How do I work with someone that has no desire to work with me?
August 28, 2008 11:24 AM   Subscribe

My coworker doubts my abilities, hates my work, and tells everyone. Some advice, please on how to cope.

The office I work for has several divisions. I used to work on one team, but due to financial problems, the company went through major cutbacks, and I’m also now doing the work of my counter-part on another team after she was let go.
One of the heads on the team i was added to doesn’t like me. I’m not sure what or why - but my thought is that she was rather attached to the person i replaced. So now, everything I do is criticized by her. I can handle that. And I also know that I'm doing a very good job here because I've been told by many of my other coworkers. I'm really trying my best to please her and make the situation work, but she's dead-set against me. She's not my boss or manager, but I do have to take direction from her. What bothers me is that she talks to everyone else about how much she doubts my abilities, and that I "just don't get it like so&so did." She's said some pretty terrible things about my work, even to people who don't work in the office, but I have professional contact with. I think this is highly unprofessional of her, and although I'm confident & more mature than this, I still feel as if I need to be defensive prove my abilities constantly. There's no "HR" in this company. What advice do all of you wonderful mefites have?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Obviously, if this is getting back to you, people are talking to you about it. I think, first and foremost, the important thing is to ask the people that are telling you what they're hearing whether they have any problems with your work.

If she's talking out of school about the quality of your work, and nobody else has any problems with the quality of your work, this seems like it might be a self-regulating problem with time and (a lot of) patience. In the end, it's only her status that she'll erode by badmouthing somebody that nobody else has issues with, especially if she's doing it behind your back.
posted by Shepherd at 11:36 AM on August 28, 2008

People like this need to be ignored, not argued with. You can't reason with them. It's likely that she feels threatened by you or just has a chip on her shoulder about something. You're right that her behavior is unprofessional, but other people probably see it as well. Since she's not your boss, you don't have to defend yourself to her. Since your other co-workers recognize the quality of your work, you don't need to change anything on that front either. Be cheerful and professional with her, just let her criticism slide off your back, and keep doing what you're doing. I would also say that, in companies that go through major cutbacks, usually the bitchy unprofessional people are the first against the wall when the revolution comes. Maybe she'll be second.
posted by autojack at 11:37 AM on August 28, 2008

Is she undermining you with people outside the company? I'd be concerned with that.

At the very least I hope you are documenting, documenting, documenting.
posted by konolia at 11:39 AM on August 28, 2008

Have you considered taking her to lunch and just having a chat with her? Try and bring her onto your side by asking her directly how you can work better together - ask her for her input. I know I would find it personally galling to "make nice" with someone who's been talking crap about me, but I would do it, since it's really the only way to attempt to mitigate the situation. There's a saying "keep your friends close, and your enemies closer" (I'm sure this is a paraphrase) but it's absolutely true - get close to this person, and she will have less opportunity to tear you down.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:39 AM on August 28, 2008

first, i think you need to take this woman aside and ask her what her problem is with *specific thing you've done that she's had a problem with*. get her to say something concrete like you don't meet deadlines on time or your proofreading is sloppy (not saying that it is). most likely, she won't be able to. ask her to be very specific so if there truly is an issue, you'll know it.

what it probably boils down to is that you replaced her friend and that you have big shoes to fill in that department. you will never be as awesome as that friend was.

even if you do suck, she shouldn't be telling that to your clients or outside contacts. that makes her, you, and the company look bad. so, even though you don't have an HR department, who would you go to if you found someone stealing from the company or if you got sexually harassed? go to that person if the woman doesn't stop degrading you.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:48 AM on August 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Some people don't realize how negative they are. If none of the nice ways suggested above work, I suggest keeping a chart of some kind. Every time she disparages your work, make a check mark. Something kind of like the gold star chart in grade school. Then, when the moment is right, confront her with it. "Here are all the times in the last week where you talked shit. Back it up, or shut up." Or something to that effect.
posted by maxpower at 12:26 PM on August 28, 2008

She's being highly unprofessional and this needs to be brought to the attention of her supervisor. Bad mouthing your work to outside persons (particularly within your professional sphere) not only affects your reputation, it affects the reputation of the company and management needs to be notified.
Just because your company doesn't have an HR department, doesn't mean you need to put up with unacceptable working conditions. If she has a problem with your work she should talk to your boss about it - and only your boss (IMO, if she is not your boss/supervisor then its not her place to assess your work or confront you about it unless asked to by management).
posted by missmagenta at 12:39 PM on August 28, 2008

If you can, look for other work. I spent a long time at a job working with someone for whom I could pretty much do nothing right. It was unbearably stressful, and despite the negativity, she still had a position of respect and wasn't going anywhere. I left and found an environment that was much more creatively supportive; every so often I think back on those times and I feel so much lighter of spirit now.

In the meantime, it might help to talk to your boss about it during whatever regular feedback session you have. He/she might be able to give you that extra perspective or advice that could make the difference.
posted by epersonae at 12:55 PM on August 28, 2008

What autojack said. Just ignore her.
posted by xammerboy at 1:21 PM on August 28, 2008

"Jane, could I have a few minutes to talk about our working relationship? Thanks.

"I've heard from several people that you have been making critical comments about my work. It's not important specifically who told me this; what's important is that I've heard this from four different people, including two who don't even work in the office.

"This is a matter of very serious concern to me. I feel that this kind of negative talk makes it really hard for me to succeed at my work.

"Jane, I'd like to be able to have a better working relationship with you. If you're having a problem with my work, I'd like you to discuss it with me, instead of saying negative things about me to other people.

"Are you willing to do that? Great.

"I'd like to ask you to share with me any concerns you may have about my work. I won't interrupt you, and when you're done, I'll reflect what you said so we can both tell if I'm hearing you clearly. OK?

[she talks, you listen as carefully and dispassionately as possible, taking deep cleansing breaths and praying for the strength not to brain her with a stapler]

"OK Jane, here's what I heard as your main issues with my work: [recap issues as neutrally as possible]"

At this point you have several choices. If you're feeling clear, you can respond to each of those issues in turn, talking about how yes, those are things you're working on, or no, you've never gotten that feedback before, and here are examples of the opposite.

Or, especially if you're feeling emotional, you might say "I'd like some time to think about what you've said before I respond. Could we meet again at this time tomorrow?" If she's really dumped on you, ask for your boss to be present at this next conversation.

posted by ottereroticist at 1:23 PM on August 28, 2008 [4 favorites]

Ottereroticist gives a great summery of how to present yourself. I would have teh boss at the intitial meeting though. this way you change the format of the meeting. By having the boss there (inform the boss of what you are attempting) you gurrentee yourself a "mostly" neutral conversation that wont allow for her to just start to beat on you emotionaly because she will have to maintain a proffessional demeaner.
posted by elationfoundation at 1:58 PM on August 28, 2008

i wouldn't take it to the bosses. as i said in a thread a few questions up, if you bring it up to them first it looks petty and juvenile. nothing makes a job worse than reducing it to jr high levels and then inviting your bosses to watch it.

make nice, try to get her on your side, and if that doesn't work be specific and firm with her like others have suggested.
posted by nadawi at 2:02 PM on August 28, 2008

Ask for examples of this purported better work, and ask for specific areas where she feels you are falling short. If you are, you can improve. If she's being ridiculous, this exercise should make that pretty clear.
posted by gjc at 6:07 PM on August 28, 2008

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