I have a newish job at a law firm. I like it. It's not in my field and I'm a bit overqualified, but I need the money and a sense of accomplishment. I work very hard, am trying to learn quickly, and have had excellent, enthusiastic feedback from my boss. However, a coworker who has some problems with my work style and constantly tells me I'm a sloppy worker wants to have a sit-down meeting with me at Starbucks tomorrow to discuss my work. This person is not my boss, and my actual boss has made it clear to me that this person is in no way my boss. Do I tell my real boss what this guy is doing?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (47 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
When I was hired for my job, I had two bosses. I'm going to call them Anne and Joe. Anne had been overworked at her job for ages and Joe had just been hired to take over half of her responsibilities. They were meant to be on the same level, and when I was hired, Joe was told he'd be one of my supervisors. However, Joe turned out to be a slow learner and about a week before my start date, the partners of the firm decided that he wasn't yet ready to take on a supervisory role. Anne privately told me that the partners met with him to let him know he was not to act as anyone's boss and that he was not Anne's equal but was under her supervision. They've had to hold this meeting with him several times because he's "not getting it." Anne explicitly stated that I'm not to allow Joe to act as my boss.
On my third day with the firm, Joe called me into his office to let me know that I'd neglected to put a certain-colored sticky note on a file I'd left with him. I hadn't known about the sticky note rule, but promised I'd use them in the future. He closed his office door and told me that he'd look at my resume, read about my Master's degree, and didn't understand why I was at the job, but that I had to take it seriously all the same. He also mentioned that it was "obvious" I've never worked in an adult, corporate office, though I've worked in many. He told me I couldn't produce sloppy work and intimated that I thought I was better than the job. I was insulted, but thought I'd obviously done something to displease him and promised to take my job very seriously. I've been wary of him and careful to do all he asks since then. I try to be cheerful, uncomplaining and diligent around him. (I mean, I generally try to be that way at my job, but I try extra-hard around him just to prove that he doesn't have to worry about my work product.)
Since Joe is my superior, he often checks my reports and gives me corrections to review. Over the months, I've noticed that his corrections are often incorrect themselves. I usually check in with Anne to make sure that my own work is accurate without revealing that I'm asking because of one of Joe's revisions. This presented a problem last Friday, when Joe marched into my office and crabbily, condescendingly informed me that some work I'd done was completely wrong, that I was sloppy, and that I needed to check over my work more. I told him that I'd had Anne check the work, but he shouted, "Anne's not always right!" and literally stomped away after I swore to check my work harder. I went over my work and found that I'd done everything correctly. I sent my work through peer review. It was correct. I showed it to Anne. It was correct. As usual, Joe's work was 100%% incorrect.
This isn't really a problem and obviously has less to do with me personally than it does Joe's feeling about being Anne's inferior, etc. I can usually just ignore Joe's reviews and send out the work product without him knowing the difference. I don't want to tell Anne about his mistakes because it makes me feel like a completely slimy tattletale. He's clearly having a hard enough time with the job, and I'd be defensive and worried if I were hired for a position and then told I wasn't ready for it.
But now Joe wants to have a meeting about my work at Starbucks tomorrow morning, and I'm sure it will again be about my sloppy, terrible work with some extra comments about how I don't follow his instructions. I don't even think he has the authority to call a meeting with me off-site during work hours, but Joe's my superior so I'll go along with it and try to take his comments as constructive criticism. But the problem is that he's wrong! I would follow Joe's instructions, but they'd make some of our legal cases invalid. He seems to have disliked me from day one, so I just can't think of any non-confrontational way I can tell him any of this. My plan is just to nod, smile, and promise to do better.
Do I tell Anne about what goes on at this meeting? It would reveal that Joe's not doing his job properly, and I feel like Anne & co. already know that. My doing so would just lead to another meeting between Joe and the partners, which would make him dislike me more. I was also always taught to deal with petty interpersonal problems on my own and never tattle on coworkers, etc., to superiors. But I can't just have meeting after meeting with him while he insults my work, which I secretly know is fine. MetaFilter, how do I handle this meeting tomorrow?