Author Topic: You're not keeping me in the loop.  (Read 5505 times)

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Coley

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You're not keeping me in the loop.
« on: March 06, 2013, 10:29:16 AM »
This story was related to me by a friend. My friend has a coworker who calls in sick frequently. He says that the coworker rarely works a full week in the office. When she calls in sick, her workload has to be spread among her staff and her colleagues because they are on tight deadlines. Her portion of the work has to be done in order for them to proceed with their portion of the work, so they wind up doing it for her because she is often gone.

When she returns to work, she is often grumbly and upset that work progressed without her. She complains often about being "left out of the loop."

This coworker was out of the office on vacation last week. Yesterday, she accosted my friend for leaving her out of the loop on some decisions and actions that had to take place while she was gone. Before she went on vacation, my friend and the coworker sat down and discussed the things that needed to be done, and the coworker agreed that my friend would carry them out. He did precisely what they discussed, so he was stunned that she was so upset that he had carried out these tasks and that she accused him of leaving her out of the loop.

The coworker went to their boss and complained about my friend, saying he had done these tasks and intentionally left her out of the loop on the them. My friend was called into the boss's office with the coworker to discuss what happened. My friend was able to show that he'd discussed these actions with the coworker before she left on vacation, so he was simply carrying out what he thought they'd agreed to. The coworker would not agree that my friend had done nothing wrong. Instead, she insisted that he should have e-mailed her last week to tell her that he had carried out the tasks; therefore, he left her out of the loop. FWIW, the boss doesn't think my friend did anything wrong.

My friend is wondering how to handle this coworker, who believes it is his responsibility to ensure that she is always in the loop. When he told me this story, I said that I didn't think it was necessarily his responsibility, particularly in this situation. She was on vacation. They agreed he would carry out certain tasks during that time. He doesn't report to her -- they are equal colleagues. She didn't ask him to contact her with a status report while she was on vacation.

I suggested to him that the issue seems to be less that he is keeping her out of the loop and more that she is leaving herself out of the loop. If she wanted to know what was happening in the office while she was on vacation, what prevented her from e-mailing my friend to ask about the status of the tasks?

I recommended that he avoid JADE-ing and suggested that he might say something like, "When you're away from the office, you are always welcome to e-mail me to find out the status of projects."

Would this response to the coworker's complaints be polite/acceptable given the situation?

FWIW, she often makes the same complaint about other coworkers and staff in the office -- they leave her out of the loop. I would argue that there is nothing keeping her from requesting status reports if she wants them. In addition, while she just returned from vacation yesterday, she called in sick today. My friend is still trying to wrap up portions of the projects that have to be completed. He anticipates that the coworker will growl at him again when she returns to the office tomorrow.

Zilla

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Re: You're not keeping me in the loop.
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2013, 10:44:31 AM »
I would try and keep everything to an email form with coworker.


After their meeting before vacation, he should follow up with an email that states, "As discussed earlier today, I will do A, B and C.  If anything different arises, will email you."  That way it's covered clearly and can be produced if a complaint happens.


When she is out sick, I would send an email at the end of the day and just briefly describe what he did.




Lynda_34

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Re: You're not keeping me in the loop.
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2013, 10:47:40 AM »
Is this woman taking advantage of the FMLA act? 

Maybe the rest of you can go to the boss when she is out and ask that her sick time be reviewed. Possibly her hours cut due to her health and make her an assistant to the group instead of being responsible for any components that other people depend on having done before they can finish their part.

Lorelei_Evil

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Re: You're not keeping me in the loop.
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2013, 10:53:23 AM »
Is this woman taking advantage of the FMLA act? 

Maybe the rest of you can go to the boss when she is out and ask that her sick time be reviewed. Possibly her hours cut due to her health and make her an assistant to the group instead of being responsible for any components that other people depend on having done before they can finish their part.

This is an interesting point.  If she's out a lot and they are having to work around her out of necessity, they should both review her absences and possibly the workflows to ensure that the customer/client is properly taken care of.  If you're out a lot, you miss things, and the work has to be done whether any person is there or not.  It doesn't revolve around one particular employee. 

I would document EVERYTHING.  Put everything in e-mail and keep a copy. 

gingerzing

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Re: You're not keeping me in the loop.
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2013, 11:01:20 AM »
Probably because I am slightly Passive/Agressive at times, I would do the Lorelei thing of documenting EVERY little thing and cc her everytime.  Though Zilla's preemptive email of here is what was discussed, here is what I will do (and what anyone else will need to do) while you are out.  And if there are any changes, you will be copied to see what was done.


I would not approach the boss about the sick time review.  That may be a bad thing in some companies for co-workers to discuss someone else's sick leave.   I would presume that the boss knows about the sick time use and can see the pattern. 

bah12

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Re: You're not keeping me in the loop.
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2013, 11:31:29 AM »
So, I get that the coworker is gone a lot and that is hard on everyone else.  I also get that her constant complaining about being left out of the loop is annoying and frustrating given the amount of her work that has to be done by others.

But, why should she have to ask for the status of the project to get told about it?  If she's part of the team then she does need to be communicated with like the other members of the team.  When we have team members out of the office, for whatever the reason, we email each other the status.  We won't wait for someone to return to make a time sensitive decision, but we will absolutely tell them what that decision was.

Also, it would be prudent of your friend to send her an email follow up after any meeting where they agree what will be done in her absence (this is good for anyone).  And then he follows up that meeting with a status of all those actions.

Now, if the problem is more the amount of time she takes off, your friend can bring this up to his supervisor.  But he has to keep in mind that he may not, and probably doesn't, know her whole story.  It may seem that she's taking a lot of sick time unnecessarily, but there could be a myriad of reasons that aren't apparent.  He can bring us his concern with his supervisor, but I would say something like "the workload is imbalanced because Coworker is out a lot.  The team struggles to make up her tasks along with our own.  Can we sit down and work out how the work is distributed, so that we know up front who has to do what?"  (This isn't exactly how I'd put it, but it's the gist).

Coley

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Re: You're not keeping me in the loop.
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2013, 12:16:32 PM »
I think part of the issue for my friend is that he felt blindsided by how angry she was yesterday. He thought he was doing her a favor, so he didn't expect her to rail on him. From what he described, she was storming around the office all day, and everyone was walking on eggshells and avoiding her.

My friend has a pretty good idea about the coworker's personal life/illnesses because she makes it everyone else's business. He said that everyone knows what's going on with coworker all the time. It isn't for my friend or anyone else on the staff to have an opinion about the legitimacy of her absences. That's between her and their boss. To my knowledge, no one has said anything directly to the boss about the impact of the coworker's absences. I did suggest to my friend the possibility that if they cover for her in doing her work, there may not be much impact for the boss to observe.

The coworker's staff is really feeling the impact of the chronic absences. Two of her employees in particular are getting the brunt of her workload, which is making it more difficult for them to carry out their own tasks. Some of them are coming to my friend to complain about the coworker, who is their boss. What seems to be happening is that the coworker is out, so her staff takes on her tasks. They get behind on their work, which delays the work in my friend's department. When they are behind, the coworker will complain that she was either out of the loop on things or that her staff is terribly overworked and the deadlines aren't fair to them. My friend gets hit on this because he helps to set the deadlines -- in consultation with the coworker. She tends to deny her participation in setting the deadlines, hence the complaints that she was out of the loop. Yesterday, my friend was able to prove in the meeting with the boss that the coworker was involved in setting the deadlines, so her complaints were without merit.

My friend told me that the meeting with the boss did not go well for the coworker yesterday. In fact, she stormed out of the meeting when she decided she was done. The boss apparently was rather irritated about her attitude. My friend stayed in the boss's office for a few minutes afterward, where he was reassured that his actions were acceptable. The boss also said that he was going to "handle it" with the coworker. My friend isn't sure what that means exactly, but the boss isn't one to have sympathy for "attitude problems."

My friend did tell me that when the coworker is in the office, she often e-mails people to ask where they are on certain tasks; however, she doesn't do that when she is out of the office. Then when she returns, she feels "out of the loop." I see that as taking a victim position in the sense that she perceives it is being done "to her." Given that she is taking that position, I do think there is merit in using e-mail as the primary form of communication about anything involving this coworker's tasks and to ensure that she is at least copied on things. It would be a good CYA measure.

mich3554

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Re: You're not keeping me in the loop.
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2013, 01:47:45 PM »
Is this woman taking advantage of the FMLA act? 

Maybe the rest of you can go to the boss when she is out and ask that her sick time be reviewed. Possibly her hours cut due to her health and make her an assistant to the group instead of being responsible for any components that other people depend on having done before they can finish their part.

There is a substantial amount of paperwork involved if you are out due to FMLA.  It really isn't something that can easily be taken advantage of because the better part of the paperwork is filled out by a physician.

However, why she is out really isn't the point of the post.  If these are approved absences because of health issues, it really is none of the business of the coworkers.  As this person is integral to the work process, it really would make sense for the coworkers to keep her in the email look as to what is going on so she is not spending time scrambling to figure out what is going on and what she needs to do.

Right now, I am out on disability - which was preceded by FMLA.  I know that my coworkers have stepped up to the plate to deal with my absence and I help them out however I can (even though I am not supposed to per my disability paperwork).   This is an incredibly difficult position to be in, from this side too. 

siamesecat2965

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Re: You're not keeping me in the loop.
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2013, 02:01:21 PM »
Is this woman taking advantage of the FMLA act? 

Maybe the rest of you can go to the boss when she is out and ask that her sick time be reviewed. Possibly her hours cut due to her health and make her an assistant to the group instead of being responsible for any components that other people depend on having done before they can finish their part.

There is a substantial amount of paperwork involved if you are out due to FMLA.  It really isn't something that can easily be taken advantage of because the better part of the paperwork is filled out by a physician.

However, why she is out really isn't the point of the post.  If these are approved absences because of health issues, it really is none of the business of the coworkers.  As this person is integral to the work process, it really would make sense for the coworkers to keep her in the email look as to what is going on so she is not spending time scrambling to figure out what is going on and what she needs to do.

Right now, I am out on disability - which was preceded by FMLA.  I know that my coworkers have stepped up to the plate to deal with my absence and I help them out however I can (even though I am not supposed to per my disability paperwork).   This is an incredibly difficult position to be in, from this side too.

I also have a CW who has had some major health issues over the last 4-6 months. She's been out, working from home, etc. dealing with her issues. However, she has kept up her stuff. She is very conscientious, and always makes sure she's on top of things, so much sometimes, we have to tell her to relax, we have it covered! 

The CW in the OP seems to want to have her cake and eat it too, but it does sound like boss knows what she's up to, and will hopefully handle it.

Only me

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Re: You're not keeping me in the loop.
« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2013, 02:11:18 PM »
Hi

I think you're friend handled it well. Ignoring why the CW is absent and concentrating on the fact that she's away a lot and it effect everyone else, this I think is important.

At my work if someone on the team is absent, we mostly email to let them know something has been handled, but then with my job we usually check email during vacation anyways (just to keep up).

I wish your friend luck and hope that the issue gets solved.

Onlyme

bah12

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Re: You're not keeping me in the loop.
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2013, 02:12:25 PM »
I think part of the issue for my friend is that he felt blindsided by how angry she was yesterday. He thought he was doing her a favor, so he didn't expect her to rail on him. From what he described, she was storming around the office all day, and everyone was walking on eggshells and avoiding her.

My friend has a pretty good idea about the coworker's personal life/illnesses because she makes it everyone else's business. He said that everyone knows what's going on with coworker all the time. It isn't for my friend or anyone else on the staff to have an opinion about the legitimacy of her absences. That's between her and their boss. To my knowledge, no one has said anything directly to the boss about the impact of the coworker's absences. I did suggest to my friend the possibility that if they cover for her in doing her work, there may not be much impact for the boss to observe.

The coworker's staff is really feeling the impact of the chronic absences. Two of her employees in particular are getting the brunt of her workload, which is making it more difficult for them to carry out their own tasks. Some of them are coming to my friend to complain about the coworker, who is their boss. What seems to be happening is that the coworker is out, so her staff takes on her tasks. They get behind on their work, which delays the work in my friend's department. When they are behind, the coworker will complain that she was either out of the loop on things or that her staff is terribly overworked and the deadlines aren't fair to them. My friend gets hit on this because he helps to set the deadlines -- in consultation with the coworker. She tends to deny her participation in setting the deadlines, hence the complaints that she was out of the loop. Yesterday, my friend was able to prove in the meeting with the boss that the coworker was involved in setting the deadlines, so her complaints were without merit.

My friend told me that the meeting with the boss did not go well for the coworker yesterday. In fact, she stormed out of the meeting when she decided she was done. The boss apparently was rather irritated about her attitude. My friend stayed in the boss's office for a few minutes afterward, where he was reassured that his actions were acceptable. The boss also said that he was going to "handle it" with the coworker. My friend isn't sure what that means exactly, but the boss isn't one to have sympathy for "attitude problems."

My friend did tell me that when the coworker is in the office, she often e-mails people to ask where they are on certain tasks; however, she doesn't do that when she is out of the office. Then when she returns, she feels "out of the loop." I see that as taking a victim position in the sense that she perceives it is being done "to her." Given that she is taking that position, I do think there is merit in using e-mail as the primary form of communication about anything involving this coworker's tasks and to ensure that she is at least copied on things. It would be a good CYA measure.

This is all the more reason why your friend needs to follow up meetings with writing.  He can send her an email and say "per our discussion, these are the tasks that need to be completed, by whom, and when."  Sure, the coworker sounds like a PITA to work with, but this is business, so your coworker needs to put aside his frustrations and not wait for her to ask for the status to give it to her.   It's not only is the right thing to do regardless of who he's working with, but it covers him in situations like this. 

Also, her employees are complaining to him?  And he's the same level as her?  Has he done anything about this?  If they share a supervisor, he needs to address that he's getting complaints from her employees, and he needs to validate those complaints if he feels they are legitimate through his own experience.  If they don't, he needs to talk to his own supervisor first.

Why she's out really isn't the issue and the frequency wouldn't be the issue if she would keep up with her work.  Since she's not doing that, and making things more difficult for her coworkers, then that's the issue that your friend needs to discuss with his superiors.

Coley

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Re: You're not keeping me in the loop.
« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2013, 03:01:11 PM »
This is all the more reason why your friend needs to follow up meetings with writing.  He can send her an email and say "per our discussion, these are the tasks that need to be completed, by whom, and when."  Sure, the coworker sounds like a PITA to work with, but this is business, so your coworker needs to put aside his frustrations and not wait for her to ask for the status to give it to her.   It's not only is the right thing to do regardless of who he's working with, but it covers him in situations like this. 

Also, her employees are complaining to him?  And he's the same level as her?  Has he done anything about this?  If they share a supervisor, he needs to address that he's getting complaints from her employees, and he needs to validate those complaints if he feels they are legitimate through his own experience.  If they don't, he needs to talk to his own supervisor first.

Why she's out really isn't the issue and the frequency wouldn't be the issue if she would keep up with her work.  Since she's not doing that, and making things more difficult for her coworkers, then that's the issue that your friend needs to discuss with his superiors.

Yes, coworker and my friend are the same level. They report to the same boss. They both have staff members who report to them. The coworker's staff has come to my friend with complaints about the coworker's absences and their resulting workload. I'm sure they would appreciate an advocate. That situation is complicated by the fact that the boss is very touchy about what he perceives to be "attitude problems." My friend is worried that if he mentions the impact of the coworker's absences, he would be perceived (as would the coworker's staff) to have an attitude problem. I pointed out to my friend yesterday and in previous conversations that the coworker seems to have no problem complaining to the boss about what she thinks are issues. I think if he handled it correctly, his boss might be receptive. The problem is getting my friend to strengthen his spine. ;) Regardless, it would appear from yesterday's meeting that perhaps the boss is becoming wise to what's happening.

There is a second coworker who also is on the same level as my friend and Coworker 1. My friend says that Coworker 2 has shared the same concerns about the impact of Coworker 1's absences and her attitude. Would it be useful if my friend and Coworker 2 both went to the boss? Would this be piling on?

bah12

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Re: You're not keeping me in the loop.
« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2013, 03:41:41 PM »
I think they should go individually.  And I think that your friend either needs to address the problem with his supervisor or put up with his coworker.  There's no other way to solve the problem than to face it.

Coley

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Re: You're not keeping me in the loop.
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2013, 03:45:57 PM »
I think they should go individually.  And I think that your friend either needs to address the problem with his supervisor or put up with his coworker.  There's no other way to solve the problem than to face it.

Thanks. And POD about addressing it or putting up with it.

Mikayla

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Re: You're not keeping me in the loop.
« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2013, 04:12:23 PM »
From OP's update:  It isn't for my friend or anyone else on the staff to have an opinion about the legitimacy of her absences. That's between her and their boss. To my knowledge, no one has said anything directly to the boss about the impact of the coworker's absences. I did suggest to my friend the possibility that if they cover for her in doing her work, there may not be much impact for the boss to observe.

On the first bolded, I think this is an unrelated issue. In other words, sure it's true, but is also sounds like the absences are creating problems for your friend and even those reporting to him.  That's what he needs to address with the boss.  There are all sorts of ways to do this without commenting on the nature of the absences.

And the second bolded is a great point!  It's tricky drawing the line in those circumstances, but at some point he needs to stop being a hero and focus more on addressing a real problem.