my coworker keeps trying to undermine me — Ask a Manager Jobearn


I left a toxic job back in June, and accepted a higher-paying, higher-title job at a nonprofit organization I respect very much. The culture here is wonderful, my manager is fantastic, and, for the most part, so are my coworkers.

There is one coworker, though, who I’m having a tough time with, let’s call him James. We report to the same manager, and we are equal title-wise. He has been here for about three years. My position is new and I took over one of his main responsibilities, mostly because it fit well with my job. This task is mostly an internal service for staff, and many, many staffers experienced frequent issues with it. The software program was blamed as the culprit. A few of these issues occurred in my first few weeks, while I was transitioning into the lead, and I discovered that it was not the program at fault. The software log showed that James was clearly, undoubtedly making mistakes. I didn’t say anything at first since the issues were quickly resolved, and I was taking over the task anyway. However, I became irritated when James made a big scene out of every instance, dragging me to the staffer experiencing a problem and theatrically ranting about how terrible the software is. He would then follow me back to my office, still ranting over and over about the software.

My final straw was when James made yet another mistake in the program, and put on his usual theatrics when I caught it. I pulled our IT manager aside (he assists with some aspects of the task) and showed him the log. He immediately saw the problem and said he would talk to our manager about it. The next day, our manager informed James that I would be solely responsible for the task, took away his software admin privileges, and that was the end of it. There have been zero issues since I’ve taken over.

However, now it’s two months later and James cannot let this go. He will often come to my office to “remind” me of very basic task-related things, and when I ask if there’s a reason, he’ll say, “No, I’m just reminding you.” I avoid asking him any questions, because it inevitably leads to a condescending lecture that veers completely off-topic. I’m writing now because yesterday he pointed out something in the software that is so basic I could not even begin the task without knowing it. It would be like coming up to a typist and saying, “If you need a capital letter, hold the Shift key.” I looked at him and (admittedly curtly) said, “Right, I know. Obviously.”

I know I need to address this, but I am still new and I don’t want to come off as someone who makes mountains out of molehills. Also, I realize I have built up some resentment for James, and I want to make sure I’m staying completely professional. I notice that most of my coworkers seem to feel similarly about him; I’ve overheard conversations about his daily, loud personal phone calls, and his tendency to spend significant time “socializing” (really just bothering coworkers).

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