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my terrible coworker’s workers need me to assist them — Ask a Supervisor


A reader writes:

My counterpart — let’s name him John — and I every handle staff who’re a part of numerous groups in the identical division. A few of John’s workers lately approached me with considerations about his administration model. From what I can collect, after being moved to those workers’ staff to “assist them out” (he ran out of stuff to do and will get moved round usually), John started demanding the staff go towards their consumer’s requirements on the tail-end of manufacturing. The newer guys went together with it, however the extra skilled ones identified the plain — they’ll’t do this. Not solely did John use this to pit staff members towards one another after which gaslight them, however he additionally forbade them from chatting with his boss about any points. (Which I assume is why they’re speaking to me as an alternative of John’s and my mutual boss. I don’t have authority over anybody concerned.)

I do know his workers are telling the reality as a result of sadly, John did shockingly comparable issues to me and my staff earlier this yr … proper all the way down to leveling the identical wild accusations at me after I lastly known as him out in a one-on-one assembly (he used the very same private accusations and insults in each conditions, which creeps me out). There have been different similar poisonous behaviors, however finally, in accordance with John, the one downside is that everybody else has a nasty angle and nobody appreciates all his expertise. (For context, we’re all about the identical age with comparable technical experience. The one distinction is John and I went the administration route in recent times.)

I by no means totally instructed our boss all the things that had gone on between me and John as a result of I didn’t totally perceive what was occurring. As an alternative, I simply sat with him and talked it out, not letting him get away with the bogus blame-casting and subject-changing, stating the place he had crossed some large boundaries and triggered chaos on my often peaceable staff. After 1.5 hours of the aforementioned ego-throwing and wild accusations, he lastly backed down and even apologized. Issues cooled off for our complete staff after that speak, then he acquired moved to a different staff. (Although if I’m being trustworthy, I suspected he was unstable and misplaced my former respect and belief in him.)

On the time, I used to be utterly shocked at his habits however believed he had legitimately misunderstood me, our staff, and our venture. I additionally thought maybe this sprang from some sort of private stress. He had talked about he “will get sufficient angle at dwelling and doesn’t want it at work” (ha!) and since I’m a lady, I puzzled if he was projecting wife-problems on me. However now, listening to he’s performed all the very same issues and mentioned all the identical phrases, this time to males who he truly has authority over, it seems that is merely what John does to get his method.

And I do know his ways work as a result of, to my disgrace, I’ve defended him over time when folks casually complained about him (beginning again earlier than I used to be a supervisor). I simply couldn’t see him doing the issues folks had been describing. He was too good and calm of a man. Whereas our mutual boss mentioned she all the time will get complaints that he’s a micromanager, she nonetheless thinks that’s only a misunderstanding.

In brief: John is a clean operator till he’s actually, actually not. Since his workers had been too scared to go to his boss about his bullying administration model, final week I simply went to her and defined all the things that’s been occurring. In response, she talked with a few the concerned staff members, then John, then known as their total staff in for a gathering — alongside along with her personal boss.

My boss used this assembly to defend John and all his actions, instructed them that none of what they thought occurred truly occurred (OMG), and so they simply wanted to respect John’s position extra.

To me it appears my boss has been efficiently manipulated by John, and he or she’s not precisely identified for being daring or reliable apart from. If something, the staff is now extra upset and extra unified towards John than ever. Individually, I feel I’ve to drop it (proper?) — however when it positively occurs once more, it could kill me to look at my boss flop but once more. How does this realistically get resolved?

Ooooh. Yeah, that is unhealthy — and your boss bears at the least as a lot accountability for that as John does!

Should you hadn’t described your boss as “not precisely identified for being daring or reliable,” I’d counsel you return to her and speak once more. Should you didn’t already spell out that John beforehand snookered you too, I’d counsel doing that now, to make it clear that he has a sample of protecting up issues and hiding how he actually behaves, and explicitly state that you simply suppose he’s deliberately hiding issues from her now.

However you don’t have an excellent boss. And also you already tried one dialog, and he or she wildly mishandled it. What she mentioned in her assembly with John’s staff is prone to drive the issues additional underground; she may have confirmed for John’s workers that he’s untouchable and so they’re not prone to get any assist from above him.

So yeah, you don’t have many choices at this level. You tried! You introduced the knowledge to the precise particular person. Sadly, the “proper particular person” isn’t prepared or outfitted to do something about it.

Earlier than you drop it solely, although: Do you will have the ear of anybody senior to your boss? Should you occur to have an amazing relationship with her boss, for instance, and belief that particular person to behave on the knowledge extra appropriately, that’s the one avenue that’s nonetheless open. You’d must proceed with warning, as a result of your boss has proven she’s actually unhealthy at these things … but when her boss occurs to be good at it and also you belief them to make sure you’re protected against fall-out, you can have a really direct, very discreet dialog with them about what you’re seeing. But when that particular person hasn’t proven you that they’re a secure path to take — actively proven you that, not simply “hasn’t performed something horrible that I’ve seen” — then the danger to you can be awfully excessive, since your supervisor would doubtless see it as you instantly undermining her administration choices, and I wouldn’t advocate it.

If that’s not a secure, viable route, then you definitely’re just about on the restrict of what you personally can do to assist. You gave it a shot utilizing the choices which can be out there, however finally whether or not or the way it will get addressed isn’t as much as you. You had been proper to attempt to step in when you may, however from right here it’s as much as others. That’s a irritating reply, I do know.

What you can do, although, is search for different methods to assist John’s staff. Are you able to be a discreet sounding board to any who you notably belief (simply be sure you steer rigorously right here so that you simply don’t find yourself seeking to your boss such as you’re undermining John), champion their work to others and lift their visibility within the group extra broadly (which can put them in a greater place to flee John), provide to be a reference for different jobs, and in any other case use your affect to assist them? Realistically, that may be all you are able to do from right here.

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