Scenario: “My co-worker and I are equals. When I started, she made a big deal about us working as a team, but as time went on, she has done the opposite. She hoards and guards her work assignments, is defensive, and at times, confrontational for no apparent reason. She has accused me of stealing work from her, which I haven’t done, at least not intentionally. She told me the previous co-worker in my position “was always trying to upstage her,” and she made a point of telling me she didn’t like that. I’ve tried to keep dealing with her to a minimum and have remained professional and firm in my intentions, but I am getting sick of her games. How do I nip them in the bud?”
Solution: Telling you that she disliked how her previous co-worker treated her is a threat. You can’t stop her from being who she is. You may think it’s only a movie, but think about the character in the film Fatal Attraction. You either believe her previous co-worker was as she described or you wake up to realizing that this woman has a personality problem that no one is going to change. How she perceives your actions are likely based on her insecurities. You may also be more efficient and are being given more projects due to your results.
Avoiding her may increase her anger and this certainly is not a person you want to ignore. Ask to meet with your boss after business hours and be very specific in explaining that the meeting is confidential. Your boss may be aware of this person’s distorted view of others and is, of course, not going to tell you about it until he starts to see a pattern in her behavior. If she caused trouble for the previous employee, it will become apparent there is a serious problem that must be handled. But don’t assume the boss knows, because your predecessor may have simply left without saying a word.
If the boss refuses to or is not capable of handling the situation, you may need to start a job search. Keep in mind that emotionally troubled people are just that, troubled, and they don’t change no matter how others behave. It’s an unfortunate situation you have run into, and only you can decide if your job is worth the fight, but a fight is what you will have when she is threatened beyond her imaginary accusations.
Scenario: “I love my job — the work, my boss and my co-workers. The boss left for a better company and a new person was hired from the outside. She is younger and less experienced than most of the staff, and we are wondering how she got the job. It’s not that we dislike her; she is very nice. It’s just that we know more than she does and supervising us will be quite a joke. Everyone is polite to her, but our resentment of this management decision is getting to us. Would it be terrible if we (the staff) complained to the head boss who hired her? She hasn’t done anything wrong, but the choice makes no sense. We are afraid that eventually one or more of us is going to blurt out something and cause a situation.
Solution: You and the staff are in a tough spot because you don’t know what the behind-the-scenes relationship is between your new boss and the head boss. Before any of you speak out, do your research. Find out if a prior connection exists, because you may cause a far greater problem than you have now, which is working for someone amenable, harmless and inexperienced. Her lack of experience may turn out to be a plus, if she allows all of you to do your jobs without interference. It may be unfair she is in her position, but there are far worse situations.