General Etiquette > All In A Day's Work

The Girl Who Doesn't Get It

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We have a new teammate - S - who is a contractor doing a specific function. Her function could be done by me, or another team mate, but we decided that since we had other things that weren't easily offloaded, and this function was, we'd have a contractor handle them. S is polite, very quiet, does her work and doesn't mix much with others. This in itself isn't the issue, but it does color how we interact with her - she does better with e-mails, and doesn't call or come to our desks (we all work in the same general area, no more than 30 feet from her desk).

She's been working on a project for some time, for an external (not on our team, but in our company) group. When S went out sick for two weeks, I had to step in and do some of it - there was a tight deadline involved. She's been back for a month, and is trying to finish up the second half of the project. I did the work that comprised the first half of the project in about two days - including compiling a lot of data. She could have used my data, but chose to pull her own copies, and go through the manual work again. She could have followed the (very simple) steps I used, but instead is making it VERY complicated, so that she can use a specific tool instead of just doing the work. She's spent hundreds of hours on this - I did the first (larger) half in TWO DAYS. We had a meeting today that lasted four hours because my boss had to walk her through all the issues with the data she'd come up with, line by line. In other words, she is NOT working out well on this.

My issue is, how do I handle being polite, when I really want to scream at her? I would appreciate some strategies - I've tried to just not talk to her if I can help it, but because my boss was OOO the day that she started, I helped do the onboarding for her (getting badges, computer access, etc.) and she thinks of me as her supervisor, even though I'm not. I'm also the only other girl on the team, and I think that's an issue for her - she seems uncomfortable in our mostly male workplace. I really want to like her, and she's polite, but she just. doesn't. get. it. and it's affecting both my work (my boss knows this) and my morale (which I've been trying to disguise).

I’m not sure what you’re asking.

You don’t have to like her.  However, politeness and civility are requirements in (most) work settings.  I’ve worked with people I disliked, and people I would like to have strangled (for very good reason).  But, “please, thank you, good morning, ”  and speaking to people in a civil tone are things which are expected.  Screaming and using a nasty tone can get you in trouble.

I noticed you use the term "girl".  Is she a teen-ager/minor?

You seem to be most irritated by what you see as performance deficiencies and work habits.  Isn't that something you can discuss with management, especially if your job is impacted?

She doesn't report to you; does she report to your boss?

If not, then unfortunately your dislike of her is on you.   If your boss didn't do anything when you told him that her work was affecting yours, then you've done what you can.  You could try that again, with specific instances and proposed solutions, but otherwise it sounds like you need to be civil and polite to her.

How long is her contract assignment? Was she given a deadline to finish the project? Is this a finite temporary assignment or an open-ended indefinite contract position?

Maybe it's a good idea to bring the work-related issues you have with her to her onsite supervisor's attention, because if she's not working out she can be replaced by the agency who sent her, and if that's not feasible (because of the amount of time it takes to train someone to do the work) maybe she should be let go. But it would have to be communicated to the agency because if not (and if she's not given a chance to improve or make the situation right) then your company wouldn't be given a discount/refund for the cost of the employee.

In any case, I think these issues need to be addressed with her onsite supervisor and the agency who placed her.

I had a similar situation once and I let it go on until it was too late to do anything about it. If I had to do it over again, I would have contacted the agency right away and had them send over someone else or refund me. (I was the owner of our company so I was her onsite supervisor.) But I didn't do any of that because I was "trying to be nice" and the project wound up getting messed up and it cost a LOT of money that ultimately was wasted. I'd have been better off doing it myself.

Anyway, I feel for you there. But it really sounds like you just don't. like. her. and are looking for permission to act on it, if that makes any sense. You know you shouldn't do that, frustrating as the situation is. I'd take it to the supervisor because it sounds like her lack of productivity is harming your work, and wasting company money - and I'd frame it in those terms, leaving out the interpersonal dislike/personality issues. That way, they are sure to listen and possibly act upon the information. Hopefully, they'll get someone better for your team or work with her to improve. Believe me, the temp agency is VERY interested in keeping your company a happy customer - they'll bend over backwards to make it work out because they are surely desperate to keep placements happening.

Hope this helps and that your situation gets resolved quickly! And my heart goes out to you...I relate to your dilemma.  :)

Also, if I missed that you already consulted her onsite manager, and they want to do nothing about it, then the best thing to do, I think, is 'grin and bear it' for the rest of her contract. Hopefully it's not a lengthy one. At least if it's a project-based finite contract, then you know in advance when it's going to end. But if it's open-ended until the project is complete, there's your answer to why she's taking so long. And that really is a problem your company should resolve. But it may damage you to make an issue of it if they don't want to, unfortunately. So I wouldn't recommend that. Say it once, let it go. If you've already done that, not much more you can do, I'm afraid.

My major question is, has anyone found any strategies to handle someone that they have to work with, that is incompetent but we can't yet get rid of, that doesn't sound condescending? She's on a year contract, and is on about month four. I mentor people all the time, and have really tried to do so with her (she's younger than me, which is unusual for me - I usually am the youngest person in the room) but I just can't seem to strike a balance between talking her through the same thing for the tenth time and not sounding like I'm talking her through it for the tenth time, you know?


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