I Don't Want to Jobshare With this Crazy Lady Anymore.
October 5, 2011 7:46 AM   Subscribe

Help. I'm in a job-share situation with a woman who is making everything very difficult and I think I want to quit. Shortest version possible: I got hired the second week of school as a middle school special education teacher in my #1 choice of district; I had been very excited about the possible opportunities here. However, I'm hired to share the job 50% of the time with someone who has been doing the job forever, and according to my coworkers, who does the job very badly. And she's making every day miserable for me and all I want to do is quit.

I don't want to get nitpicky, but everything I say to her is wrong. She made our schedules and decided what kids need to be covered when, so I'm following her schedule. Sometimes she has us scheduled in rooms where there are NO kids who need IEP support and there are 50something kids who need help elsewhere. She just kind of sucks.

Example...I'll say I worked with the 4 kids in English who needed help and her response will be, "4 kids? What room were you in? There are only 2 kids in there!! What's wrong with you?"

She does stuff like this to me at least 12 times daily. I've spoken briefly and kindly with her, like, "The schedule right here says 4 kids who need support," and she said, "I don't know what you're talking about," and walks away.

I talked to the assistant principal who said that job shares can be hard and that this woman is a notorious difficult person.

I don't want to work with a notorious difficult person; I want out.

What to do?
posted by kinetic to Work & Money (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you obligated to follow her schedule? I think you need to figure out how much of this "sharing" means you have agree with her about what to do. If you can just ignore what she says and wants, you're in a different situation than you would be if you have to come to consensus with her about scheduling.
posted by decathecting at 7:49 AM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's a lot more than scheduling. I have mentioned legal issues with IEPs, she says I'm wrong (I'm not); I've mentioned some kids struggle with XYZ, she says they don't and to ignore them; I've been told to administer standardized tests and in front of an entire class of students she told me that I administered the test wrong. I replied, "I was told to do...," her response was, "I was there and that's not what you were told." Except she wasn't there.

Other staff have approached me and said she's saying some really horrible things about me to just about everyone.
posted by kinetic at 7:57 AM on October 5, 2011

My 1st instince is to go to HR, my second instinct is to be just as difficult as she is back at her, and my 3rd is to leave the job and give a *detailed* resignation letter to all bosses and HR and anybody else up on the chain and the woman herself.

Every work place has this woman in it, so learning to deal with her will be good for you in the long run. Our 'that woman' is named Pat, and I do believe her main goal when she gets up in the moring is to spread misery. I've tried reminding myself that her day to day life is full of misery and she is lonley for a reason, but I'm pretty sure one day I am just going to SNAP.

I would like to note that a)your boss is a total pu$$y but also b)if she has not gotten fired for her behaviour than neither will you if you match it. Some people do not believe matching a difficult person tit-for-tat as it can bring you down as well. For me personally I accept the challange-I match her tone and expression word for word and treat her like she treats me. It infuriates her to no end so note wether you want to deal with the fal out or no. I'm ok with it, you might want to turn the other cheek
posted by Frosted Cactus at 8:00 AM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

A decent digital voice recorder costs about $70-$100 bucks, and most usually have 6-12 hours of space. Buy one. The next time you meet with her, put it on the table and put it on. Tell her you want to have a reference later to be sure you're following her instructions correctly. Document everything you can in writing. Then, when you have enough to escalate it, escalate it to the principal, and you'll be able to back up your accusations with evidence.

This path would cause trouble, doubtless. But it has a solid chance of leaving you where you want to be --- in you desired job with her gone. If that trouble's not worth it to you, then quit.
posted by Diablevert at 8:07 AM on October 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

Unless she's explicitly in a supervisory role over you, you're under no obligation to follow her schedule, take her instructions, or respect her judgements. Since she's known as a difficult person, that means that if you stop accepting her bullying and she appeals to the powers that be, you have the upper hand in any official dispute.

What you need to do is find superior instructions--written guidelines, work plans from the admin, etc.--and follow them scrupulously. Work directly with an assistant principal to establish those instructions and to create a record of being the reasonable one. If she gives you crap, throw up the wall of bureaucratic correctness at her.

You don't have to let her chase you out of your job. This is a fight worth winning, and you'll be stronger down the line for winning it. It's likely that she recognizes that her only option is to bully you into submission, that she'll lose an appeal to the admin, so she's putting all her effort into cowing you.
posted by fatbird at 8:09 AM on October 5, 2011 [27 favorites]

if she has not gotten fired for her behaviour than neither will you if you match it

This is not true in my experience, even in situations where "that person" was hated by everyone. Many times they are still allowed to work there for a reason, whether it be nepotism, political clout, or some kind of institutional complacency. I'd stick with talking to HR and keeping records of her refusals/absences/etc to bring to them and and administrator if necessary.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:09 AM on October 5, 2011

Also, keep a scrupulous work journal. If she says she was there, and you can point to a journal entry saying she wasn't, that's a trump card.
posted by fatbird at 8:10 AM on October 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

Schools are hard. Schools are not offices, or businesses. They're bureaucracies.

My first bit of advice is to stop talking about her with the rest of the staff, though I know, that's how you learn these things. But it can backfire on you, especially when you're new.

Sure, she's got seniority, but you're job-sharing -- you're not her supply or a support worker. You may need to arrange a special meeting, with her, and your principal, for clarification. Maybe you even need to have your union rep there.

But, the problems, as expressed, can't be about her, get it? You can't make it about her. That makes your principal look bad. Take the people out of the equation and make the problems less personal, unless you've got a clear case that warrants sending her to the Rubber Room. The schedules aren't working, so you all need to collaborate, with each person providing input, on better ones. You need to go over the IEPs to refresh everyone's knowledge of legal issues and to make sure you're solid in case parents should have questions.

Document, document, document. Everything is written down or followed up on by email; use attendance at every meeting and take minutes. Don't talk in passing - information gets lost.
posted by peagood at 8:12 AM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, mrsstraw is in special ed. There are teachers everyone agrees shouldn't be teaching, and, for whatever reason, no way to get rid of them.

As others here are saying, document everything.

On the legal issues with the IEPs: This is your strongest card. Escalate this up the ladder as far as you can, and take it to your union rep. If you're getting no support from administrators, the union is probably the best friend you've got in this matter, and if you have a lot of documentation, especially on legal issues, they'll be in the best position to be able to help you, and know how to approach the people in the administration who are most sympathetic.
posted by straw at 8:14 AM on October 5, 2011

She's a bully and is creating a hostile work environment where you can't do your job.

In addition to the last five suggestions above, when you meet with with the 4 kids in the English class, record the names of the students, the date & place you met them, and their issues in some kind of form.

Thirding the document everything recommendation.
posted by apartment dweller at 8:15 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

The assistant principal doesn't care because it isn't their problem and at the end of the day the job is getting it done. Make it the assistant principal's problem by scheduliing every meeting with the woman and the principal as an intermediatary, every day if necessary. Have a meeting with the two of them to discuss the schedule that you can see does not work. Run effective meetings by having a detailed agenda distributed ahead of time and take minutes. Follow each meeting with an email to both of them recapping the actions and responsibilities that were deceided on. To begin with this will take time away from your primary task, helping the children, but you are laying groundwork to help them more effectively in future.

Also clarify your role, does your job description state you report to her? If not, refuse to report to her or take directions from her. I worked in schools for years, they are a special kind of place...
posted by saucysault at 8:16 AM on October 5, 2011

Is there a Special Ed supervisor for the whole school district? There should be someone like that, or a bunch of them, at the very least one for each level if it's a large district. They know more about what you're supposed to be doing than the principal or the assistant principal. Don't complain about the evil woman, just ask them for clarification.
posted by mareli at 8:20 AM on October 5, 2011

Email is self documenting. Use it where possible and keep on trucking, worst case scenario: You stay and work with this lady until the situation resolves itself one way or the other, then you can say to yourself "This was the worst co-worker of my life, that part is done, it's all downhill from here".
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:22 AM on October 5, 2011

If this is an American public school, she likely has tenure and is virtually unfireable. If you've only been on the job a few weeks, you likely do not have tenure and can be fired pretty easily. I would therefore be wary of any solution in which you put all of your problems on school administrators who have the power to fire you, but not her. If getting the two of you to work together becomes hard for your assistant principal or other administrators, they'll want to fire one of you, and if only one of you can be fired, you'll be fired.

Honestly, I think you may need to start looking for a new job. This sounds impossible, and I think that if you try to do it long-term, you'll drive yourself nuts. For now, I'd just ignore her as much as possible. Don't argue with her, don't follow her schedule, do what you need to do to follow the law and take care of your students. But I think that if she has tenure, you need a new job.
posted by decathecting at 8:25 AM on October 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

This person is not your problem. This person's supervisor is your problem. More accurately, their unwillingness to reign in her crazy.

I guess I'm not sure what you're asking here. You say "I don't want to work with a notorious difficult person; I want out."

Do you want our permission to quit? Okay, permission granted. Quit. If you don't want to do this you don't have to - you're not an indentured servant, you're an employee.

Or is this something where you want us to provide emotional support for your diet? "I don't want to give up eating a slice of cake at every meal!" Well, tough. You want certain results you have to make certain compromises. We don't know what the repercussions will be for walking away from this job and only you can decide if this misery is worth the long-term goals you have.

If you want strategies, plenty of good stuff above. The recorder could be problematic. Assuming your profile location is still accurate then your state only just had an overly onerous wiretapping rule overturned at the appellate level. I wouldn't necessarily record anything with an expectation of being able to use it later, or at least not without a lot of secondary kerfuffle.

I'm a fan of document, document, document. You say she argues with printed schedules? Keep every single one. If she generates stuff, ask for and keep a copy. These incidents of crazy you mention? Start carrying a notepad and write down Every. Single. One.

Also keep some notes about who you're helping if you're not - this crap where she claims you worked with 2 kids not 4 sounds like she's trying to minimize your achievements. Whether that's because she's insecure or because she resents your half of this job and is trying to sabotage you, who knows? But you need to be an advocate for yourself and your career achievements even when you don't have a psycho undermining you.

I also think scheduling a meeting - or regular meetings - with your supervisor are a good idea. Personally my biggest problem would be with these public outbursts. That's not just treating you badly, that's disrupting these kids. I think -that- deserves a special-purpose meeting with your mutual supervisor.

Is there any sort of reporting in your job, some sort of internal or external metrics or documents? If not I think you should write something up for yourself if nothing else. Document this nonsense as well as your achievements and what you've done, both for your own professional development and for material if this becomes an issue with your employment.
posted by phearlez at 9:01 AM on October 5, 2011

There is a book I am reading right now inspired by my Ask a few days ago: Secrets to Winning at Office Politics: How to Achieve Your Goals and Increase Your Influence at Work.

She makes it pretty simple, everything that happens in the workplace is about leverage. You may be new, but because she has adversaries she's naturally handed you some allies. Find them and use them as best you can.

Since you're equals as far as position, even if not by experience or seniority, I would make sure to get that really clear and that (as gently as possible) any deference you might have to her is by choice. Before that though, I would think about having a talk with your boss/hr/powers-that-be about talking to her BEFORE you talk to her so they've been warned that she may backlash and be able to help you before going in to the fray. A group meeting may be useful, but it will put her on the defensive even more. Some people just don't handle change well, or she might feel like you're out to get her, or whatever, but she needs to be reassured/disarmed, or failing that, at least self contained enough so that she will stop damaging your work and your reputation.

AT ALL TIMES, MAKE IT ABOUT DOING WHAT IS BEST FOR THE JOB AND THE KIDS without being a martyr and cutting off your own arm. Do your best to focus on collaborating with her, since that's what you are supposed to be doing. Its not personal even if it feels that way. She would do this to anyone who was there with her.

It will be hard, but if you're able to help EVERYONE fix this mess, imagine how many points that is going to earn you.

PS - Watch your mindset. You've already been stretched pretty far it sounds like, but the last thing you want is to feel like she's your enemy and that you're totally powerless because then you're going to act that way and you'll be toast. Grab the book and read it ASAP.
posted by troubadour at 9:11 AM on October 5, 2011

I worked with a person like this, until a few months ago when all the karma she accrued finally burst forth and she was fired (waaaaay after when she should have been).

I went through the phases - being miserable, being snipy, standing up to her as best I could. The thing that worked in the end, until she went? The "kill with kindness" approach.

I mean, I smothered her with kindness. Almost comically over the top sometimes. I was as nice, and accommodating, and patient as I could be 90% of the time. Then, the 10% that there was absolutely no way round it, I could go to my superiors and with a straight face say "There is a serious problem here. You've seen me try to get round it, something needs to be done".

Why not give it a go. Like everyone said, look for a job in the meantime. But people like this are either downright mean, in which case over-kindness will disorientate them, or they're bitter and lonely, in which case it will diffuse them. Good luck, and don't let it grind you donw.
posted by greenish at 9:37 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Job share means that if your part of the job is gone there will be more job for her (and more money) . This old lady is screwing you over. Screw her over worse - and be quicker than her about it. I've worked with people like that. I've been fired because of people like that and admittedly I have a huge chip on my shoulder now when it comes to people like that. Your best defense is a good offense so start offending in every legal and legitimate way that you can.

Document everything. Do the tape recorder thing as Diablevert suggested. Talk behind her back. Demean her authority with the students when she is not around. Be a far bigger asshole than she is. None of that stuff is nice. None of it will make you a nice person or a better person but it will allow you to keep your job, your apartment and your life because you better believe that the old fart is doing those things to you.

Don't leave your job. Push back. Push back intelligently and harder than she can. Make allies amongst the staff. Bring doughnuts and coffee in the morning. Use your allies support to screw her over. All this stuff is a huge amount of assholery and your are getting this advice from someone with the big chip on their shoulder from dealing with such people. Being nice with such people has never worked for me at all. Ever. Take all that for what it's worth to you.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:27 AM on October 5, 2011

Talk to your union rep.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:28 AM on October 5, 2011

Is she your superior? If not, why are you allowing yourself to be ordered around reporting in to her? If she creates a schedule that has you "working" in rooms where there are no kids that need help and she refuses to accept the problem either take the schedule to the principle/assistant principle and explain the issue or just reschedule yourself to be somewhere you're needed. If she can walk away during 'meetings' so can you - she starts being crazy, berating you when you didn't do anything wrong, telling you to ignore kids who need help etc just walk away.

1. Document Everything (with a tape recorder if necessary)
2. Do the job to the best of your ability
3. Avoid her to the best of your ability
4. Look for a new job
posted by missmagenta at 11:04 AM on October 5, 2011

There's an element that she's supposed to be showing me the ropes of how this particular district operates, but when I was hired it was clear that they very much desired my expertise. In other words, she can explain that we pull kids from Social Studies but not Science (which I think is ridiculous), but she's not my boss.

I can manage her doing things stupidly; I'm having a harder time with her overt eye rolling and tsking type behaviors.
posted by kinetic at 1:03 PM on October 5, 2011

Is there any way to split the caseload between the two of you so that you are handling your own group of kids? In my district we have a lead speech pathologist (I am an SLP) who is available to help manage schools that need to be split between two people so that the split is equitable. Even if you can't split the caseload, keep your work as far away from her as possible, try to find another room for pulling kids out or simply give her only the bare details necessary about kids you share.

The women sounds awful but if this district is your dream district as you say it may be worth it to stick it out for the year unless you know for sure that you are going to be job-sharing with her for years to come. As I think you already stated, other people in the school know she is awful so it may possible for you to gain lots of allies just by doing a good job and being friendly and then the wicked witch will be on the defensive big time.
posted by scrubbles at 1:22 PM on October 5, 2011

I can manage her doing things stupidly; I'm having a harder time with her overt eye rolling and tsking type behaviors.

This person is, by your every description, a combination of incompetent, malicious, lazy, and rude. She exhibits signs of behaving in a jealous and insecure manner. She is a lying gossip and widely disliked.

Why, exactly, are you assigning any value to her opinion?

Seriously, this should rank for you no more significantly than the ravings of the stoned gutterpunks in Harvard Square. If anything, having the disdain of someone like this is a badge of honor.

Act to protect your career and sanity, but every time you are tempted to be upset by her shitty behavior just remind yourself exactly what her opinion is worth: nothing.
posted by phearlez at 2:03 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

However, I'm hired to share the job 50% of the time with someone who has been doing the job forever, and according to my coworkers, who does the job very badly.

Before you think of quitting, I would think of the kids at the school, who clearly need someone with your expertise and caring. The kids don't have a choice in who is providing this service for them, and you helping to make this co-worker accountable (or at least getting her out of your way so you can do a good job) will probably improve things for them.

To me, personally, this would be motivation to stick it out. It's tough work to Make Things Right but it's satisfying when you do.
posted by flex at 4:17 PM on October 5, 2011

I'll stay for the kids. Thanks.
posted by kinetic at 2:45 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

for the eye-rolling and tsking, ding training
posted by at at 7:06 AM on October 6, 2011

Example...I'll say I worked with the 4 kids in English who needed help and her response will be, "4 kids? What room were you in? There are only 2 kids in there!! What's wrong with you?"

She does stuff like this to me at least 12 times daily. I've spoken briefly and kindly with her, like, "The schedule right here says 4 kids who need support," and she said, "I don't know what you're talking about," and walks away.

I was thinking about this, and you could you know, gaslight her a bit, if you're feeling brave. Using advice I gave previously for a meddling co-worker, you maybe could try expressing surprise and concern when she gets things wrong - treat her like an addled old auntie - but in a way that's never condescending, but over-the-top in reassuring her you've got it covered, and then you shoo her off (as nicely as possible). I mean, there is a slight chance she really is losing her faculties (snerk - school humour!) - in which case, being on top of things and being bright, cheery and reassuring is a really good thing, right?

"4 kids? What room were you in? There are only 2 kids in there!! What's wrong with you?"

"Oh, Erma- tut tut - of course I was in the right room with four kids, I have it here on the schedule and I've got everything noted - I don't know how you're so mistaken, but don't be concerned, it's fine. See you later!"
posted by peagood at 7:57 AM on October 6, 2011

I always like to know updates, so I thought I'd pass along...I was let go. Told it wasn't working out.

First I was shocked, but then...what a sigh of relief.
posted by kinetic at 1:18 PM on October 24, 2011

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