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Difficult Coworkers

June 25, 2008

Work has been really busy lately. This is good. It keeps me engaged. My mind has been on work when I’m out of work, which is ok. I can push it to the side when necessary, but it keeps my wheels turning and my mind active. I like it a lot. Since work is on my mind, and work is how I earn my money, I am going to write about work issues today.

I’m working with six people on my current task. Three of them I think are quality employees and I enjoy working with them a lot. One of them is probably a good employee, but he seems more “politic”-y, and it annoys me. Someone has to make status charts for managers, and I guess I’m glad it isn’t me. Another one seems to lack the skills and understanding of the task, or she’s been busy with another project. I can’t tell which it is.

The one I’m working most closely with consistently drives me crazy. He seems nice (I think–I can’t tell with those quiet ones. Sometimes they are secretly not very nice.), but he’s done so many things that irritate me. One day he said that it became apparent that “his part” would include X, Y and Z functions, which was essentially the whole task (or all the interesting parts) leaving me with the crap work. (I insisted we stick to the original plan of splitting up the functionality because it wasn’t that hard to do.) He did his part slightly wrong, and I noticed it first and asked him to make a quick fix. I thought it would take an hour. He fixed it wrong, then sat puzzling about how to fix it properly until I told him exactly what to do. Also, he is always asking me so many questions! It isn’t that I am unwilling to answer them, but usually they aren’t anything I know anything about, or that he should expect me to know anything about. I’ve only worked on this task like 3 days longer than him, so it isn’t as though I’m some magical expert.

In a way it is good, because I am a bit of a control freak, and being marked (unofficially) as the lead gives me more control. I can make sure things are done to my standards without worrying about him. It is also annoying because he asks me questions and expects me to figure out the answers, when he has the same capability as I do. I am not senior. I am new to this task too.

So, if I only really enjoy working with half your team, are they the problem, or is it me?

I hope I get a chance to give his manager some sort of feedback about his work. At my last job, we got to fill out evaluations for some of our peers to help with the salary/performance review process, which I think is valuable. Of course, the only people I filled them out for were people I really liked, and the one guy that wasn’t very good at his job must not have put my name down as someone who worked with him closely.  Even though I did, for several months.  He was a real pain to work with, stating in a meeting that he was providing me with updates to the model to test when he hadn’t even talked to me in like 2 weeks.  And he was supposed to test his on dang model.  Loser.

Anyway, I probably won’t ever get to provide any feedback on this coworkers performance. It isn’t as though I can whine to managers that I don’t like working with him. Then I look like the difficult employee. It wouldn’t reflect well on me.

What do you think? How do you handle difficult coworkers?

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 25, 2008 12:57 pm

    I have one really difficult coworker. It is almost painful to work with him (and sadly my promotion will mean I’ll be working with him more often). I avoid him as much as possible, but when I do work with him and something isn’t getting done or he’s giving me the brush off I send an email to him and copy my superior. Sometimes it helps (he doesn’t report to her but has a more one-on-one with his boss). For this guy, I know it’s not just me because I let my frustration show once and realized quite a few more people feel the same way.

  2. tom permalink
    June 26, 2008 6:21 am

    It’s not you. Unfortunately incompetent people make their way into the corporate world and create a difficult situation for all.

    The easiest way to handle this type of employee is to phase him out of the project (if that’s even a possibility). Since you are the unofficial lead (that’s awesome in itself!), you can slowly start giving him less and less to do until he’s basically doing nothing. Yes, he will still be part of the team, but at least he won’t be bothering you on trivial things.

    As for going to your manager… it completely depends on your relationship with him/her. I, personally, could tell my manager “I can’t work with this guy on this project” and he or I would be out of it. I don’t think it would make you look difficult, especially since companies are trying to foster more candid conversations between managers and their employees.

    The last thing you can do, and probably not the best for your sanity, is suck it up and see it as a learning experience in leadership. Yeah it sucks, but dealing with this fool and being a lead on a project will teach you a lot about being an effective leader, plus someone may recognize that you did a great job on the project and dealt with a moron on your team at the same time!

  3. June 26, 2008 6:40 am

    @tom – thanks for the thoughts. I probably should just suck it up for now. And by lead on our task, I just meant between the two of us on our task, not on the whole project, so I probably can’t phase him out very well.

    The frustrating thing is, he really is trying to do his job, but he just doesn’t seem to “get it”. So he’s agreeable to work with, his work just sort of stinks.

    I guess I sort of want my manager to know who is doing the work to make the task successful without being too pushy.

  4. June 26, 2008 11:32 am

    I’d suggest reading up on how to handle people. I’m doing that right now (for the third time!) There’s always going to be a few bad apples, and I know the tendency is to wonder if there’s something wrong with us rather than them. Occasionally, the problem IS us or we are contributing to the problem, but a lot of times other people are the problem.

    I’ve had more than my share (I’d hope!) of bad coworkers, and notice that it comes in phases of good and bad batches. Before, I had a coworker who was so awful that he didn’t want to do half of his work, was relieved of those duties, and then couldn’t even complete the remaining half of his duties to save his life.

    I went the learning experience way for a lot of the coworker troubles, and Tom’s right that it might not be best. While I won’t deny I’ve learned a whole lot about the craziness of people, I have to worry about losing MY sanity. It’s only a learning experience if you actually learn effective ways to deal and work with difficult people, I think.

  5. June 26, 2008 11:55 am

    @revanche – any specific suggestions on where to start reading up?

    Thanks for all your thoughts!

  6. June 26, 2008 6:02 pm

    Well, coming from the perspective of a manager, I know I really appreciate when someone comes to me, respectfully, with constructive criticism. (I have to beg for it!)

    The thing is, managers are flawed just like their employees. We try stuff out and put people together but make mistakes. The way I see it, if a manager can’t hear out honest feedback, he/she is a manager you don’t want to work for.

    So all that to say I hope you do tell your boss about this in some way, even casually and whether or not there’s a survey afterwards.

    Best wishes to you… I think everyone can relate to a situation like this!

  7. July 1, 2008 10:46 am

    I’ve started with It’s All Politics by Kathleen Kelley Reardon. I don’t know if that’s the best place to START, but it’s what caught my eye and I liked it a lot. I just had it somewhere around here …..

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