The beatings will stop when morale improves.
January 16, 2013 7:38 AM Subscribe
How do I deal with a difficult colleague who doesn't respect me when I'm getting zero support from my boss?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm an attorney who works closely with a number of non-attorneys. I review and work very closely with the non-attorneys. While the buck more or less stops with me when making important decisions, my non-attorney colleague are still very much professionals who are experts in their field. Many of the decisions we make are ultimately judgment calls where there is no clear cut answer and we are more less "managing" situations. This requires lots of communication and collaboration. While I don't exactly "tell" them what to do or how to do it, we talk almost every day or multiple times a day to brainstorm and reassess what the other is doing and our game plan. I must review and approve all final work products before they leave the office.
I should mention I'm female and have been practicing for about 5 years. While I'm 30, I am often mistaken for younger.
I have a new non-attorney colleague. He's been working in the field for 20+ years. I've only recently been assigned to work on the same team as him, but had issues with him responding to emails and showing up for meetings in the past. However, now that we are on the same team what was an annoyance I could ignore has become a massive issue. He is a bit of a "lone wolf" and only occasionally responds to emails or voicemails. Today I asked him why he didn't respond to an email I had sent the other day saying we needed to talk about a meeting that was happening today and giving him my cell number so he could get ahold of me when I was out of the office. I heard nothing. Another coworker also sent him an email about the meeting, which he also didn't respond to. He said he didn't respond because he didn't feel the email needed a response. A meeting invite was sent by a manager in another department in a very urgent matter that we both must work on together. We both accepted the meeting invite. The meeting was to take place in my office. The manager showed up, but my coworker did not. When I went to his desk 15 minutes after the meeting had started to ask if he had seen the meeting invite he was having a meeting with someone else so I didn't push the issue at that time. After the meeting I sent him an email asking why he hadn't made the meeting and he said I should have interrupted him because he thought the person he was meeting with whose name he did know because she didn't introduce herself (??) was the manager we were meeting with and he had been stuck on a call when the meeting started. He said I should have said something and we could have cut out this "confusion." This clearly makes no sense on multiple levels.
What upsets me more than anything is that every time he has missed a meeting, he does not follow up or even acknowledge there was a meeting and he missed it. It's only after I asked him where he was and if something happened do I get a rather flimsy excuse. Even if he had a very valid excuse for missing the meeting (and I understand things do happen) I would immediately expect a call and explanation. At no point did he ask what happened in the meeting or apologize for missing the meeting. Later that same day I ask him if something we had discussed in another meeting that morning was ready to go out (it was a very short document that should have taken no more than 15-30 minutes to complete). Admittedly the other department got the information we needed to complete it very last minute, but when I called him his only response was that he was about to leave. I asked him if he had drafted it yet and he seemed confused that I was even asking him about it (this task was clearly part of his primary job duties and is not something an attorney would ever do). I asked him if he could do it now and he said he was about to leave but that if I walked him through it and got him all the information he might be able to. I didn't have that kind of time so I begged another colleague who graciously did it for me while he watched on wordsmithing every word she wrote as she tried to get it in by the deadline, which she did. At no point did he thank her for doing his work.
I emailed my boss about all of this as I was at the end of my rope. He responded that he had already recently spoken to my coworker about issues and didn't want to pile on and make him feel bad. And that he wanted him to feel welcome because we didn't want him to quit. I was in the meeting where he claims he spoke with him and all he did was give him some tips for working with a difficult client and said multiple times how he wasn't trying to micromanage him. At no point did he bring up the serious concerns I and my other colleagues had or the serious breaches of protocol he had committed (not with me, which another attorney). I am simply stunned that me telling my boss about this resulted in him sending me an email that basically told me we needed to make sure we were being extra nice to him.
I feel I am being blatantly disrespected. A number of my other coworkers, including male coworkers, feel that he is a bit of a misogynist (which I have also picked up on) and that he doesn't respect me. Admittedly, he is non-responsive and not a team player with everyone to some extent, but it seems particularly bad with me and others have commented to that effect. He also acts like doing his job is doing me a favor and that it is my job to follow up with him to make sure he does his work and shows up to meetings he must attend. I've started essentially doing both of our jobs because he doesn't tell me what he is working on and doesn't feel the need to respond to my emails or show up to meetings.
Quitting my job isn't an option right now (but will be in 6-12 months and I will certainly be looking). What I really need is tools to try and make this situation work in the interim assuming my boss will do nothing to discipline him or support me (and I don't have the authority to do that myself). Are there any strategies I can employ to get him to keep me informed and reply to my emails? I basically need him to "own" and identify his responsibilities on projects without me having to dictate every small task that must be completed. I really should be "reviewing" his work, not supervising his work or micromanaging it, which at this point the only way anything gets done (as in I call him in the morning to make sure he's doing something and then follow up multiple times throughout the day to verify he's completed whatever he should be completing). He is a well paid professional who should be able to work independently and yet collaboratively. The ultimate issue is that he doesn't respect me and resents having his work reviewed (at his old job he did quasi similar work that was not subject to review) by someone with over a decade less experience than him that is the same age as his daughter, but there is nothing I can do about that. I'm really looking for "hacks" or strategies for dealing with someone like this.