Author Topic: Hostile Coworker  (Read 7539 times)

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lynnetteleigh

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Hostile Coworker
« on: November 15, 2012, 10:26:40 PM »
Sorry for this being so long but I feel the background is neccessary.

I need advice on how to politely deal with a toxic coworker.

BG: I have been working for a company in an IT position for slightly over a year. During that year I went 6+ months with 0 work to do. They hired me because they had a position approved and knew I had the skills they would eventually need. After about 9 months I put in my 2 week notice as I had asked for more work multiple times and was told to "appreciate the lull".

When I put in my 2 weeks my manager(3rd one in a year) gave me the option to switch to part time(3 days a week) instead of full-time. I decided to stay with the company working part time and have done so the past 2 months. Even with the reduced schedule though I am still underworked with maybe 1.5 days of work on an average week.

End BG

Since I have switched to this part time job one of my project managers has changed from loving working with me to,in my opinion, trying to drive me out.

She is well aware that I do not work on Mondays or Fridays but consistently tries to get me to schedule things on these days. I have told her I'm willing to shift my schedule to those days as needed(and have done so in the past).  I watch my stepson on my days off and also schedule things like doctors appts for me and him on these days. So I have mentioned multiple times that I need advance notice. However lately she has been waiting to until Thursday at 5:01 to request something on a Monday. Or in the middle of a week for something on a Friday. 

The kicker is she also cc's her manager, mine and our mutual VP on these emails. She does not try to work things out with me on a one on one basis.The fact that she goes straight to notifying the upper management leads me to believe that I am being set up.

The latest example of this was when I contacted her about a meeting early Wed. morning. She said she was not able to make it but would like to do it on Friday. She automatically cced her manager, mine and the VP?

I have started consulting my manager on all of the emails that include these ccs and he has been responding to all of them.

However since these aggressive emails have started I have not had to deal with this coworker in person since she has canceled every meeting I have had with her in the last month.

My initial reaction as an anti-confrontational  person is to figure out a way to avoid all future meetings with her because at this point I feel like I will have trouble even making eye contact with her. She is also one of those people that is fake nice and seems to expect me to share my life with her even though our working relationship is not great. She got angry with me recently for not sharing a major life event with her(I got married, something that does not interfere with my job performance and not something I would go share with someone who has been this hostile towards me). However I know that if I want to keep my job I need to adjust to this.

Which leads me to my dilemma of how do I deal with this coworker in person in a polite manner?

YummyMummy66

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Re: Hostile Coworker
« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2012, 06:37:44 AM »
Since she is copying all top people, when I reply, I would hit "reply all" and let her know that you have talked to her repeatedly about the days you work and meetings.  You have stated that you are more than willing to rearrange your schedule to come in on days that you normally have off, but you need advance notice as you usually have personal appointments arranged on the days you have off.   Is there something you are missing in that she is constantly arranging meetings last minute on those days that you have scheduled off and that she has cancelled every meeting in the last month that she herself arranged?"  How would you like to recitify this situation?

Call her out on her own behavior, but in a way, that turns it around on her behavior and by being polite and trying to find a solution. 

I am sure others might be able to phrase it better than I could.

But this lets the top people know the situation and that you are trying to do your best in handling it.

Bast

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Re: Hostile Coworker
« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2012, 07:28:38 AM »
Also be sure to give a time frame for what constitutes "advanced notice."
"They may forget your name but they will never forget how you made them feel." ~Maya Angelou

misha412

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Re: Hostile Coworker
« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2012, 10:20:30 AM »
Good advice so far. I have seen similar situations before. You are right to be worried about her actions.

Keep all of your communications with her in writing. If you ever have a face to face with her, send her an email restating what you talked about, and copy her normal cc's. If you send her an email about the weather, copy her normal cc's.

Be sure to talk to your manager about the situation. Outline how you have tried to handle it (emails, requests for meetings, etc.) You need to verify with your manager that you are not under the microscope for something.

I would also request a meeting between you and her, with your managers attending. I would state to the manager, "I have been trying to speak with her in person for X amount of time. She keeps cancelling the meetings with me. I want to clarify if there are any problems we need to address."

cicero

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Re: Hostile Coworker
« Reply #4 on: November 16, 2012, 12:53:36 PM »
Since she is copying all top people, when I reply, I would hit "reply all" and let her know that you have talked to her repeatedly about the days you work and meetings.  You have stated that you are more than willing to rearrange your schedule to come in on days that you normally have off, but you need advance notice as you usually have personal appointments arranged on the days you have off.   Is there something you are missing in that she is constantly arranging meetings last minute on those days that you have scheduled off and that she has cancelled every meeting in the last month that she herself arranged?"  How would you like to recitify this situation?

Call her out on her own behavior, but in a way, that turns it around on her behavior and by being polite and trying to find a solution. 

I am sure others might be able to phrase it better than I could.

But this lets the top people know the situation and that you are trying to do your best in handling it.
yes.

when she tries to schedule a meeting, reply-all and say:
"Dear Idiot,

Friday morning 8 AM will not work for me.

I can meet Wednesday at 9 or Thursday at 11.

Please let me know which is suitable.

Please note: As of [date], my weekly schedule is Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9-12. If you need to schedule a meeting at other times, please give me XX hours advance notice and I will try to re-arrange my schedule."

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TootsNYC

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Re: Hostile Coworker
« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2012, 02:06:45 PM »
use phrases like

"As you know, my approved work schedule is Tuesday through Thursday. Unfortunately, I cannot shift that to a different day without a least X notice; since it's 5pm on Thursday, I can't really rearrange the schedule for an early Monday meeting."

And every time she cancels a meeting, email everybody and say, "I've removed that meeting from my calendar, as you requested. I am available X days/times. Because there seems to have been confusion in the past, I am not normally scheduled to work on Fridays and Mondays. I am willing to be flexible, of course, but I will need at least 36 hours' notice to rearrange my schedule."

bah12

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Re: Hostile Coworker
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2012, 02:54:23 PM »
I seriously hate these "email everyone under the sun" and "reply-to-all" multiple times cycles we tend to get into at work.  And it's an endless cycle.  You feel you should reply-to-all because otherwise the others might think that you are unresponsive and she has a point.

Your workplace needs an email policy to avoid someone like your coworker clogging up everyone's email for what should be a conversation between 2 people.  But since that's something that only your management can solve (and I suppose company culture plays into it as well), I would do this:

Either you or your direct supervisor send an email to everyone you work with (and their supervisors) that outlines your work hours and days Tuesday - Thursday.  The email can also state that while you are willing to change your schedule to accommodate a need, you need X days notice in order to do so.  Otherwise, the meeting will be scheduled while you are at work. 

I also think there needs to be some sort of "cancellation policy" as having someone book your time and then cancel at the last minute can cause backlogs in legitimate work you may have when you are busier.  Maybe this is something that can be addressed when you are busier.

As for how to handle her in personal interaction, I would go with polite and professional.  Just pretend that she's never sent you or anyone else one of those emails.  And I know it's easier said than done, but if/when she starts acting crazy, because you refuse to, it will come back on her. 

GreenHall

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Re: Hostile Coworker
« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2012, 03:17:21 PM »
I agree with the above, but based on the Thursday evening requests for Monday meetings, I would either explicitly spell out that you need x OF YOUR working hours/days notice, or just default to a week. 

I'm not sure of a clean wording, but would be concerned that even the standard phase 'x work days' could get twisted since the standard work week is M-F, but yours is T-Th.

TootsNYC

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Re: Hostile Coworker
« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2012, 03:57:22 PM »
Actually, if I were your boss, here's what I would do.

First, I'd have a confidential conversation with HER boss, to say, "I've noticed this pattern of her linking both of us in--it's coming across like she's tattling to you and to me about rescheduling meetings, etc. So I just want to make it clear: I think my employee is doing the right thing--I'm happy with how things are. My policy is that he needs X days' notice to reschedule his shifts.
   "And I'm tired of always getting looped into this. So here's what I'm going to do: I will reply to her directly without emailing everyone. And then I'll ask her to pick a time that fits with my department's coverage."

And then at the next email, I'd reply directly to her and say, "My department is not staffed to have meetings on those days. You will need to schedule your meetings on Tues, Wed, or Thurs. If something is so urgent that you can't fit it in on those days, please email directly to me to request that I change the schedule. However, I've noticed that you frequently cancel meetings, so it's hard to see things as being that urgent. You will need to explain why I should change my department's schedule in order to accommodate you.
    "Should you wish to hold this meeting on Tues, Wed, or Thurs, you may email Tom directly."

And I would *not* loop Tom in, nor her boss. In a way, I think that actually would be more powerful.

Twik

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Re: Hostile Coworker
« Reply #9 on: November 16, 2012, 03:59:31 PM »
use phrases like

"As you know, my approved work schedule is Tuesday through Thursday. Unfortunately, I cannot shift that to a different day without a least X notice; since it's 5pm on Thursday, I can't really rearrange the schedule for an early Monday meeting."

And every time she cancels a meeting, email everybody and say, "I've removed that meeting from my calendar, as you requested. I am available X days/times. Because there seems to have been confusion in the past, I am not normally scheduled to work on Fridays and Mondays. I am willing to be flexible, of course, but I will need at least 36 hours' notice to rearrange my schedule."

Actually, I think too much emphasis is being put on flexibility here. It encourages the coworker to believe that you're complaining, but you CAN jump to her tune when she whistles.

I'd rewrite the above as:

"As you know, my approved work schedule is Tuesday through Thursday. Unfortunately, I cannot can only shift that to a different day without a least X notice with a 36 hour or more notice; since it's 5pm on Thursday, I can't really rearrange the schedule for an your proposed early Monday meeting will not be possible. Please let me know when you can reschedule for a time I am available."

For the second part,

"I've removed that meeting from my calendar, as you requested. I am available X days/times. Because there seems to have been confusion in the past, As a reminder, I am not normally scheduled to work on Fridays and Mondays. I am willing to be flexible, of course, but I will need at least 36 hours' notice to rearrange my schedule if you wish to meet on those days."
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Only me

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Re: Hostile Coworker
« Reply #10 on: November 16, 2012, 04:20:41 PM »
HI

I had a similar situation years ago. I was the one person in the company that would tell this person no and she'd flip. She also cc'd everyone. We sat down with managers, hammered out an agreement on policy and procedures and when she was called on breaking these, she started her tirade all over again

Things to think about I think she's trying to bully you and by being flexible you are are letting here. One tactic that might also help is that you are not scheduled x & Y day, and if she wants a meeting that is overtime and your department won't pay. Get your managers backing. I know its hard, but you have to draw your line in the sand.

Good luck

Jelaza

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Re: Hostile Coworker
« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2012, 11:30:30 AM »
My evil alter ego would reschedule a meeting with her on Saturday.

My non-evil self would put her foot down from this point forward about only scheduling for Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.  You've been trying and trying to be flexible to the point of offering to give up your days off if she will meet you halfway by giving you advance notice, and she's not making any effort at all, so I'd stop offering the flexible option.

cheyne

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Re: Hostile Coworker
« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2012, 07:41:25 PM »
She is actually CC-ing a VP over this?  I can't imagine that s/he is very impressed with these emails in hir inbox.  I would email her using Twik's phrasing.  CC her boss and your boss, but leave the VP out of it.  Both of your bosses will then know that you have "put her on notice" so to speak.  She will have no leg to stand on when she tries to get you to work on days that you are off.

As an aside, I hate having computer issues, so I treat my IT people like gold.  As the boss, I would have nipped this in the bud the first time I was CC'd on an email.

bopper

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Re: Hostile Coworker
« Reply #13 on: November 19, 2012, 11:29:08 AM »
I would stop being flexible with that person.

"HostileCoworker, my work days are M, W, Th from 9-12.  Please propose a meeting during those hours."

The next time:

"HostileCoworker, as I have mentioned, my work days are M, W, Th from 9-12.  Please propose a meeting during those hours."

If you get any feedback from your boss, then just tell him/her that you had tried to be flexible and change your working days to accommodate her requests, then she just cancelled the meetings.

Otterpop

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Re: Hostile Coworker
« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2012, 12:05:48 AM »
Yes, the flexibility is giving her free reign to jerk you around.  You work X days from X-X hours and you can meet with her during those times.  We have a lot of part-timers where I work and that's just how it's done.  If the meeting is so important someone has to come in on their day off, plenty of notice is given and they are paid for it (and often given lunch).