thought I was being a bit mad as I've never ever ever even thought about doing that before - had to google how to do it!

HOD is very much out of my league accessibility-wise, but not my work-mentor as she is a senior member of staff -but hopefully all my docs in the shared drive will be enough.

ScarlettFreestone Tue 23-May-17 01:14:03

I'd prepare an update slide summarising your work for your next Mentor meeting and see if your mentor can get it in front of the HOD.

I've had people take credit for my work in the past, and sometimes it's unavoidable but this woman isn't even in your department. I'd be making sure I spoke to quite a lot of people about what I'd done.

Do you have team meetings? Departmental updates? Is there anyway to volunteer to update everyone on the progress of this project?

BTW I hope you are getting your CV and STARs up to date now just in case you do get made redundant.

user1483836741 Tue 23-May-17 01:20:28

Scarlett - That's actually a very very good idea, the goalposts have changed so many times (because she doesn't really know what she wants/what she's doing) I've actually done a lot more work than is visible.

I will actually do that tomorrow - thanks for the advice.

And funnily enough, I sent my CV to some hiring managers, directly after this afternoon's meeting.

ScarlettFreestone Tue 23-May-17 01:34:28

Good for you user, no whining about the other woman now just lots of positive language politely blowing your own trumpet.

Don't let her talk you down or manipulate you - her job isn't your issue. It sounds like she'd quite happily throw you under a bus. Be prepared.

ScarlettFreestone Tue 23-May-17 01:35:27

Oh and during your presentation make sure to list some "lessons learned" from the ups and downs of the project - it shows you are taking a broader view.

user1483836741 Tue 23-May-17 01:44:37

Thanks SO much - that's exactly how I've felt from the get-go with this one, manipulated.

I have no doubt whatsoever that if I end up under the no.73 - it'll be her hands that have guided me there.

And yes, it is important to make it all about how it's improved my work performance.

Even when I approached my work mentor about the lunch thing I framed it as it not being an efficient way of working.

I'm going to have to work at the positive body language, and how to classily blow my own trumpet - fake it until I make it right?

Thanks again Scarlett

ScarlettFreestone Tue 23-May-17 01:51:25

Fake it till you make it! Absolutely!

There was a book recommended on another thread today, "Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office" by Lois P Frankel. I second the recommendation. It doesn't take long to read but there's lots about body language and how to word things.

Now off to bed! Get enough sleep to have your wits about you and stop worrying about this.

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