You're Not The Boss Of Me
December 11, 2014 10:21 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to deal with a bossy coworker who isn't, welp, the boss of me?

I am one of three employees with identical job descriptions in my department at work. Think of us as a steno-pool esque set of interchangeable cogs, if that helps. I'm the most senior person in this position, and in fact it's probably germane to the question that this job is quite a step down for me. Next is Anna, who is around my age and experience level, and third is Craig.

Craig is fresh out of college and this is his first real job in our field. He's good at what he does, for someone who has only been in this environment for six months or so, and he learns quickly. He's obviously an intelligent person and a natural leader. From his manner it's clear that he's used to rising to the top of the heap and assuming a leadership role by default.

This skillset would be invaluable if our little pool of workers were composed entirely of fresh-out-of-school types. However, it really chafes me. Because Anna and I know what we're doing, and we* don't need a 22 year old to swoop in and take it upon himself to run the place. And the more time goes by, the more Craig tries to assume a dominant position above us.

Example: Craig and I are at our desks, hard at work on different tasks. Our boss comes over and tells Craig to hold off on the task he's working on, because something more important has come up. In front of him, Craig turns and delegates this task to me. Despite the fact that I'm busy with my own work, and despite the fact that he was just told that task was no longer a priority.

Several times recently Craig has delegated** work to me that wasn't his responsibility to dole out, taken it upon himself to check up on my work, or stepped into the project I was working on to give me unsolicited advice.

This drives me out of my mind batshit insane, probably out of proportion to his behavior. And I'm willing to guess that the reason it bothers me so much is that I don't need some college kid stepping in and telling me how to do a job I owned at when he was in high school. It doesn't help that he's the stereotypical upper middle class white guy in a very male-dominated field, where boys' club dynamics often shut women and people of color out of promotions. I have a very real (but probably not realistic) fear that Craig will be promoted above me.

What are some ways I can separate out my irrational frustration and paranoia about Craig's behavior from the reality that he probably has no idea what he's doing is unprofessional? What's the best way of dealing with this stuff when it happens? How can I keep my head down and do the work without worrying about this guy who seems to be trying to make himself the de facto boss among equals?

*I use the third person plural here because I consider Anna in about the same boat as myself in terms of skill set, however I'm not sure she has a problem with Craig's behavior.

**This gets a little complicated, because we all often ask each other for a hand, or pass high-priority tasks off to each other as needed. But Craig's way of doing this always comes off as imperious to me, and not in the vein of "could you do me a favor and...?"
posted by Sara C. to Work & Money (63 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
So when he tells you what to do, do you follow his directions? If so, stop. I would also talk to your supervisor.
posted by LarryC at 10:23 PM on December 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


I don't think your fears are at all irrational or paranoid. He is trying to make himself the boss and it probably will work. I would probably try to out-alpha him and get that promotion for myself and/or get a promotion by looking for another job (easier said than done I really know but I'm just saying.)
posted by bleep at 10:29 PM on December 11, 2014 [15 favorites]


Response by poster: I do not follow his advice, but it can be hard to avoid doing the tasks he delegates to me because they are generally tasks that need doing eventually.

I'm pretty sure that passive aggressively making a point not to do any work he insinuates himself into is a path to me looking bad, not him.

I am reluctant to complain to our boss about this for a variety of reasons, not least of which is not wanting to look like a poor team player. I'm also a little worried that this is all in my head.
posted by Sara C. at 10:31 PM on December 11, 2014


What he's doing actually isn't unprofessional at all. He's doing exactly what ambitious people are told to do in order to move up in the professional world. This has nothing to do with his age, experience, or gender. As a woman fresh out of college, I did the same things surrounding my far-more-experienced colleagues, and you know what? It worked. My career moved forward to where I wanted it to be.

So I guess the question is, why aren't you doing these same things?
-option 1: you don't want to advance. Which is FINE! But that means you really shouldn't be upset if he wants to advance and is doing the things that it takes to do so. You guys aren't competing if this is the case.
-option 2: you do want to advance but you feel unfamiliar with his approach to advancement. This means you should really be doing the same thing, but you're just not comfortable with it. Get comfortable with it! Try it out!
-option 3: you are offended because you just think this isn't the way the world of professional advancement is supposed to work, and assume people should be promoted when they have "put in their time." Sorry, sucks but this is not true. The reason that women and POC are often shut out of careers is because they fall into this trap. We think that things should be "fair" and promotions doled out in terms of man hours spent doing work, but that's just not the case. You need to toot your own horn, loud and proud, to get anywhere.
posted by joan_holloway at 10:33 PM on December 11, 2014 [19 favorites]


Response by poster: I don't imperiously order my peers around at work because it's rude, and because they don't deserve it. We all know what we're doing. In fact, I've gone above and beyond in not being over-critical of Craig when he makes mistakes, because I'm not his boss, and if our supervisors want to correct him, there are plenty of avenues for them to do so.

Making myself look slightly better by undermining my coworkers isn't my style at all, and in my experience it's not necessary to behave this way in order to get ahead. I'm not even sure that this stuff is working for him, or that it's not undermining his standing with the people he's trying to impress.

Above all, though, Craig isn't actually better than me or Anna at this job. He's just really into throwing other people under the bus.

My goal here is definitely to rise above and let his antics roll off my back, not to engage in petty competition with a child.

Last response, I promise!
posted by Sara C. at 10:41 PM on December 11, 2014 [13 favorites]


Best answer: [Gently but firmly] "Craig, I can't help you with X right now. I have to complete Y."

To put an end to this shit you have to not play along with it. Easier said than done, especially if your supervisors reward alpha-posturing. Be genial, be unruffled, be direct, do your thing and don't let him get away with pretending to be Your Unofficial Supervisor.

Cultivate your relationship with your actual supervisors, maintain good communication with them, know what they expect of you and meet those expectations, and hope they're savvy enough to see Craig as the grasper he's acting like.

At the very least, don't stress yourself out playing his game.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:52 PM on December 11, 2014 [13 favorites]


Best answer: My understanding of throwing other people under the bus would be something like telling your supervisors about mistakes you've made unnecessarily, just to get you in trouble. It doesn't sound like he's doing anything on that level - which would be the 'actual malicious intent level'. I mean, don't get me wrong, he sounds obnoxious, but he also sounds like he might think that what he's doing is totally normal and standard work practice and have no idea that it's bothering you or why it would be bothering you.

What I would do is that next time he came to offer unsolicited advice or 'checked in on you', I'd say something relatively casual and a little sarcastic about how kind it was for him to worry about you, but assure him that you're fine and that if you needed help, you would ask, but after all, you've been doing this job for X years so you're pretty comfortable with it by now. If he didn't get the clue after that, the next time I'd straight up tell him (but without anger or meanness, just very straightforwardly) "Listen, Craig, when you come to offer advice on my work without being asked, or 'check in on my work' it makes me feel irritated, and it comes off as condescending. I'd really appreciate it if you stopped doing that." At that point, if he continues doing it, he's truly an ass and you should just ignore him and avoid him to the greatest extent possible.

I think that part of the issue here might be the 'this job is a big step down for me' part. You're already feeling undervalued, so his behavior sounds like it might be bringing out frustration or insecurity that are amplifying your feelings. Finding some other way to vent your frustrations on this might be more helpful than worrying about dealing with Craig… like… looking for another job you're not overqualified for in your spare time?
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:19 PM on December 11, 2014 [20 favorites]


So I recently started a new job, where I had gotten the strong impression in the interview that though there were people doing similar work already to what I was going to do, the natural order of things would be for me to take the lead on the team sooner or later (an impression which nobody else turns out to have, heh.) Anyway, could something like this have happened here? Could Craig have (for instance) said something like "ultimately I want to lead a team" and the interviewer said something ambiguous like "that could happen here" and now he thinks that he needs to work towards that goal?

Anyway, I do think you need to meet with your manager, not to complain about Craig, but to clarify. "Bob, ever since you hired Craig I've noticed that he seems to be under the impression that I report to him. For instance, he randomly delegated the low priority TPS reports to me from his own assignment list; and yesterday he asked me for a status report on my work. Before I sit down with him one on one to explain that this is not how things work around here, I wanted to ask you directly: did you hire him with the intention of promoting him over me?" Hopefully you'll get a straight answer, and once you have it you can decide how to proceed.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:30 PM on December 11, 2014 [15 favorites]


Best answer: I'm most curious about the instance where Craig delegated to you in front of your mutual supervisor. You didn't say what your supervisor's reaction was to that. If your supervisor rolled with it, then joan_holloway is pretty on the spot. (FWIW, that's the work environment I'm in, where the person who rises to the top of the heap and leads their peers is the person who gets promoted. Seniority, age, and experience means nothing, especially not in the face of execution and results.) If your boss shut Craig down, then prize bull octorok is spot on.

From the overall tone of your question, my feeling is that your supervisor, either directly or indirectly, supported Craig delegating to you. If that's true, then, yes, Craig is gunning for a promotion, and he's probably going to get it. He's proactively assuming a leadership role, while you self-describe as an over-qualified office cog who wants to keep their head down and just work. While you view age as the deciding factor in the acceptability of Craig's behavior (you pretty much said his leadership abilities would be invaluable if he wasn't way younger and less experienced than you), I doubt your supervisor or your supervisor's supervisor view his age the same way. While you contend his behavior isn't professional, I'll contend that there is a difference between being professional and being political (e.g., phrasing the delegation as a favor instead of a demand). Additionally, you said that Craig is only six months into his role, yet you want to keep your head down, do your work, and operate as equals. I don't understand. He's brand new. You're the most senior person on the team. To echo joan_holloway, did you assume leadership over the new, young, inexperienced guy when he started? To me, the dynamic of you being senior and "over" Craig should have been automatic. It seems like either that never happened, or, at some point, you lost that dynamic.

I don't mean to sound harsh. I just faced a very similar circumstance at my job, where I realized that keeping my head down and doing my own thing was not what my superiors are looking for. They're looking for the people who take initiative, set the tone, build culture, and ensure processes are being carried out properly, especially among equals and peers. I also have a brand new guy on my team who landed on his feet sprinting, and you bet that I'm being very strategic and political about how I continue to outshine him and help lead him. If I didn't want promoted, I wouldn't care to do that. It sucks, but there it is.
posted by coast99 at 11:31 PM on December 11, 2014 [36 favorites]


Response by poster: Clarification: under no circumstances could Craig be under the correct assumption that Anna and I report to him. Also, while Anna and I are more senior in terms of experience and level of responsibility, he simply does not report to us.
posted by Sara C. at 11:41 PM on December 11, 2014


Nobody is saying that or implying that he's above you now. People are thinking that perhaps he got the impression during the interview or something that it was a possibility in the future and he's working to make it happen.
posted by bleep at 11:50 PM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Best answer: I think I'd possibly either
--take him aside at coffee and ask him kindly not to act around an equal-tasks environment like it was ok to assign other people stuff or check on their work (obviously he's good, but socially inexperienced, so if you want him to learn, kindly is key).
or
--if this happened at a bad moment, I'd blow up right in his face and say it much more directly, right then, "look I don't need someone from the same floor give me assignments. My desk is full. Why don't you go look at yours." (but that's maybe not diplomatic...)

In any case, I don't think you gain anything by not telling him its not okay how he acts.
posted by Namlit at 11:56 PM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Best answer: I've dealt with this a lot. Some people respect the social contract that being part of a team means being equals and not "cross-bossing" co-workers, and some people don't. The problem is, especially when the actual boss isn't on top of things, it becomes a "Lord of the Flies" situation where the person willing to be the rudest becomes the effective boss of their co-workers.

There are two things you can do:

1) Confront him. It will be awkward and uncomfortable, but it needs to be. That is the only way people like this change their behavior. I've labored under the fantasy that if I just grit my teeth long enough and maybe drop some hints, a person like this will just magically change on their own. They never ever will.

2) Tell on him. I have zero qualms about going to the boss in this situation with my "concerns." It lets Boss know that I respect the chain of command and am doing him a favor by giving him the chance to deal with what is his responsibility before it blows up into a big fight. As long as you phrase it as a "concern about how things are working" and not a personal feud, this should work fine.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:03 AM on December 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


Oh btw this is not what a "natural leader" is. People *want* to follow a leader. He sounds like a natural schemer and shitheel.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:09 AM on December 12, 2014 [23 favorites]


Best answer: He may not be above you yet. But the person you do report to sat there, watched him delegate to you, and said nary a word. Realistically, the skills it takes to be good at rank & file jobs are different than managing people, and is thusly not a given that the most skilled, most senior person should be next in line to manage their coworkers. The name for that concept is the "Peter Principle."

The way I see it, you have three options:

1. Start questioning why he delegates work to you; you're all working tasks A, B, and C, and when given interrupt priority task D, he assumes his task C was clearly more important than your task B. Push back on that assumption, and decline the delegation.
2. Start figuring out why you fear less senior people getting promoted faster than you. If you have a positive strong relationship with this person, them being promoted a few times would be beneficial to your own career trajectory.
3. Start actually trying to get promoted yourself. If you don't like the system, this would be a good way to nudge it in the right direction. Just recall that you likely need to develop and practice different skills than "stenography."

I think #3 is your best bet. Don't start with delegation. Your best bet is to ask your supervisor for specific delegations. Think running meetings, budgeting, and project planning. I don't have a clear picture of your specific environment, but they're all important skills to build, and tasks your supervisor probably does.
posted by pwnguin at 12:38 AM on December 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


Joanholloway is right. He is likely to get promoted. He is showing leadership potential. Your responses, I'm sorry to say, sound defensive and like you don't think the world should work this way. But it does.

You need to:
- Resist his attempts to define your job. Don't fight him openly, just passively resist.
- Come up with creative ways to shine to your bosses. (Let's reconfigure the TPS system to be more efficient! I'll lead the effort!)
- Be better than he is and point it out whenever possible
- Accept that this is part of the system and learn to excel in it instead of fighting it.

His behavior is NOT unprofessional at all. He is going to win if you do not fight.
posted by 3491again at 12:51 AM on December 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


Best answer: Can you act as though he is not delegating but asking for help? So with the situation when he tried to give you work in front of your supervisor, say something like "Oh Chris, I have plenty of my own work at the minute, but if you make a start on it I can give you some help when you get stuck. I know it sounds daunting, but we can all help you do it right!" Basically make his delegation look like weakness in front of the supervisor.

When he comes and checks in, can you say "Oh my projects going fine, would you like me to explain how I approached it? Then when you are in the same situation you'll know what to do".

I would guess he will not like this one bit, and will stop coming to you.
posted by tinkletown at 1:13 AM on December 12, 2014 [87 favorites]


Our boss comes over and tells Craig to hold off on the task he's working on, because something more important has come up. In front of him, Craig turns and delegates this task to me.

I hope I'd have said something like, "Oh, I'll be done with task X later this afternoon, but if we talk more then, I may be able to help." Also, in my own head, I'd try to reframe this as a general set of work behaviors to improve rather than a specific strategy for dealing with this guy. Like, ideally, you might try looking at all your peer interruptions as requests for near-future appointments unless you're certain they're more urgent than your current task, and you should definitely be clear that ownership rests with the requestor until then. When you're good and ready to help, you interrupt them for more details (because they need you and requested it), and then you do your best.

Um, I guess I really don't know if doing that makes a person annoying or not, but it's something I do often, and it's been working for me for a long time.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 1:26 AM on December 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


Best answer: Confronting him will lead to some kind of reaction - my guess it will be something like "you're paranoid/weird/crazy", and he'll have ammo to use later (even if that's just subtle things like little putdowns or concern trolling). I don't think you should tell on him, either, it could make you look bitter and weak (you, someone with experience, need a 3rd party to mediate, when "he's just a kid") - he'll come out looking even more ambitious and leaderly. And, I think your boss probably doesn't much care who does what, he won't want to get involved and will subconsciously punish you for making him do that. I think you do just have to be better and brighter than this bright young thing, and, not make it look like you're actively competing.

100% passive resistance and turning it around, as tinkletown described. I think for this to be effective, though, you're going to have to do some work to turn your mindset around, and to quiet your aggravated responses, because it sounds like he's on your last nerve. (FWIW, I'd be seething. In fact, I did seethe when something similar happened to me in the past.)

Try to relax, and aim to project focus and positivity - don't let him see you sweat (try not to sweat - use Jedi-level mantras if you have to). Support the work that needs to be done, but develop a clear view of what you want to get out of this job (grounded in your sense of what will impress your boss).

(And, I'm sorry this is happening to you. It really sucks to have to get involved in these kinds of shenanigans.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:53 AM on December 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Best answer: This would drive me nuts. It *has* driven me nuts.

One thing that worked for me was to be totally flat in my response -- nothing but bewilderment and bafflement that he'd be doing what he's doing. If anything there is a TINGE of "don't worry little Craig, you'll figure it out soon enough!" but it should be barely detectable.

So in your example, Craig might say, "Hey Sara, the boss says I should work on X now, can you take over ABC for me?" Your response shouldn't be "ARGH! Whatever, fine, I'll do it." and it shouldn't be "Oh sure, let me drop everything for your highness, my overlord." Silently stewing and outright hostility won't get you anywhere.

Your response should be as though he just said something really inappropriate but that you're letting it go. "Wow, that's so weird that you think you should delegate to me! You know we have a shared list of tasks. Put that back on the list with the notes from the conversation, and we can address it as a team later." Or something like "You're doing that thing where you think you should delegate when you don't know how to handle something. We all know that if something isn't the priority, it goes on the "on hold" list. Put it there and move on!" The key is to do this with an utterly NEUTRAL and blank face. No drama, no tension, no shaming. Just fact.
posted by barnone at 2:05 AM on December 12, 2014 [17 favorites]


Best answer: '... this job is quite a step down for me.'


You've stated here that you are a bit underemployed. The economy is getting better; I'd focus your energy on getting another job which is more in line with your skillset. Management isn't making the situation better here. As the most senior person, you've shown enough loyalty and you're probably a little bit overqualified.


I concur though with the young man being a bit of a dick, but life's too short to get too upset about that. He might get better with time and even be a good contact in the future. So it might be worth cultivating him a bit, but to me it sounds like your best interests are served by finding a better job.


It's unfortunate that so many workplaces prioritise the person acting the most boss-like over the one doing the work, but it is what it is. It's also counterproductive if the good worker then leaves, but such is life. Sounds like a good time to do the right thing for you and start to put out feelers.
posted by plep at 2:23 AM on December 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Have you got a decent relationship with your boss (as in, are informal chats a thing you have)? If so, the next time it comes up semi naturally in conversation, why not mention what Craig's like, but in positive terms, basically mention what you said in your question:
Craig is fresh out of college and this is his first real job in our field. He's good at what he does, for someone who has only been in this environment for six months or so, and he learns quickly. He's obviously an intelligent person and a natural leader. From his manner it's clear that he's used to rising to the top of the heap and assuming a leadership role by default.
Then append it with a friendly / slightly exasperated 'sometimes he gets a bit big for his boots, and he still has a bit to learn workplace dynamics, but overall he's a big asset to the team'.

This will hopefully
- let the manager know what you think
- give you a bit of a chance to suck up (oh, what a good hire you made!)
- make you seem friendly and like you're helping Craig develop
- give you an opportunity to share a knowing look with your boss if Craig tries to pull anything in front of them again
posted by Ned G at 3:17 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm most curious about the instance where Craig delegated to you in front of your mutual supervisor. You didn't say what your supervisor's reaction was to that. If your supervisor rolled with it, then joan_holloway is pretty on the spot.

He may not be above you yet. But the person you do report to sat there, watched him delegate to you, and said nary a word.


Like previous posters, I, too, was struck by this. It seems, at best, an indication of management not managing properly in this instance. To me, it seems this is a sort of vacuum that Craig senses and tries to fill. It’s unclear to me what happened before Craig’s arrival (departed colleague who fitted in better with the dynamic? Newly created job?)

Whichever it is, depending on circumstances, you could contribute to creating a process that avoids the main problems Craig seems to make for you (delegating and checking on your work), and also presents you in a good light as a problem-solver. I find this system good and easy for workflow, task assignment, dealing with different levels of urgent work etc (unfortunately, you need to click to slide 92 before two levels of urgency are introduced). It could be done on a magnetboard, or even just a normal board with pins. All you need is a board, post-it notes (2 – 3 colours), and some figurines. You could present this to supervisors as: “Since it is now three of us doing stenography and taking on tasks, it is not as easy to keep track of who does what and what emergency level each of our tasks has as it was when we were two” (if Craig is in a new job), or adapt to reflect the new reality with Craig in (not as experienced at coordinating as previous worker was, or whatever else the new situation is, said in a non-blamey, non-complainy manner). “I thought it might be useful to have a system that helps everybody keep track of where we’re at”. I’d also get Anna’s buy-in before implementing it. (I realize that this is a sort of technical solution to what may be an interpersonal problem, but I think, if it works, it could take the wind out of his sails, since it would position YOU as the one with initiative).

On him checking and correcting your work: if your work is normally checked by your supervisors, I’d tell him that next time he tries to correct you. Not as “how dare you check on me”, but as though you assuaged his worry about his own work: “Don’t worry about potential errors, Craig – the work will be checked by supervixor x, y, z, no need to be too anxious or check each other’s output. X, y, z are really good at offering feedback/ doing whatever”. If you are supposed to verify each other's work, I'd include a column for that in the workflow chart. Then each of you basically has their work checked by the next available person, whoever that is.

Saying this, I think tinkletown’s and Monsieur Caution’s Machiavellian approach would work quite well if you can pull it off.

Finally: I don’t know Craig, obviously, so this may be wrong, but from your telling of the situation I feel it is not certain that he is just a jerk out for promotion. Besides being (probably) taught that you need to be a go-getter to … get anything, it is possible that he FEELS that what he does is most important (unless instructed otherwise) because it is the first time he does something that has palpable consequences in the real world. So to him, transiting from school to a real workplace for the first time, whatever he works on may be most important thing ever. I remember being obsessed with getting things right, making sure I’m helpful and useful, etc when I first entered the workplace.
posted by miorita at 4:48 AM on December 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


Best answer: Your management is more than 50% of the problem. Craig may be an ass, but there is a dynamic that sets up like this whenever there is a group of 3-4 people working on similar tasks and there is no defined "team lead."

I have a similar situation where I work - 3-4 people who all "catch tickets" in some vaguely defined (i.e. undefined) way - no one is designated as the manager within the group, and no one senior manager is taking ownership OF the group and its functions. So I walk in, I need something, and no one person is the POC.

The reason senior management hasn't addressed this, even though they know it's a problem, is they don't consider the supervisory chair important enough to want to pay one of the team members extra (and/or lighten their workload) to handle the SEPARATE task of managing the others. They hope that it will informally "just happen."

If I was the senior manager in the position of the one who didn't correct Craig when he delegated to you, I probably wouldn't correct him either. I need something done, and I assume there is some structure in place surrounding this delegation process. To tell the truth, when I myself interact with the department where I work, I walk on eggshells because I'm aware this group dynamic is a powder-keg.

So there's a vacuum there, and Craig is filling it. And as others have said, don't be surprised if you wake up one day and Craig has been officially recognized as that team lead. If you don't like that idea, it's time to campaign to be that team lead yourself. You don't have to try to make Craig look bad; you just have to demonstrate that you recognize the problem and that you have a solution. Your case is that you're more experienced and that you have better people skills.
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:02 AM on December 12, 2014 [11 favorites]


> [Gently but firmly] "Craig, I can't help you with X right now. I have to complete Y."

I'd be firmer than that: “Craig, X is still your job after you've been given Z to do. Let me know if you need help prioritizing; time management can be difficult.” — then quietly go back to working on Y.
posted by scruss at 5:12 AM on December 12, 2014 [16 favorites]


Best answer: Ok, so I agree that this is the way advancement works at some places (like, for example, investment banks) -- it's all scheming and under-bus-throwing to get ahead while you can until your number is up. At other places (like where I work), this would be the express train to having no one on your side or prioritizing your requests (resulting in lackluster performance).

I'm going to guess that your company is more like mine, in that this behavior seems to be a new thing you're experiencing rather than the status quo. I'm going to also guess that he took some sort of class, workshop, career-readiness thing, or read some book that instructed him how to get ahead in the investment-bank-type place I described.

This is his first job, he has no idea what he's doing. "He's used to rising to the top of the heap" in school, which really has no bearing on how one will do in the workplace.

So, first, don't let this get under your skin. Every time he does something like this, remember that it's an indicator of how green he is and have a little mental chuckle at his expense (not necessarily in a mean way, just in a "ah, to be young again" way).

Second, if he asks you to help with something, propose a different request (but in an authoritative way, not a suggestive way). Example:
Craig: "Boss just asked me to do Important Task A, can you take over Less Important Task B that I was working on?"
You: "You know what, I'll go ahead and do Task A, since it's a priority and I can probably do it faster, why don't you work on finishing up Task B." [then walk away and go do Task A]

Craig: "Sara C., I took a look at Task D that you're working on and I have comments ABC."
You: "..." [your silence indicates "ok, so you have comments, good for you, wtf am I supposed to do with your comments dickweed, no one cares what you are saying, i hate you"....ok, maybe it doesn't say that much, but still.]
If he needs a response, say something to the effect of "Since it seems like you have some downtime right now, we have Task X, Y, and Z in the pipeline that need to be worked on. It's definitely a good idea to look at mine and Anna's work when you have time, so you get a better idea of what's expected, but make sure there aren't any other assignments being neglected as a result."

Part of this is also willful obliviousness -- let's say he does Task A anyway and blames you for Task B not getting done: "Oh, actually we had decided that I'd do Task A, remember, since you had already started with Task B. I'm working on Task C now, but let me know if you need help with B and I'll see if I can hop over to help when I'm done." Gaslighting, while horrible in relationships, can be great when used against annoying coworkers.

Third, be proactive; own your career. If he's doing this, he's most certainly also trying to schedule one-on-ones with the bosses. Coffee, mentoring, chat in the mens room about the game, etc. Like it or not, this does change the nature of your job advancement possibilities. You need to start talking up the Sara C. name around the water cooler. Start tooting your own horn -- if you have an end of year self evaluation process, use it --> talk yourself up, highlight how you're (effectively)training Craig, avoid words like "assist" or "help," use words like "took ownership of," "successfully managed," completed, produced; for teamwork, use "I teamed up with..." to make it your active action that got the work done, etc.
posted by melissasaurus at 5:14 AM on December 12, 2014 [10 favorites]


Best answer: To me, when he turns around and delegates to you, it's improper delegation: he is not your manager. However, I would clarify that with your boss privately - "I was wondering, boss's name, how you felt about Craig delegating Task X to me that day." I would also clarify with your boss if it's OK if YOU delegate to CRAIG when YOU are swamped. If your boss OKs that, then delegate right back at him. Hah.

I can't recommend the book Nice Girls Don't Get The Corner Office too highly. It's not about being an underhanded you-know-what: it's about protecting your time and talents, most of all.

A professional mentor is also a good idea. See if there's a women's network at your company or in your local area. Your school might have one, too.

I'm not really fond of the fact that your boss seems to have authorized Craig either implicitly or through lack of resistance to delegate to you. If I were your boss I'm not sure how I would take that. Again, the book I recommended above talks about issues like these.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 5:25 AM on December 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


Best answer: I feel like I've been in your position, but not exactly in your situation. I have had the low-level anxiety that comes with 'not wanting to play the game' - feeling like my work should speak for itself, that in a perfect world we wouldn't have to deal with politics or elbowing someone out of the way to get ahead, and that teamwork and kindness and respect should mean more than posturing and self-promotion. The single BEST thing anyone has said to me in my professional life (and god help me, it was relatively recently said) is this - "it doesn't matter if you don't want to 'play the game' - you are ON THE BOARD. You can choose not to participate, but make no mistake - you are IN the game."

My read on this - the game goes on around you, irrespective of whether you are the first piece who moves, or you choose to stay in the back row, arms folded and stubborn about how things SHOULD be. I have taken this wholly to heart, and have made adjustments in my work style that are not odious to me, but are similarly not natural to me. I say all of that to say this - I do not think this is all in your head. To your questions:

What are some ways I can separate out my irrational frustration and paranoia about Craig's behavior from the reality that he probably has no idea what he's doing is unprofessional?

Others have pointed out that he's actually not being unprofessional. He's not building a good relationship with you, but he may not realize that because you haven't discussed it with him. I think you might be less frustrated if you talked to him about it. It seems like this might take you out of your comfort zone, or like me, you might be thinking "but I shouldn't HAVE too..." I can promise you that not talking to him is a sure path to continued bad feelings, as long as you're at this job. You should definitely talk to him before you talk to your manager, because any good manager's first question will be "did you try to work it out with him?"

What's the best way of dealing with this stuff when it happens?

Dealing with the example you gave above, if he delegated his 'non-important' work to me in front of OUR manager, I would look at my manager and say "I'm doing X - do you want me to set it aside to do Y, or keep working on X?" If he delegated work to me and my manager was not there, I would say "my list today looks like X, Y and Z - if I get through all those I'd be glad to pitch in - if we think priorities have shifted, let's discuss together". I would basically remove any assumption that he has any authority to delegate to me, while still remaining professional, courteous and helpful.

How can I keep my head down and do the work without worrying about this guy who seems to be trying to make himself the de facto boss among equals?

You can't - obviously. You're very upset about all this and have spent a lot of time dwelling on it. What I'm trying to say here is that you need to make changes and have conversations that you don't want to make or have, or you can quit, or you can be bypassed.
posted by ersatzkat at 5:26 AM on December 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have observed men in their natural habitat for many years and they are actually very simple creatures. You just have to get a strategy and stick with it. It's going to be unpleasant for you but it'll work out.

You're getting alpha'd. It's hard to regain control of that situation. You're a cooperative, nice, thoughtful person who wants to do a good job. He's a schmuck who doesn't give a damn about your feelings or about anything more than being entitled.

He doesn't see you as either a threat or as a force of any kind. Only YOU can fix that.

1. Break a chair over his head. No, not literally. But it's time to establish the terms of the dominance struggle. Give a big roar. Dismissiveness, as noted above, works. "Oh honey, I don't work for you" is one way to start. Laugh in his face. Talk down to him. You have to be bad a little bit here. "If you boss me around one more time so help me god I'm going to bite your head off." Scare him a little.

2. Going forward, reward good behavior and ignore bad behavior. He bosses you around? Refuse to acknowledge him. He behaves cooperatively? Throw him a steak. You can almost LITERALLY pat him on the head.

He's a boy, he wants to please. He just doesn't know the terms yet. You have to set those terms.

Sorry, it's brutal dealing with men like this and you have to be kind of a monster. You can't play nice. No one gives a damn about nice people.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:29 AM on December 12, 2014 [14 favorites]


Why isn't talking to him grown-up to grown-up an option? You should take him aside and simply tell him

Craig, you seem to be a bright, capable person and you're catching onto how we do things here quickly. There's one thing you may not be aware of and it makes me uncomfortable and that's how you treat Anna and I. We are your co-workers, and your senior co-workers at that. I'm sure you don't mean to come off as imperious or bossy, but there have been instances where you've given me the impression that you think that Anna and I report to you. For example, when the Boss tells you to put a hold on project X, and you turned around and TOLD me to take it over. That was really disrespectful to me. Sure, we ask each other to take on tasks, but it's more of a favor than of you delegating our work to us. So I'll tell you what, since I'm sure that this is purely unintentional, I'll help you identify it by saying DING every time it happens.

Then do it. Either he changes or he doesn't but at least you're not taking it lying down or letting it pass without comment.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:33 AM on December 12, 2014 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I agree with everyone above. Your team has a power vacuum, and Craig is filling it.

If your boss is anything like my bosses, they have a HUGE list of their own shit to get done. Imagine being your boss. Do you spend a lot of time thinking over whether the steno pool is assigning work fairly and equitably, and stepping in to manage the specifics of that workload? Or do you just want the steno pool to run smoothly, regardless of how that gets accomplished? If Craig makes the steno pool's trains run on time, your boss will not have an issue with that.

It's not FAIR, but it's how things happen.

I think a lot of people, and a lot of women in particular, can have this belief that the workplace should be FAIR, that people should be rewarded for their efforts. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.

In addition to the books above, I'd suggest Women Don't Ask, which is primarily about negotiation but also covers gender differences in the workplace and how to work with them effectively. (Not that these things break down along gender lines all the time -- they tend to, but I know one of my former coworkers who got really burned with the whole "hard work should be noticed and appreciated and I shouldn't have to ask for a raise" thing was a dude. I think it's actually a good book for anyone in the workplace to read.)

I also agree that the best thing to do, in your situation, is find a job where you aren't underemployed, and where your talents are valued.
posted by pie ninja at 5:44 AM on December 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


Best answer: It's eat or be eaten. You have to decide if you want to compete. If you do, go to your boss and let him know that you would like to take on the leadership role of your team. You want to be the one to delegate tasks. And then do it. Otherwise, the kid will be promoted over you and then over your boss. At any rate, you won't have to deal with him for long. Ambitious young people move forward pretty quickly.
posted by myselfasme at 5:48 AM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


What happened when your boss told him to do X (and back-burner his other projects) and, with boss still there, he delegated X to you? Did you accept that delegation? Did your boss have any kind of reaction to any of that?
posted by J. Wilson at 6:09 AM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Best answer: I had a coworker (C) do this to me (although she was at least older than me and had been with the organization longer). Right down to the "delegating." She was really unreasonable too - asking me to take evening shifts in her department when I was already working evening shifts for my own department. She would ask me to do tasks that look longer for her to explain to me than they would have taken her to execute, presumably as a power play but who knows. I used twinkletoes "I'll be happy to help out" language when I had time for the tasks she wanted me to do, and I said I wouldn't be able to help out when she asked me to do something I couldn't/didn't want to do.

Our boss (B) had my back, to an extent - like, she wouldn't tell C to stop doing it, but she also made it clear that if C came complaining about me not doing something to her, it wasn't going to affect B's perception of me.

After I left, my position was changed so that it actually was directly under C! Sick systems, yo.

Anyway, I think you need to find out where your boss stands and probably also push back/reframe as "helping him out" when this kid tries to delegate to you. Like, when he delegated to you in front of your boss, it would have been good if you had clarified with your boss - "OK, I'm working on Z right now - would you like me to take care of Craig's X task first or should I finish up what I'm doing?"

Don't get mad, clarify ruthlessly.
posted by mskyle at 6:28 AM on December 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Best answer: This drives me out of my mind batshit insane, probably out of proportion to his behavior.

I use the third person plural here because I consider Anna in about the same boat as myself in terms of skill set, however I'm not sure she has a problem with Craig's behavior.


Before I did anything I would try to suss out if Anna has the same perception of the situation, regardless of how she might be responding (or not responding) to it. I don't think you can pick a solution until you are more clear on how bad the problem really is, or at least how it's being perceived by your coworkers, even if you re the only one who is right.

we all often ask each other for a hand, or pass high-priority tasks off to each other as needed. But Craig's way of doing this always comes off as imperious to me, and not in the vein of "could you do me a favor and...?"

It kind of sounds like Craig isn't really doing anything you and Anna don't do, so maybe this is just a style clash rather than a power move on his part. Again, a reality check from Anna could help inform what you're really dealing with.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:29 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Do unto him as he has done unto you. Delegate your work to him. Check up on his work. Order his ass around. He's the FNG at your office, and he needs to know his place.
posted by starbreaker at 6:34 AM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Best answer: FWIW, that's the work environment I'm in, where the person who rises to the top of the heap and leads their peers is the person who gets promoted. Seniority, age, and experience means nothing, especially not in the face of execution and results.

This. I'm in a place where seniority does matter to an enormous extent, and even in that setting I was able to step into a vacuum, fill a needed but previously unidentified role, and am now supervising people who previously supervised me. It's an effective strategy not just for moving up internally, but also for when you are going up for jobs outside, because I can guarantee your supervisors notice who is stepping up in this way and their reference letters/calls will reflect that.

In your situation, there is a need for someone to visualize and manage the very granular workflow of tasks. Your official supervisor can't or won't fill that role, but if Craig can do it well it will be to his credit. A lot of the suggestions above had to do with going and complaining about him, but if he's performing an actual function (or can at least claim to be doing so, regardless of the actual impact) by helping manage the workflow, that is not something that as a supervisor I would punish.

I completely agree with the comments above (and as noted in your question) that this is hugely gendered, and the solution is going to come out of that awareness in terms of communications and interpersonal strategies that take gender explicitly into account. (The cliche is that men are seen as assertive and women as bitchy; it isn't that simple but you also can't just mirror Craig's behavior and get the same rewards.)
posted by Dip Flash at 7:16 AM on December 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Craig is doing exactly what he needs to do to advance. As a supervisor, I would notice him with approval. I would notice you if you acted as he did.

People have complained about the delegation, but no one has remarked to wonder why Craig delegated to you instead of Anna. Delegating a task doesn't mean the delegator isn't still ultimately responsible. To the contrary, a bad delegation makes the delegator look worse than if he had just done a poor job himself. That's why in my law firm, partners fight over which of the standout associates get assigned work while the keep-their-head-down associates get just enough to work to keep them busy. It's the same for all tiers. Some secretaries are better than others. I want this paralegal on my case and not that one. Not everyone in the same tier is the same - that means you are not "interchangeable cogs". The point is, Craig delegated to you because he thought you could perform.

Enough people have commented that he delegated in front of your superior without any comment from your superior. I don't know if anyone noticed that Craig delegated without you saying a word. Everyone saw that. Why didn't you speak up?

Here's my anecdote. I had an associate attorney as a neighbor in the office next to mine for eight years. He was and is a good friend. He had five years of seniority over me. Everyone liked him. However, once he became eligible for election to partnership, he was passed over year after year. That meant no one was even raising his name as a candidate. He was a good lawyer but he was the keep-my-head-down-and-work type. He didn't take charge and I don't think he ever tried to work outside his comfort zone. Eventually, he decided to go to another firm - I think he decided it was never going to happen here. I learned a lot from that.

I think the comments about snarky rejoinders and confrontations with Craig to "put him in his place" in general are a disservice. First, you have to decide what you want for yourself. Do you want to advance? If not, Craig's behavior is not a problem for you. If so, take charge yourself. Craig is showing you how it is done.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:36 AM on December 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


Learn these responses. Use them as needed:
"That's your assignment, Craig, not mine."
"I have my own assignments, Craig."
"I'm sorry you have problems keeping up with your workload, Craig, but I can't help you right now."

I've seen umpteen workers like Craig...Fresh out of school and convinced of their own awesomeness and infallibility. They're dangerous and disruptive, largely because management quite often falls in love with these people.

I think you really need to have a private meeting with your manager to 1) Let them know what Craig has been doing (i.e. shoveling his assignments off on you), and 2) Try and discover if, in fact, Craig hasn't been brought in with a promise to make him a manager. You never know.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:49 AM on December 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


It sounds like what you guys need is somewhere to list projects that need someone to take them on. That way when an assignment gets bumped off someone's plate they put it on the list and whoever has time first takes it on. Being proactive in organizing such a list and going to your boss to say you've done it will earn you brownie points. "Hi Phil, I've been thinking about our current system for prioritizing tasks, and I came up with _____. Things have been getting passed off to whoever happens to be nearby, so I've created this way that we can all share the work more equally."
posted by MsMolly at 7:57 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


People have complained about the delegation, but no one has remarked to wonder why Craig delegated to you instead of Anna

I think some people are missing the very last part of the question, where the Sara C says they all delegate to each other, but it's the way Craig delegates that is part of her problem:
Several times recently Craig has delegated** work to me that wasn't his responsibility to dole out, taken it upon himself to check up on my work, or stepped into the project I was working on to give me unsolicited advice.

**This gets a little complicated, because we all often ask each other for a hand, or pass high-priority tasks off to each other as needed. But Craig's way of doing this always comes off as imperious to me, and not in the vein of "could you do me a favor and...?"
This is why I suggested getting Anna's take before deciding on a course of action.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:58 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Best answer: I'd guess that most of your colleagues and supervisory types are aware that you think this gig is a step backwards. The Boy Wonder thinks it's a marvelous opportunity for him to impress the world with his masterful leadership skills. I'm sure he's a pain in the butt but I'd suggest that you put on your happy face whenever you're at work, and leap to take on more challenging assignments. Beat him at his own game. You have many more contacts and experiences in your field than he does, and if you subtly remind him of that and impart your wisdom at every opportunity, I think you can succeed at making yourself look good without having to make him look particularly inept.
Never complain, and take your time when explaining. You're not paid to school him, but as you know--in your (and my) field, when your team looks good, you look good. I know there's an attitude of "just get it done", but I think you can have a bit more autonomy regarding which tasks take priority. Printing stuff for binders isn't as important as judgment calls or tracking down the right person to sign whatever.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:53 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Best answer: I wonder if what he is doing is coming from insecurity

Having said that as someone who likes clearly defined roles, responsibilities etc how you 3 have to work would drive me crazy and I'd end up like Craig, not from trying to boss everyone but from mad insecurities because I couldn't do all the things & know all the things were being done and trying to keep track of where different jobs are and making sure they were all going to be OK. Fear I was the new guy that was going to get shit if things went wrong, maybe also desperate to make a good impression, so must monitor all the things so I look like I'm working hard.

Have you tried asking him? Do you have some sort of centralized system for keeping track of things that doesn't involve him asking you outright. You know what would work best in your situation but even something as simple as a shared calendar/spreadsheet list You say everyone delegates to everyone so is it just his manner in delegating that is annoying you? Would you find it less annoying if he did it on some sort of task tracking system instead of face to face?

Of course I could be completely wrong & he's an obnoxious overreaching asshole.
posted by wwax at 9:28 AM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: Folks keep asking what my response was when Craig delegated a low-priority task to me in front of our boss. I did exactly as has been recommended here: "I'm helping Becca set up for the screening right now, but later on, let me know if you still need help."

Much later, after I had been tied up with screening-related tasks for a couple hours (in fact pretty much the second I had a breather), he came to me and said, "I thought you were going to do Low Priority Task? Could you go do that now?" Meanwhile AFAIK he had been sitting on his ass watching Netflix the whole time I had been schlepping food orders for actors and pouring champagne and wrangling wifi passwords and congratulating all the VIPs on their live-tweeting prowess.

Luckily I'm fairly certain that it was noted by upper level folks that I was off facilitating the screening while he was .... ? .... after finishing the higher priority thing he'd been called away on.

The manager in question who witnessed this as it was happening didn't react in the moment, so no idea what was happening there or what his takeaway was. If it was "yay working in a boys' club is dope", I don't know if there's anything I can really do about that.
posted by Sara C. at 10:09 AM on December 12, 2014


While I'm pretty sure you're in a business that doesn't do direct confrontation all that well (ref. pretty much every non-fiction account I have ever read of behind-the-scenes in Hollywood, TV, and movies), I think this: "I thought you were going to do Low Priority Task? Could you go do that now?" is the point at which you need to stand up for yourself and tell him directly, "You are not my boss, you do not delegate to me, it is not my responsibility to cover your work just because you asked me to. We will help each other if necessary, but you had plenty of time to cover Low Priority Task once you'd finished Emergency Task, and don't for a second think I didn't notice." Because right now he is assuming an authority that he officially doesn't have - that once he has "delegated" to you it is no longer his problem. You should nip this in the bud now, because if you don't he will de facto become your supervisor even if he's not your official supervisor.


Luckily I'm fairly certain that it was noted by upper level folks that I was off facilitating the screening while he was .... ? .... after finishing the higher priority thing he'd been called away on.

The manager in question who witnessed this as it was happening didn't react in the moment, so no idea what was happening there or what his takeaway was.


I think it would at this point be a good idea to have a private meeting with your direct manager - the one who witnessed the delegation - and find out whether they noticed that Craig did not complete the LPT even though he had time, and to make an attempt to clarify whatever "chain of command" exists.

If your manager can't or won't clarify . . . . . well, that will tell you something about the company's culture, and about whether you will be comfortable there in the long term.
posted by soundguy99 at 11:11 AM on December 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


So this job? Is it a career-stepping stone kind of job, where promotion is possible?

If so: Sara C., do you want to build a career here? Or are you happy in your current job and you aren't gunning for promotion? Either answer is valid. I think that your answer affects what you should do.

If you're not interested in building a career: it sure seems like Craig is. Take him aside and have a frank talk: "You can't keep treating us like we work for you. But if you're nice, we'll do what we can to help you get promoted".

If you are interested in building a career: then I'm afraid that you are now in a competition. If it were me, I might go to my boss and tell them I'm looking to try to move up, and see if they can give me any advice, tell me what they're looking for, etc. And then go out and do that. I'd guess they'll be looking for Craig-like behavior, so you may have to get active about delegating work to Craig, checking Craig's work, setting up a weekly status meeting for the team (which you chair), or whatever else is 'career-building' in your role. If Craig balks - well, your boss knows you're trying to take charge. Hopefully your boss isn't some kind of sexist turd.

Lastly: I agree that you should get Anna's view on this. Take her out to lunch or something and talk to her. The above makes the simplifying assumption that Anna is on your side.

(My background: 30 years in the IT industry, the past 15 years doing various kinds of management / project management work with large and small teams).
posted by doctor tough love at 11:14 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I thought you were going to do Low Priority Task? Could you go do that now?"
Oh man, what a douchecanoe. Seriously, that is like Grade A, Prime Angus Douche right there.

To that, I'd respond something to the effect of: "You must have misunderstood. I'm actually busy doing other things at the moment. But, you should get started on it right away, since you're already kind of behind. If you're not sure how to do it, let me know and I'll talk with Boss about setting aside some time so I can train you."
posted by melissasaurus at 11:16 AM on December 12, 2014 [11 favorites]


Folks keep asking what my response was when Craig delegated a low-priority task to me in front of our boss. I did exactly as has been recommended here: "I'm helping Becca set up for the screening right now, but later on, let me know if you still need help."

Much later, after I had been tied up with screening-related tasks for a couple hours (in fact pretty much the second I had a breather), he came to me and said, "I thought you were going to do Low Priority Task? Could you go do that now?"


First, your immediate response sounds fantastic to me, especially if it was said that directly and in front of your supervisor.

Second (and with the caveat that I am the exact kind of entitled white guy who is currently driving you nuts and can best speak to what works for people like me; what works for you and your situation may be different), I think that this is absolutely a case where you want to follow the classic advice of presenting supervisors with solutions, not problems. Don't go and complain about Craig being a dick; instead, offer a solution to the core problem, which I suspect is actually the handling and management of a dynamic workflow. Finding and getting credit for a solution to the underlying problem will be the easiest and most effective way of sidelining Craig (and thereby making him less of a pain in the ass). That might be technological (eg a task management solution like a whiteboard or a computerized list) or it might be communicative (eg identifying the correct flowpath from task request to prioritization to delegation and execution that prevents Craig from getting credit for your work), or something else -- you know your work environment and the solution on this will need to come from you, obviously.

But I predict that if you don't take ownership you are going to see Craig get moved upwards sooner rather than later because that is what happens to entitled white guys who are proactive and assertive, regardless of their actual competence. Right now he gets to watch Netflix, have two women take care of his work tasks, and then take public credit for the successful delegation and performance of those tasks -- allowing it to continue unchanged will not work well for you.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:03 PM on December 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


Oooooooh. You're in entertainment??

Okay. Just yes him to death. Yes, yes, yes, all day. Then just never have the time to do anything he tells you to do. "Oooh, that's right, Jeremy!! So sorry, yeah I had to finish flarf and foopf! Do you think you can handle it? Text me if you hit a snag."

Rinse, repeat. He'll stop asking soon enough.

In entertainment, most folks yes everybody to death and then only do exactly what the person who pays them wants done.

Actor of 22 years.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 12:23 PM on December 12, 2014 [12 favorites]


Cannot believe people are defending this guy. He is not doing what people are told to do to advance. He is not acting like a leader. He probably would not be doing this if you were a man.

He's lazy and covering that up by being bossy.

This kid needs a smackdown, and it should be coming from your manager, but since he's abdicated his responsibility, it's up to you to push back. Problem is, you may unfairly be blamed if you make this a "problem", so I hope your manager respects you.

Speak to your manager, lay out your problem. Tell him that Craig is delegating his work to you, and having trouble managing his time and priorities. Tell him that you are willing to help Craig with this. Unless your manager objects, start doing that. Cc your boss on e-mails "clarifying" conversations you had with Craig (e.g. Hi Craig, I know you asked me to do x, which boss had assigned to you. However, that is not the highest priority right now. Please do what you can, and when I am finished my work, I will help you with yours.)

If your manager doesn't want you to help, do the same thing, just saying you cannot do his job x, because you are working on your job y, but you're "sure boss can find someone to help you".

I am a manager. This would not fly with me, or any good manager I have ever worked with. People telling you this guy is just doing what you're supposed to do to get ahead either don't know what they are talking about or are shitty managers. People like Craig are toxic to workplaces.
posted by spaltavian at 1:01 PM on December 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


Netflix, eh? That'd do it for me. Do take my previous option #2, all day long.
posted by Namlit at 1:19 PM on December 12, 2014


Tell him you'll get to it if you can. Then don't do it. Watch him scramble when task doesn't get done and you tell your boss that he can't manage a basic workload and maybe he's not suitable for the job. Repeat. He will stop asking.
posted by Jubey at 2:20 PM on December 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


One other thing: if you do this right, not merely will you be doing him a colossal solid for his career, the Legions of Future Parallel-Universe Craig Direct Reports will send you karma sideways through quantum dimensions for your help in steering this dude away from a defective management path.

I could have been Craig (perhaps I still am?): white, approximately English speaking, elite public school, postgrad. I will never forget the kindly engineer who had words with me early in my first job. After I came out with some astonishingly clueless howler, he took me aside and said: "Son, you don't know the ropes here. If you're lucky, we'll put up with your questions, and you'll learn. Pull that crap again, and you'll be out before you know what you did wrong."

This scene occasionally repeats itself in my head (in Glorious Entitle-o-Vision™) still. I'm glad it does.
posted by scruss at 3:21 PM on December 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


Sara C.: " with screening-related tasks for a couple hours (in fact pretty much the second I had a breather), he came to me and said, "I thought you were going to do Low Priority Task? Could you go do that now?" Meanwhile AFAIK he had been sitting on his ass watching Netflix the whole time"

If this is not hyberbole, it does affect things. This does not strike me as high achiever behavior, and I can see why you'd be upset. If your supervisor knows as much about the situation as you do and said nothing, they probably wrote off Criag mentally, and hoping someone else accidentally hires him instead of having to figure out how to fire this young guy.

What you might do is ask your common supervisor during a less hectic time, for permission for you to have a sit down with Craig, along the lines of "I am not your mother" and general work-life balance ettiquette (to wit: work when you're at work, netflix at home), after some recent behavior that you found personally upsetting. This gives your boss notice that there is a conflict (and a problem), gives them a chance to ask you to back off while they handle it, demonstrates your willingness to solve problems yourself, and gives you a heads up on how your boss perceives Craig and whether there's some mitigating circumstance you weren't previously aware of.
posted by pwnguin at 5:09 PM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


The bottom line in situations like this is that people do what works. If Craig gets the idea that delegating low priority tasks to you will make him look good, he will keep doing it. I think your response to him was perfect, and the fact that he came to you to ask you to do it later was beyond the pale. I hope your follow up answer was something along the lines of "no, I can't help with this one, you are going to have to take care of it yourself. And I would get cracking if I were you, it's been XX hours since Boss gave it to you." No need to be nasty or confrontational, but make it clear that you know who is responsible for what, and who has the right to task both of you.

I would also be tempted to mention Craig's difficulties with workload and time management in your next conversation with the boss, in a poor-kid- is- struggling kind of way. And then make sure you are busy and focussed on high value added work, and that everyone, including your boss, knows it.
posted by rpfields at 5:21 PM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


"I'm helping Becca set up for the screening right now, but later on, let me know if you still need help."

I can kind of see how a lazy, wishfully thinking young dude would take this as "go watch Netflix while I work on task A, and when I'm done, I will start helping you with task B that you just assigned to me."

His reaction here might cause me to give up on the beautifully snarky variations on "I'll help you with your work if you can't handle it," since he's apparently not worried about that making him look bad; he'll just let you do as much as possible of his work.

Next time he asks if you can pick up a task, condescendingly walk him through the appropriate thought process about the group's, but especially *his* time management and priorities. (If this would require more advance planning of the queue of tasks, take charge of queueing it up.)

"I'm setting up for the screening now, I'll be doing A and B during the screening, and doing C and D after the screening. Anna is also setting up now, doing X during, and Y after. Are you telling me you're booked before, during and after the screening with tasks that take precedence over Low Priority Task? Because if not, Anna and I are going to need you to do Low Priority Task."
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 7:59 PM on December 12, 2014


Agree that if he was indeed off watching Netflix, that changes the tone of the whole scenario. If he's just lazy, tell him you're busy with your work; and mention the attempt to foist work off on you to your boss pre-emptively just in case he tries to make trouble there too.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:08 PM on December 12, 2014


Response by poster: Update: I overheard a similarly bossy exchange today between Craig and Anna. I'm not sure Anna feels as annoyed about this behavior as I do, but at least now I know I'm not alone in experiencing it.

In addition to just not taking the bait, and giving as good as I get where possible, I've decided to have a conversation with my supervisor about my progress so far and what I can do to improve/stand out more in my work performance in the new year. I'm not going to explicitly bring up the situation with Craig, but I'm hoping to get a read on exactly where I stand and how much of a threat Craig is.
posted by Sara C. at 10:53 PM on December 12, 2014 [10 favorites]


Maybe if you spot him watching Netflix you could say "looks like you need more to do" and delegate some stuff to him.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:43 AM on December 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


Mockery & humor. Dude assigns task. oh, so cute when you assign tasks. is that a male thing/ thinking you're in charge? Dude, you're mansplaining again; in case you didn't notice. stuff like that. It's kind of horrible, using the facade of humor to tell the truth, if you're a straight shooter, but it can be incredibly effective.

The other tactic is to really befriend him, and deflect the tasks. Dude assigns task. Oh, dude, you know I'm busy with my own work, but I can help you out if you get bogged down.
posted by theora55 at 1:54 PM on December 13, 2014


Response by poster: After I got multiple text messages over the weekend checking up on my work on a project he declined to be a part of even after I suggested he take it on himself, I finally snapped and told Craig that, going forward, he should assume that, if either Anna or I is assigned a task, we will take care of it. Period. I'm hoping that just being told point blank to keep his eyes on his own paper will nip some of this in the bud.
posted by Sara C. at 9:12 PM on December 15, 2014


Well, very strictly spoken as per your description, he's not even in a position to "assume" one or another thing. It may be necessary to spell that out to him, I feel.

"Look, I asked you to be part of this project, and you said no, which btw. is totally fine. So that's our agreement--based on your preference, right? 'We do this, you don't do this.' Now could you please just stick to that agreement, and leave us to do our work undisturbed? And another thing: just don't text me over the weekend."
posted by Namlit at 4:10 AM on December 16, 2014


Point-blank is best for this, as embarrassingly as possible. Trying to delegate what his boss is telling him to do? "Um, No? Sounds like the boss wanted you to do it. You don't want to?" (Make sure you get want in there so it's cast entirely as his choice.) The obvious answer to "but this other thing I'm doing..." is "the boss just told you to stop that, so now you're good, right?"

And he's not going to stop with the "supervising" behavior until you explicitly say, "Look, Craig, I owned at this job while you were in high school. Don't get too big for your britches." Think of a cat teaching a dog that claws are a thing that exists.

Directly call him out for being a lazy piece of shit, early and often. "You couldn't have been doing that while you were on Netflix? Why not?"

Someone's going to get branded "not a team player, does not get along with others" here. You're letting him stay under the radar for this, while he's sucking up to management with his "leadership" attitude. Time is not on your side. Right now it's FNG vs. veteran, but the credibility gap will close the more it starts seeming like he's been around a while, and he's counting on that.
posted by ctmf at 1:49 PM on January 21, 2015


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