Author Topic: was my coworker justified in feeling attacked?  (Read 5933 times)

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blahblahblah

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was my coworker justified in feeling attacked?
« on: October 30, 2013, 06:29:12 PM »
Background: My firm recently hired a full-time file clerk. Before we hired her, it used to be my job to handle bill files, so I know everything there is to know about the position. So even though I am technically not the clerk's boss or supervisor, I am largely responsible for making sure she is doing her job correctly. 

Story: There was a little bit of trouble/misunderstanding involving the clerk's handling of a particular file. Someone in another department actually called me to complain because she was getting tired of it. I said okay, I'd talk to her and find out what was going on. When I hung up, the clerk, who had overheard my part of the conversation (since we sit right next to each other), came over and immediately started defending herself.

Part of the other person's complaint was that the documents were being filed weirdly, so I asked the clerk how she had been putting away the documents. This was not said meanly, I just needed to figure out what she was doing in case it was wrong. But the clerk immediately bristled and said that she knew how to file stuff, that she'd been a legal secretary for twenty years and she wasn't stupid, etc. I said okay, but we're not necessarily going to do stuff the same way as at her old job. She then snapped at me that she didn't even have to talk to me about this (since I wasn't her boss), the only person she had to talk to was DirectBoss, and she walked away, continuing to grumble about how she knew what she was doing. O-kay...

Anyway, DirectBoss talked to File Clerk about this incident and told her that she really should not talk to me that way, especially since I had only been acting on behalf of a complaint (as opposed to just being a busybody). File Clerk's response was that she knew she had overreacted, but that she had been taken aback by my initial question, which she felt was attacking her. So DirectBoss asked me to handle her with kid gloves going forward.

MY question is whether File Clerk had a point in feeling attacked, or whether she was being oversensitive. I don't remember the exact wording of what I said, but it was something like, "Hey, I also need to ask you how you've been filing the documents because so-and-so was asking about them?" I don't think that's an unreasonable way to start off...? I didn't want to just say, "By the way, be sure that when you're filing, you do stuff this and that way," because that sort of implies that she is definitely doing things incorrectly. But is there a way that I could have worded my initial question better? Was my coworker justified in feeling like I was attacking her?
« Last Edit: October 30, 2013, 07:07:41 PM by blahblahblah »

JeanFromBNA

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Re: was my coworker justified in feeling attacked?
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2013, 06:39:54 PM »
She is being way oversensitive. 

People like your coworker exasperate me.  Far too many goats have died for them.

hobish

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Re: was my coworker justified in feeling attacked?
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2013, 06:47:01 PM »
She is being way oversensitive. 

People like your coworker exasperate me.  Far too many goats have died for them.

What does that mean?

I agree she is being oversensitive ... and, embarrasingly, I would have been on the defensive, as well. When you've done something for so long, and done it well, and someone starts questioning your methods it can make you bristly. And by you I mean me  ::) ...and I need to get over myself already.
Snapping at you and the snooty comments are completely uncalled for. Even rereading in my most (over)sensitive mindset I can't think what you said wrong.




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Curious Cat

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Re: was my coworker justified in feeling attacked?
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2013, 06:51:25 PM »
She is being way oversensitive. 

People like your coworker exasperate me.  Far too many goats have died for them.

What does that mean?

I agree she is being oversensitive ... and, embarrasingly, I would have been on the defensive, as well. When you've done something for so long, and done it well, and someone starts questioning your methods it can make you bristly. And by you I mean me  ::) ...and I need to get over myself already.
Snapping at you and the snooty comments are completely uncalled for. Even rereading in my most (over)sensitive mindset I can't think what you said wrong.

I think she means scapegoats?

Your coworker is being ridiculous and so is your boss.  It isn't your responsibility to handle her with kid gloves but hers to act like a grown up.

blahblahblah

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Re: was my coworker justified in feeling attacked?
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2013, 06:54:52 PM »
Quote
I agree she is being oversensitive ... and, embarrasingly, I would have been on the defensive, as well. When you've done something for so long, and done it well, and someone starts questioning your methods it can make you bristly.
Yeah, I kinda felt bad for her (until she basically dismissed me out of hand, anyway, haha), because her new job is definitely a lot more grunt-work-y and dreary compared to her previous positions, I'm sure. IIRC she was looking for a job for a while before getting this. I get it. I've been there, it sucks and can be a blow to the ego. It's just a situation where you have to swallow your pride and get on with things. I just wanted to make sure that my own behavior wasn't contributing.

Curious Cat, I kinda understand where my boss is coming from, because we have cycled through a TON of file clerks recently. The previous file clerks didn't last long because they didn't take the job seriously and would slack off. Current File Clerk, otoh, is a hard worker, just, well, oversensitive. Boss wants her to stick around; it took us a while to find her and if she were to leave, we'd be screwed. In the event that she's just being oversensitive, I definitely agree that we shouldn't have to coddle her, but it might be a necessary evil, unfortunately.
« Last Edit: October 30, 2013, 07:08:37 PM by blahblahblah »

Lindee

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Re: was my coworker justified in feeling attacked?
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2013, 07:01:03 PM »
Wow!  If she didn't have to talk to me because I'm not her boss never mind the kid gloves I  wouldn't be dealing with her at all. Any further complaints about her work should be referred to direct boss and let him put on the kid gloves.
[ I think that is where the goat reference is coming from, as in baby goatskin].

veronaz

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Re: was my coworker justified in feeling attacked?
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2013, 07:06:34 PM »
Quote
Your coworker is being ridiculous and so is your boss.  It isn't your responsibility to handle her with kid gloves but hers to act like a grown up.

I agree.  When she said she had been a legal secretary for 20 years, you should have said "That was then and this is now.  You're a file clerk.  I received a call about the way you handled (file).  This is the way it's supposed to be done.  I'm trying to help you, and I don't appreciate the snooty comments".

GreenBird

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Re: was my coworker justified in feeling attacked?
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2013, 08:18:39 PM »
It sounds like File Clerk is pretty oversensitive, especially since she was getting all defensive before you'd even spoken to her, just based on listening in to your side of a phone conversation. 

But since you're stuck with her, maybe try telling her that it's not whether things are filed "right" or "wrong" in any general sense, it's that things need to be filed where people in this office expect to be able to find them.  Maybe her filing methods are more efficient and might actually be a vast improvement over how things have been done in the past (I have no idea), but the current methods really can't be changed or it will just confuse everyone.   So you can say "Your way really might be better, but unfortunately we can't afford to confuse everyone with changes, so it needs to be done the same way as it has been in the past."  So you're not criticizing her methods, you're just saying that the current methods, however quirky or nonsensical, need to be maintained in order to avoid an avalanche of people not being able to find things. 

Reframe it so that she's not being corrected because of a shortcoming of hers, it's because things need to be maintained a certain way because of everyone else's inability to adapt.  (And if File Clerk seems to accept corrections better this way, then also tell the boss that you're using this approach so that boss understands that you don't actually think everyone else is really unable to adapt.)
« Last Edit: October 30, 2013, 08:23:46 PM by GreenBird »

blahblahblah

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Re: was my coworker justified in feeling attacked?
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2013, 08:28:11 PM »
GreenBird, that is a good suggestion, thanks!

GreenBird

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Re: was my coworker justified in feeling attacked?
« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2013, 09:09:29 PM »
Glad I could help!

TootsNYC

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Re: was my coworker justified in feeling attacked?
« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2013, 12:19:35 AM »
You could also try to cast yourself as her ally. Instead of looking like the ally of the person who called.

So when Person A calls w/ a complaint, say to File Clerk, "Person A is having some sort of frustration. Let's figure out what her problem is--we've got to get her off your back."
Not quite throwing Person A under the bus or minimizing the problem, but starting from the assumption that this is going to be good for File Clerk, to be able to settle the complaint and make everybody happy, and you're volunteering to be her consultant and translator.

So, "let's see if there's something in how things are being filed. Since I know how people are used to things here at this firm, maybe I'll have some insight. Walk me through how you're doing it."

And then be sure to listen long and carefully--take notes, maybe, to keep yourself from talking too soon. Don't start correcting her until she's completely done.

Then always cast yourself as translator, not as expert. You can convey the same info with suggestions.

cicero

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Re: was my coworker justified in feeling attacked?
« Reply #11 on: October 31, 2013, 01:09:34 AM »
Oh, so that's where my former co worker ended up?

Sometimes it doesn't' matter how you say its because * whatever * you say will be misconstrued as a personal attack, and she will just to on the offence. I'm sorry she had to take a job she doesn't' want to do but that's not your fault/responsibility/problem. Your boss' way of handling this may keep the peace for a while but won't fix the problem.

What I did - and I don't know if this was the right way - was (a) walk away when she would get offensive because I wasn't' dealing with that and (b) just repeating the facts of how and why it's done this way. In our case, I would tell her that I know I'm being anal about thus but I hate when websites have mistakes so let s re-do this.

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tinkytinky

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Re: was my coworker justified in feeling attacked?
« Reply #12 on: October 31, 2013, 09:35:53 AM »
Background: My firm recently hired a full-time file clerk. Before we hired her, it used to be my job to handle bill files, so I know everything there is to know about the position. So even though I am technically not the clerk's boss or supervisor, I am largely responsible for making sure she is doing her job correctly. 


Wait, so you are responsible for making sure she does her job correctly, but you have to handle her with kid gloves? That's a bit of a mixed signal, isn't it? I think I would ask boss for a little more clarification. Are you to report problems to boss when complaints come to you? Are you to direct the person with the problem to file clerk directly? It almost sounds like boss doesn't want to deal with the drama so boss is putting the conflict back on you. I think if you got more complaints you just need to say, "oh, that is something that you have to take up with file clerk/boss." just get out of the middle completely. Tell boss that since you have shown her how everything is filed, and she has a good grasp (maybe) of how her job works, that you are stepping back on directing her. emphasize that you will be happy to answer her questions about the job, as you are sure they will come up, but that any issues will directed to either boss or file clerk.  You have trained her to the best of your abilities, but now she has to sink or swim on her own.

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schnauzermom

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Re: was my coworker justified in feeling attacked?
« Reply #13 on: October 31, 2013, 09:52:12 AM »
She is being way oversensitive. 

People like your coworker exasperate me.  Far too many goats have died for them.

What does that mean?

I am going out on a limb here, the boss wants the coworker to be treated with "kid" gloves kids are baby goats.
Just a thought.
Karen


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blahblahblah

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Re: was my coworker justified in feeling attacked?
« Reply #14 on: October 31, 2013, 10:00:52 AM »
Quote
Are you to report problems to boss when complaints come to you? Are you to direct the person with the problem to file clerk directly?
Well, it depends. If a person were to complain about the file clerk's attitude or some other issue regarding behavior, then I'd direct them to the boss because that's really not my domain. But if it were a problem over the actual work, like with the person having a problem with stuff being filed weirdly, then I'd handle it myself because I'm actually more knowledgeable about that than the boss.

The person who called me about file clerk was actually complaining about a bunch of stuff. There was the part I mentioned (documents being put away not according to protocol), but she was also unimpressed with the clerk's attitude. The person had requested that a file be sent to her, and they apparently had the following conversation:

File Clerk: This file has actually been checked out to you since this date.
OtherDepartmentPerson: I sent that back a while ago. I don't hold on to bill files.
File Clerk: No, you didn't. It's still checked out to you.

I almost facepalmed when OtherDepartmentPerson related that conversation to me, because it's just... no. I know I'm not the most tactful person in the world (which is why I made this thread in the first place, to see if there was something I missed lol), but even I know that you don't respond to someone like that.

But I didn't mention that to File Clerk because I didn't think it was my role to correct her behavior. I just passed that on to Boss when I mentioned the other stuff in the original post.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2013, 10:06:39 AM by blahblahblah »