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psychlady, Counselor
Category: Relationship
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Experience:  I have over 16 years experience in treating adults presenting with a variety of relationship issues
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I have a difficult work situation. I recently was promoted

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I have a difficult work situation. I recently was promoted into a new position at my job. A co-worker has assumed my old position and works "under" me although I am not that person's supervisor.

This person started off right away trying to change the way things work and regularly tries to take ownership of issues without following proper channels. This co-worker is not a rude or disrespectful person on a social level, but on a professional level is clearly from my point of view trying to wedge their way into my job in an effort to get things done their own way. This person has a very subtle persistence that can be unnerving. Even attempting to train this person is difficult because instead of following instructions, alternative means of performing a procedure is suggested.

I have to train them because there are things that they need to know. But my position is very critical and the things that I am responsible for are as well. But this person does not have my trust yet and has not shown me that they can be trusted. Here is the twist. My supervisor appears to be "protecting" this person to a degree. Because this person has a skill set that my boss loves and benefits from. Also, this person's reputation is known in that they have caused some difficulties working with others, but the difficulties were not addressed and the person is still here. There has been no indication that my boss has told this person that their approach needs to change.

I have spoken to my boss about this coworkers approach on more than one occasion and I don't think anything is being done about it. The usual response is "my position is so critical that the secondary person needs to know everything that I know" But I don't trust this person to do the right thing. I have been told that their errors will be their own, but everything they work with falls under my umbrella.

I have had numerous discussion with the person about boundaries and following the chain. But the indication is that this will not change, because the person very subtle tries to create situations so that they can take control of it and when we work on projects they take things and "run" with them under the guise that it is urgent and so forth.

I cannot just tell them to go away or ignore them, because then it will appear that I am not preparing them for their position.

I am already keeping a record of things to protect myself, but is it enough?

My questions are these:

What can I do to protect my position?

How do I handle things so it does not appear that I am holding the person back?

Keeping a record is your best bet. I would also record when you tell your boss and was dismissed, what channels you have followed, and what lessons were given on a particular day. Sort of a training log. If there is a subtle way to have a written interaction between the two of you at times that may help. Avoid keeping things casual if you are this concerned. Continue to voice your concerns until someone listens. Even if it seems that no one is, you may be planting a seed.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
My goal is to not give any visible indication (any more that I have already) that this person irritates me and I perfer not working with them. This is the first time I have experienced something like this and I have always had a wonderful working relationship with my co-workers throughout the years because I know how to keep my place and work hard to respect the dignity of others. This is the first time I have been in a position of authority without being in a supervisory position. I have worked in a management position in the past as a fill-in supervisor so this present situation is a little different since I cannot directly discipline them (I can withhold vital information and slow training process down but don't want to do that) and I am trying my best not to allow this situation to be reversed back to me, when that person, albiet very subtly is the antagonist.

I failed to mention that we have already had several discussions about this issue and the person says they understand and on the surface has made adjustments, but the underlying approach is still the same, in other words they have not really changed, they just appear to be patronizing me and still intend to push their agenda.

The sad fact is that this person's work reputation is widely known, but even with that being the case they still were given this position because of what they supposedly have to offer. They (I am avoiding gender references for obvious reasons) do have a great skillset and if used properly they can benefit the company, but it is clear that they just like to be in control.
You can't fix a control freak. That's the main thing you have to keep in mind. The more you resist a control freak, the worse they become. They seem to feel threatened easily and for that reason not appearing irritated is the best way. You can't come at them directly ever. You have to find a way to change this without challenging her. Whatever the politics are to get this done is the way. They don't like to be challenged or questioned.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thanks for your input. It is appreciated. I am going to accept your advice so you can be rightly compensated. But I wanted to add some closing thoughts.

I guess I have to remember my advantages in this situation. I have full authority over all the work that this person will do in connecton with my area of responsibility. I have been there much longer than this person has. I have the confidence of numerous people in the company in various departments due to my work in my previous positions. Because of my work I am to a degree a popular person in the company, although I don't relish that, but I am happy I have been able to be helpful and productive. I actually was awarded the position due to my work ethic and future potential. And to a degree I do have my manager's confidence although as mentioned previously, my manager's approach to this co-worker seems out of character for some reason. One person has speculated, that because this manager pushed for the person's hire they are saving face and while they are aware of this person's tendencies, they are gambling on the fact that this person will make a big splash on the job and that this will overshadow their well known undesirable qualities. I cannot confirm or deny that subjective speculation, although it does have some ring of truth to it. If that is the case it is out of my control.

Interestingly, my hire itself was a risk, in that I did not have all the paper credentials that my first job called for, but I had just enough real world experience and did many good things with a previous employer which influenced my hire. I suceeded to the point that this manager (not my current one) recieved much praise for making such a wise choice in hiring me. I have recieved multiple promotions in a relatively short period of time. Some have intimated that this current manager was trying to repeat that success with this current coworker. Whether that is true or not who knows but it is an interesting development. But enough with the subjective approach.

So I basically need to remember who I am and what I have and not let this situation turn me into something I don't want to be.

One thing is this: I am a natural helper and sharer. I want people to succeed. I have always had the tendency to yield for the sake of peace and "take it on the chin" because I could handle it, but have never allowed something that is wrong or inappropriate. I don't have a problem with things being done not quite the way I would like it or do it. I am a sensitive person, although my emotional outbursts are rare and I am known as one who is cool under pressure, and I do have a "hero complex" myself that I have worked hard to keep under control. Interestingly, I do see some similarities in this person that I did have in myself, but the difference is that I have never tried to force myself into a situation, or try to get someone to do things my way, even when I may have thought that my approach might be better. I have tried to do the best I could once I was put into a situation because I truly love and care for people and want to make their life easier. I also am a team player, and have no problem working quietly in the background, in fact I enjoy it that way. That approach, trying to be the hero did cause me problems in the past in a different workplace especially dealing with members of the opposite sex, some of whom, misinterpreted my helpfulness as personal affection. While I still have some of these tendencies, as I have gotten older and a little more tired, I am less inclined to jump up and charge to the rescue and let someone else do it because others can and it gives me more peace of mind.

This is why I now have a problem with this person. At the beginning, when the positions changed, I allowed this person to "run wild" to a degree. For one, I did not know they had these controlling ways. Another reason was that the job shift was sudden and unexpected and we were adjusting to that. Additionally, I did not know what I could do and could not do in dealing with the person at that time, I was hoping that this person would approach me the same way I approached my predecessor, with honor and respect. I was still in the "submissive mindset" so I answered each question when presented, and tried to address each recommendation for changes when presented as well because I though I had to. It was not until I could not take it anymore and they were directly trying to take over my job that several discussions took place and boundaries were explained.

In the meantime, I did have the discussions mentioned earlier in this thread with my manager. The typical responses were of the "I know how he is" nature. "But we need to have both of you ready for what lies ahead" type of responses. No indication that there has ever been any attempt to tell this person to keep their place.

Therein lies the problem in this situation , the more helpful I try to be, because I want to be, the more emboldened and aggressive the person becomes. Even when I try to give them legitimate but time consuming projects to keep them occupied, they still keep coming. I try to convince myself that they simply have a thirst for knowledge, but if that was truly the case, they could spend their free time studying the vast array of study material we have for these jobs gain all of that knowledge legitimately come at me with facts and leave me alone for the time being. This is in fact what I did when I occupied that position, keep my mouth shut and learn. When I was inthe position, not once did I do anything without being asked to do it and it worked fine. But the indication is different with this person, they are not content to sit back and learn, it appears that are deliberately trying to find out what I know and don't know and use that to their advantage somehow. So I feel that I am becoming a person that I don't want to be, less helpful and stingy, but never rude. I don't like being that way.

I have actually dismissed (more like acknowledged and shelved for now) most this person's ideas and suggestions since putting my foot down, some of which are good mind you, because of this person's over zealousness, and because they have not established their true motives yet, I have chosen not to implement them because that is my right and my boss does back me on that. I can do so for now on the basis of this person's lack of experience but I cannot do it forever. But the give an inch theory is in full affect with this person. The one task that I have given them full control over, a simple repetitive task, has become unrecognizable. This was a task I performed for years, and this person has made it overly complicated, to the point that the new process had to be documented at my request. A task that was documented on one page when it was handed to me has become an 8 page manual after this person got a hold of it. But to avoid appearing envious and unreasonalbe, and also due to the fact that the underlying purpose of the task still remaines intact, I allowed it, but still I had to change some of the process to keep it simple enough for other persons who may have to do it. This was very early in the process before I decided to put my foot down, so to go back and change it know would cause more problems.

I need somebody whose truly understands the critical nature of this job and who will not treat the job as their personal laboratory and playground. I am not seeing this. What I am constantly seeing is attempts at self glorification and perhaps even, the quest to gain a certain degree of knowledge and experience so they can move on the next job. Which would not be a problem if it did not involve my area of responsiblity. That is probably expecting the impossible because as you said we can change people. But as part of the job that I have, I must be extremely cautious, and not taking risks are important parts of this position, so I have to try to inculcate this mindset into this person as part of the training process, so I can tell my boss that I do trust them to do the right thing when I am not here, and they have not done so yet, not even once. Another complicating factor is that it is hard to get rid of a person once they are employed at this job, which is good on the one hand and bad on the other. The chances of this situation changing that way are remote. And if they actually do something that could result in dismisal I could be affected in some way as well, not being terminated, but allowing that person to do something that could affect hundreds of thousands of people on my watch would not be good.

A good fried made two statements, "You cannot save people from themselves" and "you cannot reason with foolishness." I understand that now and have made that adjustment, but my goal now is to save the company and my job from this person if possible, while still trying to legitimately appear that I am trying to help them and train them, because if I had my way, they would never get any control or responsibilities and would in fact be gone. So I am trying to avoid giving any impression that I am jealous of anything they have to offer, or that I feel personally threatened by them, or that I am deliberately holding them back from learning the job. So I am walking this fine line between doing right by this coworker and doing right by "me."

Again thanks for your input, I look forward to your final response.

It is admirable that you admit to having this complex as others would blame everything on others. Be careful as you said and maybe it's time to take a step back. You have to find that balance to maintain your own well being. It is true in totality that you can't save people from themselves. Trying to guide someone's actions in a sense only makes it more difficult to manage them. You can guide them but you cant change their behavior. If their behavior is self serving than that is between themselves and the company in the end.You can't make them into a person that has the company's interests at heart over their own. Eventually it will come out. It's just a matter of when.


You focus on your own success and minimize the impact on your own well being. You can't save anybody. Stop trying to to address the "foollishness" and let the foollishness speak for itself. It's only a matter of time.

Edited by psychlady on 2/6/2011 at 3:20 PM EST
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