A senior manager keeps tabs on everything and tattles on me
March 22, 2014 4:51 AM   Subscribe

How do I keep my job if a manager hates me?

I have been at this job as HR coordinator for almost 3 months and I really like it there. I work with senior management to recruit applicants to fill vacancies for their department. I like everyone but I've always had a feeling this one manager didn't like me. She never smiled at me or said hi, she would always make me feel like I can do nothing right, and she usually gives my tasks to my supervisor instead of to me so that someone else can talk to me.

Boy did yesterday confirm my suspicions. She apparently had been documenting everything that I've done that bothered her and gave it to my supervisor! Coincidentally this is a week before my 3 month probationary period. I was so shocked and surprised that she didn't even talk to me first but went to my supervisor and blabbed.
Apparently I'm a know-it-all, challenge authority, and check up on her. Here are some incidents.

1. An African guy was getting ready to be interviewed by me. My supervisor walks in and closes my door saying "Betty" (let's call the manager that hates me Betty) doesn't want to interview him if he has a heavy accent and difficult to understand. I thought "wow, is that even legal?" I interview the man and he was difficult to understand but fluent. I told him I would call him in a week to see if he would go on to the next step of interviewing with the manager.
I later told the manager that he was willing to work weekends 3rd shift which has been vacant for sooo long and hard to fill so maybe give him a chance.
She looked at me like I made a mistake and said "well if you felt that way why did you not let me interview him? I'm busy, it wastes time trying to schedule him another day for me" I'm thinking "Dang it!! She told me to not pass him to her if he's hard to understand! I did as she said."

2. When an applicant is ready I take their hours and hand the manager a schedule to get their shadowing and training ready. One time she said she would have it ready by a date before their first day. Well the first day of the new hire starts and 5 days later no schedule. I called her and tried to be as nice as possible without nagging if she has it ready. She told me she forgot.

Later my supervisor comes in and says "did you tell Betty's boss on her?" I'm confused and said no and I had no idea what she was talking about! My supervisor looked skeptical but took my word for it. Apparently stupid Betty thinks I told her boss she forgot to do a schedule...paranoid!!

3. So she forgets to do another new hire schedule. I thought she maybe forgot again so I asked her. And apparently this means checking up on her and questions her authority and my trust in her to get a job done!! All I said was "hi did you receive my request for his schedule? Please let me know, thank you!"

4. Anther incident, an error was made on a new hire's schedule. The time is completely wrong and contradicts itself. He was confused so I said I would ask Betty. Betty got smart with me and seemed annoyed I pointed out her mistake. But again I tried to do it in a nice way, example "Hi, Betty. John Doe had a question about his schedule, it says 12-9 here but then underneath it says 3-8. Which should I tell him is correct? Thank you."

5. We had an interview set up for this lady who was hired on. But Betty agreed to interview her for a different position of the company in her dept. apparently she had that filled and didn't want to interview her anymore. I had that awkwardness of telling the lady in person "sorry she won't meet with you." And apparently it was my fault.

6. She made another mistake on the schedule. It tells the new hire to meet with someone else for orientation and not MY name. I'm afraid to correct her now because I'm afraid she'll get mad.

So my boss hears my side of the story but it seems like it is no use and it's all my fault. She gave me advice to just trust Betty she'll get her job done and roll with it. I don't tell Betty's boss everything she is doing wrong!! I get along with other senior managers and they make mistakes all the time such as forgetting an interview or paperwork but do I tattle?!! No! I'm so worried I will lose my job because of her!!!! They said I'm doing great but my relationship is shaky with her.
What do I do if my bosses take her side??! They like me but seem to choose her over me. But now I'm terrified of losing my job and making this manager upset.

Honestly, I don't know if being a social worker that deals with mental people is stressful but since she is manager of that and has 4 people quit a month I wonder what's that say about her.
posted by Asian_Hunnie to Work & Money (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry you are going through this. I would let Betty deal with you through your supervisor if that is what she prefers, since it gives you another witness to her behaviour. Also, try to interact with her in writing whenever possible and copy your supervisor on anything you send to her. If you are accused of anything you did not do, especially if it is in writing, document your side of the story and send it to your supervisor.

Then, keep on doing a good job, and try to build/keep good relationships with the other managers. It sounds like Betty is in over her head and looking for someone else to blame. The people around you will catch on soon.
posted by rpfields at 5:04 AM on March 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Document everything and keep quiet about it unless you need it.
posted by empath at 5:05 AM on March 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: That's the advice I've been given. Thank you... To try to interact through email. I will try that from now on.... Some people told me to start looking for another job but I've only had 3 months of this as experience plus an internship on my resume. I feel like I won't be able to find another job easily...plus it looks bad quitting after a short time on my resume.

Oh gosh, I really hope I'm not let go. I'm expecting the worse but trying to do my best.
posted by Asian_Hunnie at 5:08 AM on March 22, 2014

Best answer: An additional approach to take -- the next time Betty screws up, is to play the role of the newbie who is still in training, and take it to your supervisor --

"Supervisor, Betty has failed to give me the schedule this week, and I'm not sure how to proceed without a schedule. If I remind her, she gets angry. How should I proceed without a schedule?"

Your supervisor will likely "back channel" it. That is, s/he will ask Betty for the schedule in a way that is quiet and doesn't expose Betty's incompetence.

When Betty said she didn't want to interview the African gentleman, she was likely saying " I don't hire foreigners. I'm a racist. But that's illegal, so I want you to interview him and turn him down for a job, because that makes my life and my racism easier." She thought she told you not to hire him and you hired him to spite her.

People like Betty are hard to fire. She probably has so much damaging institutional knowledge of wrong-doing that her salary is actually hush money. Incompetent people, when confronted with earnest, competent people (like you) feel like you are walking around with a megaphone broadcasting her incompetence: "Betty's a racist who doesn't do her job!!!" Because let's face it, when a competent person shows up, people do start making comparisons.
posted by vitabellosi at 5:47 AM on March 22, 2014 [47 favorites]

For future reference, once a manager's behavior becomes a pattern (ie, two times of forgetting to do something for a new hire), that's when you bring your supervisor in. This is because 1. your supervisor is more likely to be able to get results from someone like Betty and 2. it protects you in situations like this. Don't feel bad about it, that's what supervisors are meant to do. And actually, it can make your supervisor trust you more, which is always a good thing.

In this situation, I do think your supervisor has a point about trusting Betty to do her job. Not because she's trustworthy, but because there's only so much you can do. You can only do your job - you can't make other people do theirs. Knowing this is very important for surviving and not going crazy in the working world. But if there is a pattern of someone else not carrying their own weight, document the hell out of it, and make sure your boss knows.

It sounds like you work for some sort of agency, government or nonprofit? In that case, I personally think it's unlikely that you'll be fired over this, though of course it could happen. Also, I'm sure you're not the only person who's had problems like this with Betty.
posted by lunasol at 6:29 AM on March 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

I just want to add that you probably grew up with some notion that "if you work hard, you'll keep your job and be rewarded" and that is not true in almost any work setting.

Text books and HR theories are written as if that's true, but that's just the text. The SUBTEXT is important here, both in your actual job, and in your chosen career. Assholes are going to expect HR to abide by their UNSPOKEN racist hiring policies. Workers are well aware (especially low paid workers) that getting along means not so much "do your job well" but "abide by the SUBTEXT."

Skilled HR types are those who can recognize subtext and strategically employ the text of HR rules and regulations (and employment law) to either do good (for the most vulnerable workers) or do bad. You want to find a skilled mentor working for a good company -- or you'll drive yourself crazy.

Anyone walking into a new job should immediately start trying to understand the subtext and unspoken rules.
posted by vitabellosi at 6:39 AM on March 22, 2014 [18 favorites]

Well...it depends on whether or not Betty has the authority to fire you.

Like others have said, it's probably recognized and accepted that Betty kind of sucks at her job. But she's not going anywhere.

The concern is whether or not she can get rid of you.

If she can, well then...I'd wait to see what happens after the probation period. If you're not fired then, it's probably not going to happen.

If she can't, you want to accept that she's a pain in the ass, accept that this is what most work situations entail (there's a Betty-equivalent everywhere), minimize your contact with her and try to keep communication factual and via email only, and try to learn how to be an awesome employee as you appreciate everything Betty teaches you about who not to be at work.

Believe it or not, Betty is giving you valuable lessons.

Lastly, sure you can document away. I find it to be counterproductive. You're new; it's much more likely you'd be let go rather than Betty and ALL that energy you put into proving where you were awesome and she sucked...none of it will matter when you're looking for another job.

There are Bettys everywhere. Don't let them drain the life from you.
posted by kinetic at 6:53 AM on March 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Don't forget the follow-up email. If you do talk to Betty, send an email "Betty - thank you for talking with me about X, following your suggestion, I did A."

Be super polite and don't actually mention if she did anything that may be actionable, such as comment on someone's accent or religion.

Good luck. You sound like an excellent employee. I am sure the people who interview appreciate your professional attitude.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:31 AM on March 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

What vitabellosi said +1, but also:

Some situations are better to let play out on their own, but this is not one of them. This is a situation where you want to be the one steering the bus.

That's not to say get hostile with Betty. Don't do that. But you do need to be the one going to YOUR supervisor, with humility, saying "I don't understand why I can't seem to get along with Betty. I'm trying really hard, and what I'm doing seems to be working really well* with the other managers. Do you have any advice for me?" After that, before you have any interactions with Betty, run it by your manager first. "So, Betty owes me a new hire schedule, and I need to ask her about it. I intend to send her this email, what do you think?" You need to do this often, not just as a reaction to one of Betty's complaints.

*this slyly (or not) includes a positive factual thing about yourself every time you're talking about a negative thing (the Betty situation.) Lest anyone forget the important thing. It also highlights that somehow Betty is different than the other managers. This works.

It might also help to not ask Betty about things she owes you. See what your supervisor thinks of this idea: Send out a weekly impersonal mass email titled New Hire Process Status. List everything everyone gave you or needs to give you for the whole week, with a column for "received" or "not received." Give 'em some colors, managers love colors. Make overdue stuff red.

It will piss her off mightily, but there won't be a damn thing she can say about it because it's not singling her out. It's just the facts.
posted by ctmf at 7:33 AM on March 22, 2014 [13 favorites]

That is, show that you recognize and own the conflict, you want to and are actively trying to find a solution. The one who's playing defense is often seen as the person who "doesn't work well with others."
posted by ctmf at 7:42 AM on March 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I completely agree with the good advice is this thread regarding involving your own supervisor as a mediator and documenting things (without going over board with it). I just wanted to add that if you cannot avoid dealing with this person consistently in the future and the vitriol / incompetence continues, a good tactic would be to ask her what you can do to help? The next time she messes up a schedule, you phrase it in the form where blame is placed on no one, it's just a "thing" and furthermore, as you're new, if there is anything in company or departmental protocol that you're not doing to help her remember things or to correct scheduling conflicts to please let you know. This way, she still feels empowered and will let you know the best course of action, with the added benefit of anything you do to further anger her in this vein is more easily dismissed as it was her the came up with the guidelines.
posted by Debaser626 at 7:55 AM on March 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

She gave me advice to just trust Betty she'll get her job done and roll with it.
Like others have said, I would ask for more clarification from your supervisor. You can trust someone to do their job, but what if they don't do it? How do you deal with that? Everyone makes mistakes and being a good team player does not mean that you ignore the mistakes. It means you don't make a big deal out of them (unless they are a really big deal) and you help fix it if you can. Your supervisor has not given you any guidance on how to deal with other people's mistakes, especially when they affect a new hire.

You should look around to see what other jobs are out there. You won't know if you can find another job unless you try.
posted by soelo at 8:05 AM on March 22, 2014

build a record, protect the record, and the record wil protect you. document everything, particularly the things with potentially adverse legal implications like what happened with the african fellow. one well-crafted confirming email "betty, you have instructed me not to schedule any interviews for you with black people who have foreign accents, no matter how fluent in english they are; is this instruction still valid going forward?" would be like tying an albatross around her neck, and the next time she gets in your face after that "hey betty, has your name ever come up in an EEOC proceeding? guess what?"

it's a shame you have to learn how to play hardball on the job, and you have to position yourself to seriously damage/destroy your company, but it sounds like a bad company that deserves whatever happens to it.
posted by bruce at 8:41 AM on March 22, 2014

Holy shit!

While I admire the ruthless hardball nature of bruce's idea in a theoretical sort of way, that's something someone with 30 years' worth of credibility can get away with. And even then, only if you're DAMNED sure the fallout is going to come down on her side and not yours.

That's skipping a whole lot of steps in the escalation game and going unnecessarily nuclear right off the bat. That's extremely poor conflict resolution skills. If someone with only a few months and still on probation essentially threatened to burn my company to the ground over some minor interpersonal friction, they'd be out the door so fucking fast... (even if they did have a point in there somewhere.)

You probably want to stick with one of the lesser options.
posted by ctmf at 8:55 AM on March 22, 2014 [20 favorites]

The advice from ctmf is great.

The thing about being new is you don't know the history. Just for one example, Betty might've saved the company from bankruptcy by working 70 hour weeks for six months straight. She might be exhausted. And now you're in her face right away when the new hire paperwork is late, when the last person would just delay the new hire's arrival a bit so that Betty could continue valiantly saving everyone from bankruptcy.

I know, she supervises social workers, so this example isn't exactly right, but my point is that if you're the new arrival, you may not have all the context you need. Your supervisor could have the conversation with Betty that needs to happen, such as, "yeah, we're trying to speed up the hiring process now that we're not in a fiscal emergency, so if you could get us the paperwork as soon as possible that'd be great. And by the way, you should really take a vacation. You've worked so hard and seem exhausted!"

I would go to your supervisor for advice on how to handle Betty as much as you can.
posted by salvia at 9:23 AM on March 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just want to say there is very likely nothing you did to deserve this, and likewise no way you can get Betty to like you. You may remind her of someone she knew years ago and didn't like. She may resent your hair color. Sometimes people just decide they hate you, and in a work situation they can't walk away from you, which makes it worse. The advice here is good; I just wanted to add that you should try not to feel too much about this, because it may not have a rational cause.
posted by The otter lady at 9:32 AM on March 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you want to keep your job, and your situation is as precarious as you describe, you're going to have to swallow some of your pride and treat her like a friend/mentor who wants you to succeed instead of like an enemy.

When you see a person as an enemy, it bleeds over into your body language and probably your email language, whether you're aware of it or not. And if Betty is as paranoid as she sounds, she's probably really good at picking up on unspoken challenges.

So, ask for her help. If you're worried she can tank you, go to her and say your boss told you about her email, and you very much want to do better. Say it non-confrontationally. Say it like you believe that her concerns are at least partly valid, because it's possible that's even true. Nobody is perfect, and in her mind she may be using some actual newbie mis-steps as justifications for getting rid of you.

Say you're really concerned that you're not communicating well with her (emphasis on YOU not communicating well) and that you would love to sit down and talk to her about how you can work together better. Let her know you're eager to stay and learn the system. Say that since she's been there for such a long time, you know there's a lot she can teach you.

Basically, show her your belly. A person like Betty probably operates on a system of allies and enemies. Make it clear you want to be her ally, and she'll probably start liking you. Plus, it's really hard to dislike someone and help them at the same time, so by asking her for a favor, you may be able to switch yourself over in her head from challenger to collaborator.

It may be hard to swallow all this when you do it, but it will make dealing with her in the future much easier. You'll be able to influence her far more if she sees you as "on her side" than if she sees you as a rival. More flies with honey, etc. etc. etc.
posted by kythuen at 10:40 AM on March 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

You're new to the professional world. It's not her job to say hi to you. It's not her job to like you. Your job is to fill vacancies for her. Hiring includes telling candidates when the job is filled and an interview is no longer useful. Also, you are her HR person, your job is knowing the law around discrimination. If she is violating that you need to tell her and report it. Ensuring compliance with hiring laws is your profession.

You are a probationary employee and she's reporting performance defects to your manager. How is your manager supposed to train you without performance feedback?

She may well be difficult to work with but she's managed to make it to a senior manager role and you are a service provider to her. Treat her like your client.
posted by 26.2 at 11:18 AM on March 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've worked in HR for over a dozen years and have learned that there are some who don't like and/or respect HR. From what you've shared, you've personally done nothing to deserve this treatment.

The best advice I can give is a) keep your own records of your interactions with Betty in case you need them. Most likely you won't, but it'll be hard to remember every interaction as time goes on. b) keep your supervisor in the loop - it sounds like he/she isn't taking Betty's words as The Truth but you report to your supervisor, not to Betty. c) do *not* follow bruce's advice as you will not win nor will you ever have any credibility within the organization, as good as it may feel in the moment. Do your best to serve Betty like you do the others in senior management and treat her fairly but get your supervisor involved when needed.

If you'd like to chat more, feel free to PM me. Good luck!
posted by Twicketface at 12:02 PM on March 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Betty sounds like a miserable person and it isn't about you. She seems like the sort of person who just has to complain about things. I would definitely do everything over email so you can prove that you are just doing your job and being respectful. But I wouldn't be afraid to at least start looking for another job now. Dealing with Betty sounds exhausting. It might take a little while, but it would be good to get a sense of what sort of jobs are out there. You don't need to be super aggressive in looking, but spend a little time updating your resume and looking around.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:41 PM on March 22, 2014

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