General Etiquette > All In A Day's Work

s/o Hostile Coworker

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Firecat:
I'm currently dealing with a hostile coworker of sorts of my own, but didn't want to hijack the other thread. In the past, I've gotten along ok with "Lisa" (we've worked in the same department for several years now, until recently on separate but related tasks). 

Lisa is basically a nice person, but when she gets stressed or overwhelmed, she tends to lose sight of the fact that I have other duties that are often a higher priority than what she wants help with. This has led to some discussions between us in the past, when she's asked me for help - wanted help immediately - and gotten upset when I told her "no" or "not now." Basically, she seems to think I should drop everything and help her any time she wants it, while my perspective is that, absent an over-riding priority (which mostly there isn't), my work comes first and I'll help out if - and only if - I have time, and there aren't situations in which I would ask her for help. Technically, my position is considered higher in the hierarchy than hers is, but she doesn't report to me.

More recently, there's been some shifting around in my department, and a couple of people have left (voluntarily). This has led to a change in my duties and an increase in workload for most of us. My duties have changed significantly; they now have very little to do with what Lisa does. But twice in recent meetings involving others in the department besides her and me, she has very publicly - and pointedly - asked me to do or help with some tasks. I've declined both times (trying not to make a big(ger) deal out of it and the group has just moved on with the meeting), but I'm now pretty annoyed with her. Her whole tone and body language is very demanding and resentful when she makes these "requests," and the venue she's choosing is not appropriate. 

Today (after the second incident), I took Supervisor aside and asked if he could clarify for Lisa that my duties have changed, and that I am focusing on my new responsibilities, and not available to help. Supervisor agreed, but I suspect that this is not the last time this will come up, based on past experience with Lisa. (I'm probably making her sound like a terrible person, but really she's a very caring, people-focused person, where I tend to be more task-oriented, so I suspect that's where some of the tension comes from. She's thinking "if you cared about me you'd understand that I'm really stressed and would make time to help me," and I'm thinking "I have to get X, Y, and Z done, and they're all both more important and more urgent than what she's asking me to do. Plus X, Y, and Z are my assigned duties, and should be a higher priority for me.")

So, all that said (and thanks for reading this far if you have!), what are some ways I could address this if it happens in another meeting, without making things (more) uncomfortable for the rest of the group? In the previous two incidents, I've basically said something like "sorry, I can't." But what I really want is for the behavior to stop. I'm hoping that Supervisor will address it very soon, but I'd like to have a polite but firm answer ready if Lisa does try it again, and I'm hoping that the wise EHellions can assist.

katycoo:
Maybe you need to give her a smidge more information.

"I'm sorry Lisa, I'm in the middle of something urgent right now which I'm behind on.  I really can't help you until this is finished.  I'll pop by when I have a minute and give you a hand.  If you can't wait you'll need to ask someone else."

LazyDaisy:
If she asks for help during a meeting, instead of dismissing her and moving on, try directing her where she is now supposed to get help.

Lisa: "Firecat, I need your help on task Z!"
Firecat: "Lisa, I've been reassigned to tasks QRS and I don't help with XYZ anymore. I believe Coworker X* is now the person to ask."

*Assuming that there is a coworker who is now supposed to be her backup. If no one is her backup anymore, then pass it off to the supervisor there in the meeting. "I'm not sure who you're supposed to ask from now on -- Supervisor do you know?"

PastryGoddess:

--- Quote from: katycoo on November 19, 2012, 06:49:06 PM ---Maybe you need to give her a smidge more information.

"I'm sorry Lisa, I'm in the middle of something urgent right now which I'm behind on.  I really can't help you until this is finished.  I'll pop by when I have a minute and give you a hand.  If you can't wait you'll need to ask someone else."

--- End quote ---

I would not do this because it give Lisa the idea that the OP can support her, when in fact, the OP's duties have moved even further away from Lisa's.

I would simply tell her no and give her the name of someone who can help her. 

Evil PastryGoddess would inquire if she needed re-training, since she seems to need so much help >:D

buvezdevin:
Not knowing the degree of help being asked makes this fuzzier for me.

My organization has also shifted various things around, but - generally - there is a lot of "do you know who/how/where/what" type questions shared amongst folks at various levels.  As long as these are matters which can be replied to with a short answer, or pointer to the information or person who can help, the sharing of information is encouraged.  But, not the actual "doing" unless there is some team framework involved.

Assuming Lisa is looking for help "doing", I agree that a request from her requiring more than a quick reply could be addressed by explaining your time is committed to your role's responsibilities, which don't cover that function, and it's great if you can offer her a suggested resource, if not I think suggesting she check with her manager for other options would be spot on.

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