updates: coworker’s inattention to detail, employee blames others for her mistakes, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. My coworker’s inattention to detail impacts my work (#3 at the link)

I ended up speaking to my manager, who talked to his manager, who presumably talked to him. I haven’t seen positive changes. I have noticed other poor/odd work habits in this coworker, and our other teammates have also commented on them (e.g., we have a recurring meeting that he says isn’t on his calendar–it’s been sent to him repeatedly).

I did change how I write up defects when I know it’ll be assigned to him. Instead of putting all the information in the defect ticket, I just write “see tasks” and then write up a subtask for each specific thing that needs to be addressed. It’s more time up-front on my end, I shouldn’t have to do it (as per my supervisor; also developers are expected to task out their own stories), but it keeps me from having to review the same work 3 times or having to sit on a call with this developer just to read aloud what I wrote in the defect.

Long term, we’ll see what happens. For now, I’ve found a better way of handling my direct work with him.

2. My employee blames others for her mistakes

I can’t say that there’s any revolutionary news. I’ve not had much success with this subordinate. She just feels personally attacked with every critique, even as I explain that it’s not about her as a person. I have been using your phrasing, but she will not sit down and just listen. I’ve even tried just to phrase it as a “this doesn’t feel like the most efficient way of doing things anymore as we’ve expanded, do you have ideas for a better system? You know this role best, so what would make it work better?” She tells me I’m the boss and she’ll do what I want. I’ve told her I want a new way to do it, and there’s just – nothing. Absolute radio silence. I follow up and get the same response. Rinse, repeat.

As I mentioned, there are multiple reasons that I couldn’t just let her go (without covering my butt, at least): disability, potential ageism claims, telling me she’d sue former employees if she had the money, and a lack of candidates for the position. Not only do I need to protect my business and myself, I’m already short-staffed and overwhelmed, so I can’t just walk her – I’m unable to take on any other roles at the moment.

That said, we switched to a new computer system this week, and one of the big pros is that it enables me to gather hard data on the job she’s doing. Before, it was done much more manually, and it was such a mess that all I knew was that she wasn’t doing a good job, but not how terrible it was. Every time I’d try to look at what she was doing, she’d say the Word or Excel file just disappeared on her, or she had created a duplicate that wasn’t shared, or she was doing it on paper, or or or. Since we don’t work in the same physical location, I was at a loss as to how to gather the evidence I needed when it just kept “disappearing.” Now, I have all that information at my fingertips – I was even able to ask today why nothing had been completed last week. Of course, another staff member was blamed for not doing her part of the job, but she couldn’t give me concrete examples (nor could I find any on my own investigation). I’m getting on the right track, but there’s still some ways to go.

3. My coworker keeps pressuring me to get pregnant

Unfortunately, as many commenters predicted, my coworker’s repulsive behavior did not get better, even after I was firm (nearly to the point of rudeness) with her intrusive and bizarre questions about my personal life. I also came to realize that this was merely one hellish facet of the most toxic workplace I have ever encountered, and six months in I began to look for something else. One thing I did not mention in the letter was that my coworker was also asking me to cover her work because she was a parent and needed more flexibility – all while continuously insulting me for being single and childless. It was Not Great to come to work for a long time, but because there are so few jobs in my field, I felt stuck.

I finally prepared to jump and had decided to leave with nothing lined up (shortly behind four other coworkers who also escaped) – but to my delight I found a great new job, in a great new city! With respectful coworkers! In the end, the woman obsessed with my reproductive choices was left with my workload and that of another employee she had also been inappropriate with. They still haven’t filled our jobs, months later. Thank you so much to you and everyone who commented – you all helped me to see that I didn’t need to put up with intrusive and inappropriate behavior.

4. Why do highly qualified people stay at dysfunctional companies? (first update here)

In retrospect, I wonder if Evil VP was actually evil, or if some senior people whipped each other up into a frenzy and it needlessly trickled down to the rest of the office. Evil VP is still here, but I don’t interact with his department, so I don’t know the lay of the land anymore.

Our office remains open, but we’re all still working from home. Only a handful of people go into the office at all. The office manager has tried a variety of incentives, but no one comes in – we’re not even sure if people will come to our holiday party. All this to say, it’ll be interesting to see what happens when our lease is up on the office space.

As for my own job – last time I wrote, I had just been reorganized to a new department. For awhile it was okay – I enjoyed the role more than my old one. But then I was assigned some very frustrating projects. I started dreading work. I was absolutely miserable for several months. I wasn’t making progress on any of my work, and my manager received his own promotion and couldn’t assist me. Luckily, a year and a half ago I applied for a new internal position on a team I really liked. I’m much much happier than I was before! I’m excelling in my new role. During my annual review, my manager rated me as Exceeding Expectations, which required a lot of extra work on her part. She also promoted me to a manager position. I’ve regained my confidence and am excited to see what the future brings.