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Sorry I took your job.
October 19, 2012 1:56 PM   Subscribe

I recently joined a company as a specialist in my field. My role is part of a new specialist team internal to the organization. My team has been tasked with creating new products as well as improved versions of old products that have been poorly received. And now the generalist I am "replacing" is acting out towards me.

Generalist interviewed me and agreed that a specialist needed to be brought in to accomplish the goals of Product without detracting from the company's progress on other Stuff. Generalist (G) works on a lot of other Stuff and now has time freed up to be more effective on those things.

G has been is one of the more long-standing employees at the company, but does not hold a leadership role. I do not report to G. G and I report to two different people. G was warm and helpful at first. But as more people joined the company after me, G has expressed disdain for all of the new people.

G recently started showing up uninvited to my meetings. G chats with members of G's team about my work. G sends feedback on my work to G's boss as well as my boss. And now giving a well-received presentation on Product that G showed up, uninvited to... G sent a long email to my boss saying our team is not receptive to feedback.

G has been included in email threads, forums, demos, and status updates about Product. G has been invited to be a tester on Product and put it off for ages. But now G goes above my head to complain to my boss instead of coming to me to talk about his feelings about being excluded.

I resent this because I have made a good faith effort to make G feel involved, and G has never come directly to me with their concerns.

Other members of G's team have told me that G has been slacking off and handing off their own work in order to appear they are in a more managerial role than their title suggests. G's team silently stews about this because they are forced to work with G, and G has been hypersensitive to their feedback in the past. No one on G's team reports to G but G considers themselves the most senior of the team.

My gut instinct is to walk up to G and tell them going over my head has made me completely distrustful, and that I don't report to G or G's boss so I don't need G's approval. I also want to remind G that they did a poor job on Version 1 of Product and there is a reason Specialist team exists.

I'm sick of G trying to assert their ownership over Product and talking to my boss behind my back, and I am afraid if it continues I won't be able to stick around at the company, which I like a lot otherwise.

How do I navigate this in the most politic way and without losing my cool?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would not say anything to G, and instead talk to your boss calmly about this. "I'm excited about our accomplishments X, Y, and Z on Product. I've tried to get G and her team involved through email updates and invitations to test Product, but until the past few weeks I hadn't received any feedback from them. Now I'm hearing that they're not satisfied. Should I be concerned about this?"

Then your boss can give you ideas on how to work better with G. Or your boss may say, Yeah, G is being a pain in the ass, just ignore her.
posted by chickenmagazine at 2:07 PM on October 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


The next time one of these emails crosses your desk, forward or reply to your direct manager and simply say " I have made a good faith effort to make G feel involved, and G has never come directly to me with concerns. I'm willing to work this out however you advise."

Basically, drop the ball in your manager's lap, smile, and shut up. This is why your boss gets paid the big bucks.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:15 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Some people need to be involved with everything, otherwise they feel excluded. The simple fact that there are meetings/presentations without G is proof to G that they are being excluded (regardless of the content/goals of the things). My ex-supervisor was like that - unless she was actively invited to micromanage, it was evidence I was acting outside my role, leaving her in the dark (even if it's something that happened while she was on leave) or evidence of my inability to manage.

I ended up leaving, but what had worked was bombarding her with crap. Every little meeting, every little paper, every little scrap of a thing hit her desk. She'd complained to the big boss about it and gotten shut down as well (I think) because there was a very sudden decrease in the micromanaging stuff.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:41 PM on October 19, 2012


Other members of G's team have told me that G has been slacking off and handing off their own work in order to appear they are in a more managerial role than their title suggests. G's team silently stews about this because they are forced to work with G, and G has been hypersensitive to their feedback in the past. No one on G's team reports to G but G considers themselves the most senior of the team.

If this is indeed the case, then G is creating a major pain in the ass / productivity issue for the team, and from what I am told by HR people this sort of thing is crazymaking as it creates a whole climate of mistrust within the department, sides get taken and before you know it you've devolved into a collection of cliques and silos which is hell on productivity. It depends on the work environment of course, but I'm betting that sort of thing is unwelcome at your workplace.

Question (recognizing this is anon) - you say "And now giving a well-received presentation on Product that G showed up, uninvited to... G sent a long email to my boss saying our team is not receptive to feedback."

There is a lot of "G does this, I do this, he says, she says" in this question. I know confrontation is scary but have you ever considered going to the source and finding out what their intended goal is? Because it maybe obvious TO YOU that this person is defensive about their job or whatever and you've got all these motives listed and you've got a bunch of piling on from your colleagues so you're probably not crazy or making shit up, but do you really, actually know what's going on in this person's head? Probably not. It's ok, I failed mind-reading too.

The reason I say this is that right now if you go to your boss behind G's back it just adds another layer of triangulation to the whole situation, which as you say, is not exactly sunny. Complaining to your boss whilst silently hoping this person gets fired or reassigned isn't doing anyone any good, least of all the teams involved who have to actually, you know, get shit done.

It seems as though the email was a triggering action. What would happen if you quietly took G aside and directly, neutrally asked them what their intended goal was for that email? I would say something like "When you send an email about my presentation that says your team does not welcome feedback, it feels to me as though you are dismissing my work as substandard. Did you intend it that way?

Then step back and let G try to explain their side of the issue. If they get defensive or dismiss it or try to play it off (or get mad), then you tell them it was a hurtful thing to do. TELL THEM directly "I feel like you are being deliberately hurtful (or obstructive, or whatever), and I am not okay with that, it does not help either of us do our jobs".

THEN you go to your boss, or HR, or whomever, and tell them you have a people problem, and outline it as neutrally as possible. Don't play victim. Don't validate with "well but so-and-so agrees with me". State the facts, and ask for help.

Confront the person. Give them a chance to explain their motives, because without facts you are still pretty much guessing here. If they come up with bullshit reasoning or get defensive or angry, then you escalate.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:58 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hold your head up and don't get involved until asked, you're not his manager. Everybody knows what's going on, it'll work itself out. Don't use up your new-guy/gal credibility at the company by getting mired in this political b.s., and I say this as someone who has been G in the past.
posted by rhizome at 2:59 PM on October 19, 2012


Go to management ASAP. Once upon a time I was the specialist hired to replace the "generalist". I started and completed a project in 2 weeks that he had been "working on" for the last year, and for a brief minute it was completely apparent that he was and had always been incompetent. But then he came up with the idea of starting a smear campaign against me, and voila! All the negative attention was deflected from him to me.

This "generalist" may have nothing to offer, so he's trying to make it look like you have nothing to offer as well, and the sooner this becomes an issue between him and management instead of an issue between him and you, the better. It's very possible that if you go directly to him, all you'll be doing is giving him a headstart on his next move.

I say this as someone who tried, in the same situation, to work directly with the "generalist". Because I was young and naive, it took me a long time to figure out that I needed to go to management. When I finally did, I found out that he and management were best buds, and he was never going to stop smearing me or be held accountable for doing so. This is why I say bring in management now. Find out if they will do anything. If not, just walk. Life's too short.
posted by january at 3:19 PM on October 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


If G is not willing to bring you their own concerns, they are not likely to be receptive to a face to face talk. Go to your manager, lay it out briefly, forward emails, etc. There are two ways this can go; G gets talked to and steps back, or management decides to do nothing/let it continue and you start looking for a less toxic place to work. Here's hoping it's the first for you. But managing G is definitely Not Your Job.
posted by emjaybee at 10:28 AM on October 20, 2012


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