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Unstable coworker

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This topic contains 21 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by avatar ktfran 2 months, 3 weeks ago.

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  • #738617 Reply
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    BlackBear

    I’m a middle manager and, in addition to the branch I run, have an employee who is a dotted line report to me. Her manager is in a different city but heavily relies on me to manage her. We hired her half a year ago. When she first started, she struggled massively with the technology. I figured it was just a hurdle she would have to get over and then she would excel. I put HOURS of time into her teaching extremely basic things. My staff did as well and she still had to be shown again and again. A few months ago, she had a fit the minute my response began to change from “it’s okay to be new” to “you’re going to have to be able to do this independently, so take good notes.” Then she missed an insane amount of work because she had numerous tragedies and reasonable-sounding excuses…too many to seem credible. She can be charming when she wants and extremely manipulative. And her work was suffering. We put her on a PIP. Two weeks ago I asked a polite but direct question about what she was doing in a meeting—and she had a meltdown. Left work, called HR, missed the rest of the week due to “stress.” When she returned I worked with her but I had withdrawn some emotionally. She scares me with her volatility. Then we had a group meeting with HR in which she had excuses for everything, blamed others, and attacked my personality and twisted things so it held a kernal of truth but out of context. HR said later they are trying to give her a chance because of the drama going on in her personal life now. For once, she has been very productive since then. I’m afraid that they won’t fire her. She’s back to being the fake sweet that I never know when will bite me. I told my boss I didn’t want to be alone with her and have removed myself from any vestige of managing her—her real boss can do that now. I feel like her acid is still burning me. I’m kind of scared and kind of mad. Any thoughts?

    #738618 Reply
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    Kate
    Keymaster

    What happened to the terms of the PIP? Like, was it a 3-month PIP and she had to be performing to a certain standard by the three-month mark, and she’ll be out if she doesn’t? Or did they drop the PIP? Trying to gauge whether she’ll be gone soon…

    It sounds like she might have a personality disorder, or at the very least, she’s conniving in a way that, you’re right, could be dangerous to you. Did you submit this on askamanager.org? I would, I think you need some advice on how to protect yourself.

    #738621 Reply
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    BlackBear

    Thanks for your response and help, Kate. Her PIP is up March 1 if she hits all the performance-based terms. She historically hasn’t met any of these measures, but I do think she’s capable of it—they are sales measures—once she realizes that people aren’t giving her the benefit of the doubt anymore. They are not hard measures to reach for a normal person in her position. In some ways I’m more worried about the emotional instability part of it than the actual measures but HR says we can’t make it about that. My boss is reasonable—-supported this employee’s termination and told HR she thought she was a liability—-but I don’t know how much power she has in this situation. I’m thinking about going to my boss (who is also in a different city) and telling her I feel unsafe in my position and as a person if something isn’t done soon. Thoughts on that course of action? I’m hesitant because I try to be even-keeled at work and not a source of drama. And I don’t want this to be seen as ME becoming a problem child. Or for my emotions to overrun my common sense. I haven’t been perfect but I’ve poured so much into this employee. Part of it is fear because of her manipulation and part of it is anger because I feel kind of betrayed to have her turn on me so grotesquely when I’ve poured so much into her.

    Good point on Ask a Manager. I think they have open posts on Fridays, so I’ll post it then.

    #738623 Reply
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    Kate
    Keymaster

    “I’m thinking about going to my boss (who is also in a different city) and telling her I feel unsafe in my position and as a person if something isn’t done soon.”

    Nah, I wouldn’t. Your instincts are correct that you then become the problem child and source of drama. I would absolutely do a James Comey and document any interactions with her in contemporaneous notes. And avoid being alone with her. If your boss pushes it, you could say that based on her behavior, you’re concerned that she’s going to try to throw you under the bus to keep her job, but only if your boss forces the issue. It sounds like your boss has taken over the development stuff with this employee, which is good. I’d really just try to avoid being alone with her, and if you have to be, take notes on it right afterward.

    #738624 Reply
    juliecatharine
    Juliecatharine

    I second what Kate suggested. Askamanager.org is great for professional advice and the comments are generally helpful as well. I also wonder if it might be a good idea to start your own paper trail-email yourself a summary of what has taken place to date and then document anything concerning that happens with her. Hopefully you’ll never need it but it doesn’t hurt to have a record.

    #738671 Reply
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    LisforLeslie

    Agree with the others. Avoid being alone with her, document the crap out of any interactions. Both when she is volatile but also when she is asking questions that have been covered previously. If she is taking up work time because she can’t or won’t learn basics – that goes back to her PIP and performance.

    If you think she will throw you under the bus – then let your management know of your concerns. If you think that she will throw you under a bus, then you probably need to go to the police.

    #738704 Reply
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    Sunshine Brite

    What a poorly written PIP… clear what your company cares about. Performance improvement is about all areas of performance including teamwork and communication measures not just sales markers. Document, document, document.

    #738716 Reply
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    JD

    Feeling unsafe around her seems absurd to me. She found a way around the system to get away with minimal work…she didn’t threaten you.

    #738798 Reply
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    dinoceros
    Member

    You know her better than we do. But I have a co-worker who sounds similar — takes forever to learn things, not great at her job, charming. We got a new boss (who she already didn’t like) and she hated the boss because she actually made her follow rules (like not taking twice as many vacation days) and tried to address her many mistakes. She talked to everyone she could about the boss and would tell people she was being “harassed.” Our boss started documenting stuff because she could see her trying to get her for harassment or something. Anyway, she ended up in a different position with a different boss, who she liked better. The co-worker has basically left our old boss alone now because she’s not actively affecting her life and is not an obstacle anymore. She also wants to look like the “good” one, so I think she’s trying to look like she’s moved on.

    Anyway, all that’s to say that it’s possible that she’ll move her focus off you since you’re not supervising her anymore. Not disagreeing with any advice given, but just a potentially good outcome? That said, my co-worker never seemed dangerous, so maybe it’s different.

    #738963 Reply
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    brise

    Well, it sounds that it isn’t your problem anymore. It was a mistake of yours to put so much time in her formation. There must be a probation time when you assess the new employee’s performances. If you have to give maximal attention to a new coworker who doesn’t have the minimal required knowledge, you have to report it. If you are more senior in the hierarchy, you assess the person and complains if she under-performs, it is an information your managers need to have. It is always wrong to do too much without notifying it. But it is unclear to me (and to you, probably) if you are indeed more senior.
    Anyway, your reaction now seems irrational to me. Good if she at last starts working properly. Why do you speak of murder fantasies? Stop wasting more time on her case, don’t help her anymore. If you are asked questions about her, insist on the time and energy you had to put into her formation, as a compliment to your managerial sense of responsibility. Ignore her, be professional, don’t get lost on her personal “volatility” and focus on your own sales.
    By the way, I would be cautious about askamanager.com. I think they gave some terrible advice.

    #739001 Reply
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    Kate

    @Brise, to throw someone under the bus is an idiom. It’s something that happens all the time in business – someone throwing the blame on you when they messed up. You have to watch your back. Truly, you do. And when you’re responsible for executing on someone’s PIP, they actually can turn on you and do some damage if they’re conniving enough and know what they’re doing.

    #739068 Reply
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    brise

    Dear Kate,
    Ok, thank you!

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