is my trainer sabotaging my work?

A reader writes:

I recently switched departments in my mid-size nonprofit, and I feel a little insane. The woman who is training me for this new role has the same title I do and is my peer. She is very good at her job overall (it is a customer support position), but struggles with some basic administrative competencies such as computer literacy. She has told me last week that she feels intimidated by me and that she sees me in our supervisor’s role some day (I told her I was flattered and assured her that I respect her work and enjoy working together).

My concern is that I suspect that she changes details that I enter in our databases and spreadsheets. I am a gifted administrator, and the type of mistakes that she finds in shared documents and databases are not mistakes I would make (such as entering incorrect dates or forgetting to save changes). I have no idea why she (or anyone) would change or delete information, but I also do not think I am making mistakes that can be easily prevented by attention to detail.

When my coworker/trainer does find mistakes, she talks to me about them at length, explaining how important it is for me to follow her instructions exactly. Sometimes her instructions are intuitive (follow these steps in this order), and sometimes they are illogical (write down your notes by hand then transfer them to our department shared spreadsheet, or keep paper copies of documents that are available electronically). Sometimes her directions create more work, but I do what she asks for the sake of harmony. The mistakes she finds make me look incompetent.

I feel insane when she talks to me about mistakes. If this happened once a week, I might believe that I had simply made a mistake, but they happen every day. Frankly, this job is extremely easy compared to other admin roles I have had in the past, so the volume of mistakes I am confronted with by this one coworker is unbelievable.

The only motivation I can imagine for changing information I enter (and it is a stretch), is that she is concerned about her status on the team now that there are two people with her job title. I am not really sure if there is a way I can prove that I am not making the mistakes she finds, but I am concerned that my new supervisor does not trust my competency when my coworker presents evidence of my incompetence every day. I also have no idea how to talk about my suspicions without sounding nuts.

For the record, this coworker is really nice to me. We got along really well before I joined the department, and our conversations suggest that we still do get along well. Is it possible I am actually making a hundred little mistakes? Is it possible she is creating these mistakes? I would love to hear your take.

Well, I see three possibilities: you are indeed making more mistakes than you think, or she’s sabotaging you (if so, probably for the reasons you suspect), or there’s some technical thing going on, like you’re not saving things correctly or something else.

I do think it’s possible that you’re making more mistakes than you think you are. Especially in a new job and with a new system, it’s possible that things that would be normal muscle memory in your old job (like saving changes) aren’t yet second nature to you here. And who knows, maybe fields are in a different order than you’re used to and you’re entering information incorrectly at times. It’s possible.

So first, I’d try to be really open-minded about the possibility that that could be happening. Take the feedback seriously, scrutinize what you’re going that could be causing it, and take whatever steps you’d take if you had no reason to doubt the corrections.

But … I wonder if there’s a way to build in a check on both of you. For example, is there a way for you to make a copy of your work — such as by exporting a file of all the data entry and record changes you made that day? Or even a sampling of them? Can you save your own copies of documents locally? That way, when your coworker brings you mistakes that you made, you can check your own copy of your work and see if it matches up.

If it matches, well, problem solved — you make more mistakes than you think you do! You certainly wouldn’t be the only one; it’s not an uncommon thing.

But if it doesn’t match, then you know something’s going on. In that case, you could say this to your coworker: “I’m worried that something’s going on that’s causing my work to be saved incorrectly or get changed after I’m finishing with it. I made a local copy of this spreadsheet when I was done with it so that I could consult it for X purpose, and the error you found isn’t in my copy. Do you think I should talk to I.T. about this?” (And speaking of I.T., they may be able to see who last changed a record, which could be quite useful here.)

Or, depending on your sense of your coworker and your manager, it might make more sense at that point to go straight to your manager about what’s going on. If you did that, you could say: “I have an awkward situation that I’m hoping to get your advice on. Jane has been checking over my work and bringing a number of mistakes to me that seemed out of sync with what I remembered doing. I saved a few copies of my work locally so that I could compare them to her versions, and I’ve found that the mistakes she’s showing me aren’t in the versions I made. I can show you examples if you’d like and I imagine that I.T. could confirm what updates were made by me versus someone else, but I’m concerned that Jane may be adding these mistakes as some kind of training strategy or … well, I don’t know why else! But it concerns me that it may be reflecting on how you see my work, so I’d like to get to the bottom of it.”

Note that that’s not “Jane is sabotaging me!” It’s “this weird thing is happening and I want to make you aware of it and get your advice.” But even with that framing, ugh, it still has the potential for a lot of drama.

So if you think that just talking to Jane might be enough to solve it, I’d start there. (Of course, then you’d still have to worry about whether she’d find some other way to undermine you, so you’d want to keep your eyes wide open for that.)

{ 188 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. videogame Princess

    I like the idea of keeping a second copy. Just make sure it’s allowed in your company! This is so hard, though–it seems like it could go either way.

    Reply
    1. LizNYC

      If exporting isn’t allowed, maybe taking a simple screenshot would be OK. That way, it’s an image and would show most of the same info.

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        1. MoinMoin

          Save it, alongside the data bring up the folder window with the date/time modified details visible, then screenshot the entire screen/all screens with the computer date and time also visible (which should be pretty close to the modified time).

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          1. bibliovore

            I am of the screen shot advice. I had something very similar as a new employee and truly made me doubt my memory and skills.

            I started screenshotting my work and emailing it to myself for documentation.

            The other employee WAS changing the shared documents to create the impression that I was incompetent. I bought this to the attention of our supervisor.
            1. Am I doing this right? Procedures etc.
            2. This odd thing keeps happening- Cordelia says its the software.
            3. IT investigation. No problems there
            4. Lull in the action.
            5. Started again- screenshots emailed to me and filed
            6. Supervisor investigation.
            7. PIP
            8. Employee was not meeting expectations in this and other areas.
            9. Time for improvement
            10. Written warning
            11. Written Warning
            12. Separation of Employee- took 9 months from first discussion

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              1. Bibliovore

                Yes- sorry about the confusion. the saboteur was investigated and the conclusion was – yes, she was changing the documents at first it seemed that they were “mistakes” and then later it was a case that she was doing it on purpose- for some reason she thought she could get me fired. She had other issues with completing her work and blaming others for errors. Steps 6 through 12 were what happened after it was obvious that the situation was neither an IT glitch nor my own fault.

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                1. Bibliovore

                  yes she was fire. I am still there and enjoying my job immensely now that I am not always looking over my shoulder nor wondering what I should and should not be documenting. HR gave me very good guidance but it was a troubling situation.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian

              I’m confused on numbers 7 through 12. Who was put on the PIP and eventually separated: the saboteur or the victim?

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                1. olympiasepiriot

                  Double wow. I can’t imagine having enough time on my hands to even think of doing something like this (or enough vindictiveness).

            2. SophiaB

              I had to do this on Tuesday and it saved my arse this afternoon. Our scheduling software is hard to audit, and my boss had been deleting bookings. Fortunately, I took a screenshot and emailed it to another project manager under the guise of ‘here you go, just to show how pretty the schedule is now’.

              Lo and behold, the booking was gone this morning, and he sent an email straight to the big boss to say “‘Phia booked it and here is the proof.”

              Checkmate. It was lovely.

              Reply
        2. INTP

          Saving is definitely preferable if it’s allowed and possible, but a screenshot could still be valuable as a starting-off point for a conversation. “I’ve been trying to figure out how these mistakes are happening, because I consider myself detail-oriented. I took a screenshot of my work before saving yesterday, and it looks like some of the numbers were changed during or after the saving process. Could I show you what I’m doing to save the data again to see if you can point out what might be going wrong?” If she’s indeed changing the data afterwards, it sends a message that you’re onto her and have documentation, which is hopefully enough to make her stop. If she’s not, then you figure out what’s going wrong when you save the files.

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          1. Artemesia

            If someone is maliciously doing this, you don’t want to warn them because then they can come up with a new way to get you in trouble. If it is malicious then the data needs to be gathered and IT and/or management alerted (in the spirit of inquiry). That way if there is systematic sabotage it is on record.

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            1. Anderson

              YES! better to get rid of the saboteur once for all and for that it is important to gather as much information as possible to not give them a chance to come out as a victim or a someone who made a mistake once.

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    2. edj3

      It would be even better if you saved it as a PDF. That way you’ll have a time stamped copy of your work that can’t be revised without a whole lot of effort.

      Reply
  2. TechChick

    I’m already looking forward to any update on this.

    Depending on what kind of file system you use, you can often control version history as well. Dropbox and Box have this capability. You can see who and when the most recent version was added by.

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    1. Not me

      I’m also looking forward to an update!

      I feel like I make “Google, too” comments a lot, but you can also review who has edited a Google document or spreadsheet.

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      1. Honeybee

        I came to say this. SharePoint will tell you if someone is editing your documents behind you, if you turn on the feature.

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    2. Shannon

      I wonder if there is a way to see the version history of a file? I’ll post a link below this comment; I wonder if something like that would be feasible for the OP.

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      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        Actually, I just checked, and MS Excel has the same Track Changes feature that many people might know from MS Word. (I know that I use it all the time in Word, but I’ve never had occasion to use it in Excel.) This will let you know what changes were made when. I cannot recommend this highly enough, although if the trainer was technically competent they could probably just turn it off…but it sounds like that’s not the case anyway. A local copy couldn’t hurt either, though, just in case.

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        1. AMT

          That was my first thought as well. Most collaborative editing software (well, modern software, at least) has the ability to track changes by different users. The coworker’s technical incompetence might be her undoing — i.e. she might not know she’s being tracked or that it’s possible to pull up a file’s history.

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        2. Lore

          Excel’s track changes features are significantly inferior to Word’s, though–they only track the most recent revision to a cell (at least in Office 2007 for PC), and I’ve found in sharing documents with multiple users, the assignment of changes to the different users doesn’t always work consistently. Also, of course, unless you password-protect a given file, any user can accept or reject the tracked changes–and if you password-protect it, then all changes by all users will be tracked, which may or may not be desirable with a shared document that many people have reason to work in. The PDF is probably a safer bet.

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          1. The Cosmic Avenger

            Ah, good, someone who has used it! Well, it sounds like the trainer isn’t very technically adept. They probably wouldn’t know how to turn off Track Changes, and it also sounds like the OP is usually the only one who is expected to edit those documents. At least they’d know if it was them or not.

            IMO a locally saved file (assuming these files are on a network share) that is saved at the end of every training/editing session is probably their best bet, but Track Changes could provide additional information.

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            1. Honeybee

              The other problem with Track Changes is that you can easily see that the changes are being tracked, unless the OP set it to show “Final Markup.” and even then sometimes the document will go back to showing Simple Markup (or Original in Office 2013 and down) when you close and reopen. So the potential saboteur would know that changes were being tracked. And Office 2016 has made turning off and on track changes a lot easier (it’s a really big button on the Review tab).

              Reply
    3. Student

      Many of the suggested tools in this thread upload files to an offsite server that is not affiliated with your company. There are many, many document version-tracking tools that will do what you want without also uploading documents to offsite servers.

      Obviously I have no idea how sensitive the documents you are working on are, but if they are sensitive business or personal information, please don’t upload them to some other company just to track document changes. Once you upload them, you can never undo that.

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    4. Abby

      I about to mention this, too! If you don’t already have it, some sort of version control feature would be very important for tracking changes made to a file– and would also catch a saboteur red-handed if she was indeed planting mistakes after the fact.

      Reply
  3. Violetta

    What program are your spreadsheets in? I know in Excel you have feature called “version history” that might be helpful

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    1. Sadsack

      When I right click on an excel file, go to properties, then the details tab, it shows the user the file was last saved by and the last date and time saved.

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      1. Ops Analyst

        The only thing about this is that it’s not proof of anything. I automatically save documents because it’s a habit. If I was working in a shared document with someone it wouldn’t be unusual for me to save it before closing, even if I made no changes. We know the coworker had to open it to see the mistakes, so she could just claimed she saved it at that point.

        Though, it may help to confirm suspicions.

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    2. MM

      You can password protect sheets in Excel too. People can view them but cannot edit them (unless this is something the OPs colleague needs to be able to access and make edits to0.

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      1. Zillah

        But password protecting a company document is going to come off as really territorial and strange, which the OP should avoid doing.

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          1. Zillah

            Maybe, but again, there’s a big risk of the OP coming off as strange. Absent any other information, how would you see an employee who started saving copies of everything they did and password protecting them?

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            1. MM

              Perhaps it depends on the company, but it’s not that unusual to password protect documents. That’s the purpose of a password – to avoid making changes to a document. Changes can easily be accidental. I can’t count the number of times I’ve hit a key on my keyboard with the side of my hand or my elbow etc and accidentally changed/deleted a field. If the company had questions as to why the employee was doing this, there’s any number of reasons beyond simply being territorial.

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              1. Oryx

                Yup, we have password protected documents for information that only 1-2 people are able to change data but everyone can access the Read-Only copy. It saves instances where changing the data can have a domino effect across the whole document.

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                1. Zillah

                  Right, but I don’t think we’re talking about the same issue. Of course it’s not unusual for a company to password protect documents – however, it’s generally not something people still being trained in a role do proactively, particularly not if they also fail to share the password with the person training them – who does have a very legitimate cause to look at the spreadsheet.

                  Look, I don’t disagree with you guys in theory – yes, it often makes sense to restrict editing and access to people who actually need to edit/access the document. However, I’m concerned that some of this advice isn’t really taking the parameters of this specific situation into account.

        1. Ankh-Morpork

          You don’t have to password protect the entire sheet – you can do it to select columns, rows or cells. If there is one area of the sheet than only you are suppose to update – you can just protect those cells. I do it all the time to prevent the less excel-savvy people from mistakenly changing anything.

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            1. Ops Analyst

              I do this on a few worksheets where different people need to be able to enter information that pertains only to them but is applied to a formula that pertains to everyone.

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            2. vox de causa

              The way I do it is to go in and “unlock” the cells that everyone needs to use (in the order you want to be able to tab through them) and then protect the sheet. The cells that you left as locked will not be changeable unless someone has the password, so they will be limited to the unlocked cells.

              It’s helpful when you have some kind of calculator set up or a form where you want to limit which items are changed.

              Reply
          1. Zillah

            Presumably, though, that was a dysfunctional environment – many things done to preserve one’s sanity in a dysfunctional or toxic environment will come off strange in a healthier everywhere else, and even if the OP’s trainer is sabotaging her work, that doesn’t mean that the entire company is screwed up.

            I don’t see how someone still being trained in a role unilaterally deciding to password protect a company document and not give the person training them the password is going to come off as anything other than very strange. People who do sabotage other people thrive on making them come off as the irrational crazy ones, and if that trap is being laid, it’s important that the OP not fall into that trap.

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            1. JoJo

              I’d password protect the document, and if the issue came up, act sheepish and say, “Oh sorry about that, we had to password protect everything at oldjob, and I did it automatically.”

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              1. Zillah

                But her previous job was at this company, just in a different department – and presumably, they don’t password protect everything there.

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  4. BethRA

    Depending on your computers systems and database, it may also be possible to see who made the last changes to a record or document or both. Might be another way to monitor what’s happening.

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    1. Lily in NYC

      Yes! Screenshots are the way to go here. And lots of them. I was having issues with a shared spreadsheet not saving my changes and my boss was starting to get annoyed with me – then I started saving a separate copy and also making screenshots and boss finally realized it was a technical problem that had nothing to do with me.

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    2. NacSacJack

      Definitely take screen prints. That way you’re not saving a second copy. All-PrtScn, then Ctrl-V into a MS Word Document. I’d also take a screen print of the file datetimestamp. I wonder if that Properties technique will work for MS Word documents. I’m curious why she wants you to keep paper copies of documents available electronically. For that one, I’d ask. In this day and age I’d ask. It might be they don’t have backup. As for taking notes by hand, do you prefer to take notes via NotePad or OneNote? I didn’t do it for a very long time, but now I take notes almost exclusively by OneNote rather than by hand. OneNote make searches a lot easier.

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      1. Kyrielle

        Yes, I’d avoid saving a second copy if possible – first, if there’s a technical issue *with* saving, it won’t actually help you at all. And second, when I do a save-as I sometimes forget and update my saved-as document instead of the original. That’s not a risk you want. If you DO save off a copy of your own, make sure it has a name that isn’t the same as the document. So if you’re saving a local copy of “Important Document” today at noon, it could be “2015-Dec-16 12:00 Important Document” – but it shouldn’t lead with Important Document so the title bar/file listing can never be confusing. (Even then, I sometimes manage to update the wrong thing, so be very careful if you do this at all.)

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        1. Kyrielle

          Oh! And bear in mind that depending on the system and such, it’s possible that your trainer is messing you up *and* that it’s not sabotage. For example, you open the file and start edits. She opens the file (getting the previously-saved copy, not the edits you are now typing, of course) and starts editing in read-only mode (or possibly in normal mode if the software doesn’t check for the read-only flag).

          You save your changes. She finishes hers, saves them, and overwrites yours.

          Especially since she’s not used to computers, that could easily happen by mistake.

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          1. Erin

            Oooh good points here with both comments. Be careful when “saving as.”

            And yes I too was thinking it might be a combination of things. Like, out of the dozens of mistakes uncovered maybe you did make one or two of them. And maybe she is messing up, intentionally or not, in conjunction with a legitimate technical issue.

            As usual I do agree with Alison’s advice though to approach the situation NOT assuming deliberate sabotage. Even if after you try suggestions here you’re pretty sure it is, don’t frame it that when if/when you bring it to your manager.

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          2. irritable vowel

            Yeah, unless her demonstrated lack of computer literacy is part of her plan to sabotage you, I think it’s likely that something like this is happening. You mention specifically that computer literacy is an issue for her, and the problems are arising from data that appears to be changed after you entered it. Perhaps you could diplomatically explore that possibility with her.

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            1. fposte

              That’s my guess too. I would explore version control before raising the issue with the co-worker, preferably with the idea that I could propose a test sample to her in order to demonstrate the problem.

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          3. Cath in Canada

            If this is what’s happening, it might be possible to set up a system so that you get a warning when someone else has a file from the shared drive open. We have this at our place – when you try to open something that someone else is editing, you have the option to open as read-only, or to receive a notification when the other person closes the file from their computer and it’s available to edit again. We mostly use Office programmes though – not sure if it’s possible in other software.

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            1. Cath in Canada

              (side note – electronic sabotage/incompetence is so much easier to deal with than other kinds, because it leaves a trail! I used to work in a lab where many of us would find that an hour-long centrifuge run had mysteriously stopped after 20 minutes, or a temperature setting on a water bath had been mysteriously changed, thus delaying or even ruining an experiment. After we realised it was a pattern, we all identified the same probable suspect – an under-performing and actively antisocial person who also liked to sabotage meetings and conversations – but could never actually prove it).

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              1. TL -

                I know someone who set up cameras in the cell culture room to prove sabotage – and the culprit wasn’t fired (but the victim was allowed to change labs.)

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            2. Elizabeth West

              We have that too. I like it because sometimes it says who has it open and then I can email them if they had it open and forgot to close it because they got a phone call or something.

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          4. Ellie H.

            This is what I thought was happening too – that she has it open at the same time as you and is accidentally overriding your changes or it’s just getting screwed up from the interactions of each of your edits. It’s easy to do. I had such issues at my previous job, but we just had to keep asking each other to quit out of the document for a minute/be patient/whatever.

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        2. Elizabeth West

          Slightly off-topic, but after I updated a chapter in Rose’s Hostage and overwrote a bunch of work (gah!), I started working on my flash drive and always saving FROM the flash drive TO the computer. Never ever ever ever the other way round.

          If you needed to save something but didn’t want to accidentally do this, you could make a folder that you never touch except to back stuff up. Nothing comes out of the folder–it only goes in.

          Good point in your next comment about the overwriting–I can definitely see that happening.

          Reply
      2. Stranger than fiction

        We save paper copies of almost everything here, in this day and age, even though everything is saved and backed up on our servers. Upper Managmemt just loves to see everything printed for some odd reason.

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  5. Imperatrice

    If it does turn out that it is not you making errors, be sure you document any and every conversation you have with your trainer about errors, and any evidence you have in your favor. Just in case things get weird, you will want some record around what you talked about, especially if she really is crazy and switches tactics.

    One hates to assume the worst in people, but when it’s your livelihood on the line and they are acting bizarre – document, documeny, document.

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    1. Lily in NYC

      Yes, and I also think I would go straight to the manager instead of talking to the coworker first (if it ends up that Jane is changing OP’s work).

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      1. Mike C.

        Yeah, data integrity is a huge issue for me and if I found this happening I would document the hell out of it and drive it up the chain as far as I needed to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.

        Holy crap, the last time I dealt with something even close to this was an engineer who wanted to subvert the time-stamping mechanism on a system I was using. I read him the riot act right there in the meeting and he was almost fired that day.

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        1. Kyrielle

          I’d be careful of framing it as deliberate if there’s any chance it could be a mistake or technical error, though. The issue can be addressed, and if it turns out to be deliberate, that can be handled – but if it’s some kind of bizarre error, working conditions will be awkward if OP went in with deliberate-malfeasance guns blazing.

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            1. Lily in NYC

              True, and I think Alison gave a great roadmap of how to speak to the manager about it if it turns out the trainer was changing the data.

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          1. INTP

            Not to mention, it creates a very bad impression at a new job if you accuse other people of sabotage for your own mistakes. You would have no credibility after that. It’s best to just present the facts that you have – you entered the data correctly as evidenced by backup file/screenshot, and at some point between entering that data and Jane retrieving it the next day, it was changed.

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      2. Artemesia

        Me too. I think taking the position that you may be making the mistakes is a good stance to have in your own mind so you don’t make accusations and then find yourself the fool. If there is a tech glitch or she is undermining you though, having the screen shots and going to your boss with the problem gives you a chance to correct this without her further sabotaging you. If you talk to her first, she may be able to poison the well or cover her tracks. I hope it is a technical save issue or something and not sabotage because that will be no fun to deal with. But in the meantime — lots of screen shots when you finish each entry session.

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  6. Britt

    Can’t the OP just print a copy of the work and then compare the one with the mistakes to see if things have been altered?

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    1. TL -

      I think it’s more environmentally friendly to save a copy and also you can print without saving. A saved electronic copy implies she did save the document correctly.

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      1. fposte

        Though if so, a screenshot isn’t going to work either–some data just doesn’t compress well into other forms! I think in general, and especially in that case, investigating version control/metadata for whatever system you’re using is the place to start. And I’m guessing the OP hasn’t done that yet, since I think it would be mentioned if so; the upside to such an investigation is that those are valuable tools to know, regardless of why you’ve learned them.

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    2. Not me

      Depends on the work. This could be a good idea if it’s possible.

      OP might also save copies on a thumb drive, as another way to make copies that others can’t edit.

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      1. Zillah

        My only concern with that is that the OP could land themselves in hot water for putting company documents on their personal device, particularly if the information in them is supposed to be confidential.

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          1. Zillah

            A company device isn’t going to make much difference if the OP is still taking the materials somewhere where they shouldn’t go, and how would they ask for approval? What possible reason could she give?

            “Hi, Boss. I’d like to get approval to take our confidential documents home with me on a jump drive. Why? Oh, because I think Cersei might be changing my work behind my back, so I want to make sure I have a copy that she can’t access.” If the OP is going to say that, they might as well just tell their boss about their suspicions.

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            1. AMG

              Yes, I suppose that could happen. I am thinking of my office and others in which I have worked where ordering a jump drive would be no big deal–Just like ordering pens or other office supplies.

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              1. Zillah

                Yeah, I may well be misreading the OP’s situation – it’s entirely possible that they can just bring the document home on a jump drive without it being a big deal, and if that’s the case, great. It just seems to me like someone new to the department and still being trained isn’t likely to be in that position.

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    3. sam

      Our outside customer service reps are actually contractually and technically prohibited from doing many, if not all, of the solutions outlined here (printing, screenshotting, saving docs, etc.) because they have access to senstive customer data. They even have to leave their cellphones and stuff outside of the workspace. So OP should be sure she’s actually allowed to do any of these things before going down these roads – even if she’s right about the sabotage, putting customer data on a thumb drive would be considered a significant privacy breach and likely result in termination.

      So OP – check first what the rules are – even if your company hasn’t technically locked this stuff down, it may still not be OK. If it is OK, then screen shot away!

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      1. Jenna

        IT might still be able to help in this situation, though. When I worked at a company very like that with tons of confidential information, everyone had their own logins and all changes were tracked with the login information attached. People messing with information that they shouldn’t was a fast way to get fired and escorted out by security. We were always told never, EVER to share our login information, to log out or lock the screen on the computers if we had to step away for any reason, and we had yearly training in keeping information confidential.

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  7. KitKat

    If your coworker really is making these changes, the “threat” (for lack of a better term) of going to I.T. to find out what’s going on will probably make the changes stop happening. If she truly is less than great with a computer, she probably won’t know what they can and can’t do (All hail the magic tech gods!). Then, if the mistakes suddenly stop, you have your answer, and could still play it off like “Oh, I.T. must have fixed it!” if you want. I’d still save local copies, just in case, but this may be the path of least drama.

    Reply
  8. Mike C.

    If you found evidence of tampering, why go to the coworker over a manager? The idea that “files aren’t saving properly” or “the data is being skewed by accident” sounds like someone claiming that all the porn on their work computer was “the result of a virus”.

    I mean yeah, verify the hell out of this but if you can substantiate the claim that someone is going in and altering things (Get Info/Properties will tell when a file was last accessed/changed and if you have logins to computers which user did it) but I’m really, really suspicious of this coworker.

    Reply
    1. BRR

      Yeah, if I could show my coworker edited my documents to make it look like I made mistakes I’m not going to them. They might change it back. It’s a pretty big issue if somebody is purposefully generating mistakes.

      Reply
    2. Fleur

      +1. If the changes are deliberate and you can prove it, go to IT/Management. Telling the trainer just lets her know she’s been caught, so she can try other shady stuff that’s harder to catch.

      Reply
    3. A Non

      Yeah, but as mentioned above it’s possible that the trainer’s lack of tech savvy is causing problems that neither of them have figured out yet. IME, this is way more common than actual sabotage, especially if it’s proprietary software rather than, say, Word. That stuff can have the strangest bugs. It might be worth discussing with someone else in the office who’s familiar with the software if that’s the case – there may be a known problem that the trainer doesn’t understand.

      Reply
      1. HR Pro

        I totally agree with A Non. I’ve seen very frustrating things like this happen, especially with proprietary software, but also with systems that are in the cloud (only accessible by internet).

        Another possibility is that there is a version control issue — perhaps the trainer is accidentally saving the wrong version. This can happen, for example, if you open the document two versions of the document at the same time, and then rename one of them, but accidentally enter your work into the other one. I’ve seen my boss do it and she’s pretty good with technology.

        Reply
        1. Chinook

          “I’ve seen very frustrating things like this happen, especially with proprietary software, but also with systems that are in the cloud (only accessible by internet). ”

          Dropbox has this issue. Someone who is computer savvy accidentally deleted our groups photographs and we didn’t realize it until 6 months later (you can only go back 30 days in the archive). We started investigating and discovered some other technical quirks with Dropbox and discovered that we all thought we were individually going crazy because we could have sworn we had saved something that was no longer there. I have since turned on change notifications so I can monitor if anything gets deleted and verify that things I know should have been saved there actually made it there.

          Reply
  9. BRR

    I would remember to be open minded but also investigate the possibility of sabotage. See if you can check who made the last edits. Save a copy of your work. If you can, lock the documents from editing. I like Erin’s suggestion of screenshots.

    Also if you’re using one-drive, I have had it many times not save the latest version of my document.

    Reply
    1. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)

      ONE DRIVE IS THE WORST. I had it literally like, eat a document. I found it in a different folder with no name and I 100% know I didn’t put it there(i’m willing to admit 99% of my tech challenges are user-error). My coworker finally found it in one of her files and was really confused how my grant proposal ended up in her file.

      Reply
  10. Not me

    Save backups when you can, especially if you can copy/paste easily in another program. And take screenshots.

    One thing stands out to me: This coworker already insists on keeping multiple copies of documents. It actually looks like she knows something’s up, advising you to “write down your notes by hand then transfer them to our department shared spreadsheet, or keep paper copies of documents that are available electronically.” Could you ask her why she recommends this?

    Reply
    1. Liz L

      Keeping paper copies of everything is something that a few of my older coworkers used to do because they “didn’t trust the computer/system.” I saw deforestation and extinct species every time they ran the printer at the end of the day.

      Reply
      1. SL #2

        The person that I replaced did this… my boss got sick of all the printing after so many years of it and one of my first long-term projects was to get us “off paper.”

        Reply
        1. Chinook

          “The person that I replaced did this… my boss got sick of all the printing after so many years of it and one of my first long-term projects was to get us “off paper.””

          My boss is slowly doing this. I think part of the process is teaching them to print to PDF so they can save it in their backup folder. Atleast then they can still print a backup without killing off trees.

          Reply
          1. SL #2

            Our plan is actually already done and implemented! We’re on a cloud-based system now, everything neatly sorted and labeled, we can work remotely (we travel quite a bit and not having access to the shared drive was a HUGE problem before), collaborate on documents, and we’re printing much less. My boss raves at least once a week about the ease of use and how easy I made the transition for everyone.

            Reply
      2. Chinook

        “Keeping paper copies of everything is something that a few of my older coworkers used to do because they “didn’t trust the computer/system.” ”

        In their defense, I actually worked in a paperless office (they designed scanners, so they wanted to prove the theory) and fully believe in the concept, even I have had to revert to copying stuff into a paper version in my current office because stuff does go missing somewhere in the pipeline and, if I can’t prove that I sent an invoice to A/P with a copy of the invoice and the date stamp from the copier (I love this function), I am the one who gets thrown under the bus for the non-payment of said invoice. I hate that I have a 5 binders full of copies of invoices for the past 12 months but I access them enough that I can’t justify going 100% paperless.

        Plus, I only trust our new paperless database that I helped design with a programmer, 99% because I know that, as long as there are humans involved, stuff will happen. I always record things in new programs elsewhere (for twice the workload) until I have atleast 6 months of proof that computer doesn’t have a bug in it that will cause it to randomly eat the data or allow a user to wipe out all my hard work.

        Reply
      3. Cath in Canada

        At my last job I inherited a large filing cabinet stuffed full of folders, each one relating to a specific grant application. Upon investigation, most of the paper in each folder was printed-out stacks of every email about each grant, including chains like “ready to submit” – “submitted” – “thanks” – “you’re welcome”, plus multiple versions of every component of each application. After I recycled everything that already had electronic back-ups, I was down to using half of one shelf of the five shelf cabinet.

        Reply
        1. Liz L

          Oh, I totally get that you need to print things out that way. But the people I was talking about were paranoid that the entire national system would crash and they’d be left without backups. So, day after day, they’d print out every single piece of correspondence and just kill papers and printers. And these were highly functioning and educated people. It was the oddest thing.

          Reply
    2. Sasha Mulberry

      Yeah, this sounds less than efficient. She is either not tech-savvy enough to see how inefficient it is, trying to sabotage you or getting confused as to which copy of the file is which/hers/yours.

      Reply
      1. Meg Murry

        Or she has lived through “oh the server crashed and we lost all the data from the last week.”

        I’ve worked places where I thought keeping paper copies was ridiculous. Until the time about once a year when something terribly, horribly awful went wrong and the paper copies saved our butts. It’s possible OP’s coworker has been there, seen this and that’s why she’s suggesting keeping the paper copies just in case.

        Or maybe co-worker saw similar issues with dates being changed behind the scenes as well, adn that’s why she keeps paper copies, to prove it was the system not her.

        Reply
      2. Not me

        Yeah. I think what you’ve suggested is most likely, but it’s also possible she’s heard of OP’s problem before.

        Something like that happened to me, and our ~*mystery*~ was never solved, but at least I found out I wasn’t the only one when I asked around.

        Reply
  11. AMG

    The only thing I would do differently is that I would tell the manager or Jane, ‘it looks like someone could be changing my work’ instead of pinning it on her right away. There’s no need to specify who–that will come out and probably be pretty obvious, especially if IT does indeed tell you who changed the doc last.

    Please give us an update–I’m really curious about this!

    Reply
    1. Apollo Warbucks

      I like that idea, it keeps things from getting too adversarial too fast and there’s less risk of misdirecting and accusation.

      Reply
  12. majigail

    Most of the nonprofit gift tracking software that you’re talking about has an area somewhere on the donor screen where it notes who made the last change to the file. Heck, eTapestry even has an area where the admin can go in and see what users made what changes to each file. I’d poke around and find that in your software. That will give you a definitive printable answer.

    Reply
    1. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)

      If she’s in eTapestry it’s also entirely possible she *is forgetting to save since they have the awkward ‘Save &’ that people using the database for the first time struggle with. I’m so curious to find out what the answer to this is!

      Reply
  13. Juni

    If you’re working in Raiser’s Edge, there is a “last changed by” hidden field that you can Query on. It will show you last changed by user, and date last changed.

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth West

      Aaaaahh Raiser’s Edge!

      We had problems with people messing up in an RE database at a former job–they kept breaking links and it took ages to fix everything. So we ended up restricting access to just my team (three people) and one person in the money department. My boss was on the phone to Blackbaud support nearly every day for a while.

      I scream when I hear that name because I am traumatized, LOL.

      Reply
  14. Ruth (UK)

    Take screen shots of as much as you can feasibly save for yourself without it really impacting too much on your work rate. Compare the data she says you did wrong. Then at least you’ll know if it’s getting changed. If it is you can talk to your manager.

    I have done with before with an online schedule at a retail job. After apparently turning up for the wrong shift time several times within a short space of time I suspected they were changing it at the last min without telling me. I took pictures of the schedule at 10pm the night before my shifts after that. They said I had taken a pic of the wrong one so I started making sure the date and time of the computer also showed in the pic and proved I had been right – they were bring changed. Make sure you get the computer date and time in your screenshots.

    Reply
    1. JB (not at Houston)

      I have a coworker who is known for having sabotaged almost all of her team coworkers over the years. It definitely does happen. But I agree with all the other commenters that you should make sure that’s what’s going on, and that it’s not you or a technical issue before you say anything.

      Reply
      1. Malory Janis Ian

        It blows my mind that a known saboteur has been allowed to stay at her job “over the years”. What do the bosses say to the sabotaged coworkers about keeping this person around: “Oh, a little sabotage never hurt anyone”?

        Reply
        1. JB (not at Houston)

          It blows my mind, too! But she is good at her job, has been here a long time, is quite close with and relied upon by her boss, and that whole group is considered strange. Whenever something odd happens with one of the people in that group, the rest of us just shrug like, “welp, what did we expect?” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          Luckily, we work in relatively self-contained work groups, so there isn’t too much spilling out onto other groups. The rest of us just avoid having too much interaction with her. The higher ups mostly have an “as long as it doesn’t affect my department” attitude toward other departments, and nobody here does any kind of real management. They want the work to be done well and efficiently, and they don’t want to hear any complaints, and that’s about all that they manage for.

          It’s a weird place to work, but definitely not the strangest place I’ve worked at. The legal world is a strange place full of strange people.

          Reply
        2. Chinook

          “What do the bosses say to the sabotaged coworkers about keeping this person around: “Oh, a little sabotage never hurt anyone”?”

          Companies only fire the bad saboteurs. The good ones get to keep their job because they know how not to get caught.

          Reply
    2. Kelly L.

      Yep, I had this happen in food service, and it was long enough ago that I couldn’t prove it with a phone pic. But I’m 102% sure I was right.

      Reply
  15. TL -

    Are you double-checking your work by saving, closing, and then reopening the files? It might be worth doing that, to see if maybe your changes aren’t saving or if it’s reverting to an older version or if you notice a consistent mistake – like the dates in cell J5 are always changed when you save by keyboard shortcut.

    Doing this as well as keeping separate versions/screenshots/ect… as suggested here can be helpful; the extra copies will allow you to double-check your work exactly when you re-open a saved file.

    Reply
    1. MoinMoin

      Good point, or save and close and immediately open on another computer to make sure the trainer isn’t viewing via another version that’s causing the problem.
      Or in the same vein, save and close and immediately go to her desk and have her check your work with you sitting there going through it with her. If they’re valid mistakes, you come across serious in improving and if this time is the first time everything is perfect, it may be a good indicator of something going awry.
      Maybe make sure she’ll have some time for you (whether you tell her exactly why or not is up to you) to make sure she doesn’t say she’s busy and will check it later when you don’t have a chance to sit with her.

      Reply
      1. Nobody

        This is a really good idea, especially if, for whatever reason, it’s not possible to use some of the other suggestions like saving your own copy or taking a screenshot. It would also be a clue that something is up if she resists checking your work in front of you without having time to open it ahead of time.

        Reply
  16. Hermione

    In addition to the recommendations about screenshotting/saving a local copy, I would also temporarily implement a habit of saving my work, closing out of it, and then reopening the program fresh to double check that the changes I think I made actually happened. If it’s saving problem, you might be able catch it before she does, and bring it to IT’s attention.

    Reply
    1. Mallory Janis Ian

      This is what I was going to recommend. Be very scrupulous for a while about saving, closing, and reopening a fresh copy of the work.

      I’d also track all the measures you take to get to the bottom of the problem. I did that at my last job where my boss wanted me to find an account billing error that had happened before I started working there. I couldn’t find any evidence that the transaction she was looking for had ever been recorded anywhere, and she would not me when I told her that. So I did an extremely thorough, step-by-step search and wrote down each and every step that I took and the result thereof. Once I was able to show her written evidence of an incredibly thorough search, the boss finally had to admit that she had made a mistake in not ever having recorded the transaction. Up until then, she had insisted that she would never make such a mistake and that I must be doing a sorry job of looking for it.

      Reply
  17. Ann

    I like the idea of keeping copies. if nothing else it will help you to pinpoint at what stage the mistakes are being made. Speaking from personal experience, I’d want to be absolutely certain that it wasn’t me making the mistakes before taking this anywhere. When moving to my current position I discovered that I was making mistakes that I never would have believed if I hadn’t actually seen it for myself. A big contributor to my problem was the computer program. It had an unusual default for saving data and often didn’t save my work like I thought it should have. It actually was me making the mistakes – not saving my work properly – but until I could pinpoint when the errors were happening it was very difficult see how.

    Reply
  18. JennyFair

    I once had a 6-week temp job at a garbage collection company. I was mostly a receptionist but one of my duties was to open all the mail, which was mostly payments, and make two piles: checks in one, pay stubs in the other. Then I would go through and tally each pile, and ensure that the totals matched, and once that was done, I’d give them to the bookkeeper. I’m an extremely efficient person, and quickly developed a system for getting this done, plus there was the tallying that checked results, right? But over and over, the bookkeeper would claim that a check was missing, and after making a big deal out of it, she’d ‘find’ the check in my recycling bin. I might have believed it once, but there was no way this would happen without my catching it. Either there’d need to be an envelope (the thing that actually went in the recycle bin) in the stack of checks, or the tallies wouldn’t match, etc. But no, it was just missing checks. I finally realized she thought I was out for her job or something–which would *never* happen, the office was full of backstabbing people, and the office manager was married to the trucks foreman, and they had their marital disagreements, which were loud, IN the office. It was an extremely uncomfortable environment. On my last day, the CEO asked me into his office, and said he wanted an outsider’s view of how things were run. I gave it to him! All this to say that I can totally believe something like this happening to you, OP. Hang in there :)

    Reply
      1. JennyFair

        I have often wondered, too! I moved away just after that job, and didn’t have any desire to stay in touch with anyone there.

        Reply
    1. Elizabeth West

      Gah, that sounds awful. I wonder if the CEO did anything about all that crap.

      I suspected something like this at Exjob, but I don’t think it was deliberate. I had to match payment checks to vendor invoices, and when I was on the PIP, I was told in no uncertain terms I was not allowed to make any mistakes. A couple of times, I’d be matching and couldn’t find an invoice. My boss would say, “I know the invoice was in there. I put it in myself.” Well, that was my cue to search the other folders, and sure enough it was usually misfiled. This happened often enough (even before the PIP) that I suspected he was just careless about sticking it in the drawer any old way. Because when I filed them, I did it alphabetically and kept all invoices from one particular company together within the alpha file. So I think he would take it out for some reason and then just jam it back in.

      Reply
    2. Taylor

      Something similar happened with me. I had an incredibly important teapot to send to our biggest customer, and it went missing. I searched high and low in the entire office and warehouse and asked everyone down to the receptionist if anyone had seen this. I couldn’t find it, missed FedEx cutoff time, and as a result we lost the 6-figure order. My boss bitched me out terribly (yelling/screaming etc). I KNEW I hadn’t misplaced this teapot, so I stayed late to deep-search the building again.

      One of our workers who barely spoke English nervously told me So-And-So had been rustling under a table in the very very back–sure enough, I found the missing teapot stashed underneath a dusty table in the back of our warehouse, inside a box with other teapots dating back 5+ years. This So-And-So person had snagged my teapot and hidden it intentionally.

      She was “special” with the CEO and owners so I had nothing. No idea why she was “out to get me,” but all I could do was keep everything within my eyesight the rest of my time there. People are crazy and ruthless!!

      Reply
  19. Brett

    Kyrielle mentioned the idea of versioning with her discussion of “read-only issues in Excel.

    Versioning is basically what happens when two users work on the same document or database at the same time. The most obvious effects are when both people edit and save the same record. The less obvious effect is that editing different records simultaneously can result in one set of edits being completely or partially reverted!

    Since your co-worker previously worked by herself, this issue would not have come up before and she would be totally aware of versioning problems. Versioning problems are also difficult to debug and track down, even with software that handles and tracks it well. Sometimes default settings make the problem worse too. A versioning issue would mean that you are both damaging each other’s work without anyone doing anything on purpose. It would also likely take the assistance of IT and maybe tech support from your software vendor to resolve the issue.

    If _both_ of you are seeing an uptick in errors, a versioning problem is likely. If only you and not your co-worker are seeing the uptick, it is less likely but still possible. Her procedures might just happen to result in more of your changes and less or no of her changes being reverted, e.g. if she is transferring from paper then her changes are being saved last and reverting yours that were entered sooner. Ironically, this means as you adopt more of her procedures she will have more “errors”. (It could also be that both of you are having more errors and she is just blaming them all on you because you are the new element in the procedure.)

    Reply
    1. Brett

      “she would be totally _unaware_ of versioning problems”
      Also, I should make it more clear that versioning is not just an issue of which version of a document, but an issue of which “state” of the complete set of records is saved. As you make changes, you are introducing a series of “states” that diverge from the original state of the document when you open it. Your co-worker is doing the same thing. When you both save, the software will try to reconcile the last state in each of your series of changes, and this can result in the software accepting all of only one user’s end state, or truncating off part of one user’s series of edits (reverting to an earlier state, but not reverting _all_ of that user’s edits), or in trying to do “conflict resolution” and integrating edits from both users’ sets of states using a set of rules to decide what state to use when the edits conflict.
      Imagine if these rules were set so that conflicts were resolved with “Always accept the edits of user A over user B when there is a conflict”! It would look like user B is making tons of mistakes and user A is making none.

      Reply
      1. the_scientist

        Versioning issues with the Microsoft office suite are a damn nightmare, and I have so been there, done that. But I have also been on the receiving end of a sabotage attempt by a co-worker so I know that it can and does happen. I think the OP’s received a lot of good advice here and I hope to get an update on this one!

        Reply
  20. Mockingjay

    I echo fposte’s advice to look at the system’s version controls.

    Also, have you considered user permissions? Most databases are set up with user, admin, and read-only permissions. Your user account may not grant you sufficient level of access.

    Reply
    1. A Non

      If it were a user permission problem, the behavior would be consistent – it’d be the same field having problems every time, or she wouldn’t be able to edit it at all, or something of that nature. This sounds more like an issue arising from the record being open by both her and the trainer at the same time, and the trainer’s version is the one that ultimately gets saved.

      Reply
  21. Bunny Purler

    This reminds me of something which has made me feel very uneasy for years. At Old Job, I worked in an extremely dysfunctional environment. I had a colleague who had a serious chronic illness. Two of my other colleagues didn’t believe that she was actually ill, and hounded her repeatedly, complaining to our manager about her performance and her sick leave. She went through a phase of being unable to find anything on our team shared drive (this was years ago, so nothing like Dropbox or Google Drive existed then and we wouldn’t have been allowed to use them if they had existed). Our shared drive was pretty well organised, but we all had access to it and could drag and drop files around. She would do a chunk of work on one of the documents, save it, then when she went back to find it, it would have disappeared. She would get into a panic, become very stressed, try to find it but to no avail, then after a little while, one of the others would look for it and it would be there. Our colleague got a reputation for being really disorganised, and didn’t want to talk to our IT department about it because she thought that it would reflect badly on her efficiency. I had always suspected that it was a concerted attempt at gaslighting by my other colleagues, designed to freak her out so that she would leave, but I couldn’t prove it. It was a nasty place.

    Reply
    1. Cath in Canada

      Oh, how horrible :(

      We just had someone set up a system for our shared drive that tracks any changes in folder structure, including deletions, additions, and moves. This was in response to a couple of accidental drag&drop incidents that made it hard to find files. Our manager checks the change report every week, I believe. If anyone reading this is having the same problem, this might help!

      Reply
  22. Observer

    I haven’t read the comments yet, but I do have two quick suggestions:

    Log your work. Keep a specific list of when you did what, and close the spreadsheets after you do something rather than leaving it up. This way if your IT department has file logging on, you can see when the file was changed and possibly who opened it. I hope you won’t need it, but if your co-worker is pulling something, this could help to prove it.

    Screen shots of your work. Take screen grabs and either print them or save them locally to your hard drive.

    Reply
  23. Dasha

    Unfortunately, sometimes backstabbing does happen. I would say the best thing to do would be to save a separate copy after you’re done but as some other commenters have mentioned that might not always be possible due to privacy, restrictions, etc. If that’s the case, I would keep a log of what I changed and when, (IE 11:00 AM opened File_Name and did data entry) and then check the file to see when it was last modified if the co-worker brings up any errors. If you have an IT department I would get them to check it out too.

    Come back and let us know what happens, OP!

    Reply
  24. J-nonymous

    OP – before you took on this role, was the work (that you and the trainer now do as a team) handled by more than one person? I ask because it is possible that working in shared databases and worksheets (particularly if they are held as standalone files) may be working against you (and your organization!).

    There are frequent issues in working on shared files if they aren’t managed in a way that allows for concurrent usage. Even if the work responsibilities were shared prior to this, if specific files weren’t used concurrently these issues may not have arisen.

    Reply
  25. Cynthia R

    I cam in the second that in Google Docs, you can see exactly what revisions were made and by who.

    I worked on a major Excel grid for a project one time and we were having bizarre versioning issues. It turned out that the problem has to do with turning filtering on or off and sorting, while other people were using it. That caused some mind-boggling versioning issues that made us all think we were going crazy until we figured it out.

    Reply
  26. Sof

    It’s not exactly the same, but a coworker and I were in a similar situation when she first started working for us. I am senior to her, but only slightly, and I provided her with training when she joined our team. I put out a weekly newsletter with a roundup of links, and her job was to round up a certain category of links for the weekly mailing and insert them into out newsletter format. Every once in a while, one would be an imperfect fit for the mailing, so I’d remove it and often tell her why to give her some feedback for the next week.

    Once or twice, she asked very pointedly after the newsletter had gone out if I could provide some rationale for why I didn’t include certain links she had provided – but I didn’t remember ever seeing them, much less removing them. It turned out that when we were both using the email service at the same time, things didn’t save very reliably. After we sorted that out, she started sending me screenshots of her section when it was finished so that I could ensure that it was the same version I had. It’s worked out well for us – I hope you find the solution you’re looking for!

    Reply
    1. ZuKeeper

      I used to work in a print shop where I would have one company email me files to print their newsletter. It would come to me sometimes with weird blank spaces, old info or odd formatting (I cannot tell you how much I HATE Microsoft software because of this. Word, Publisher, Excel, etc, they all tend to have weird formatting issues if the person opening them on the other end doesn’t have the exact same software version running). After printing one run just as it looked and having them freak out, I started pdf-ing everything they would send me and sending it back to them with, “This is what we see. This is how it will look printed. Does everything look good to you?” And 9 times out of 10 they would send me a new file and we’d go through the proofing process once again.

      I would guess that OP and her coworker have the same software version, but sometimes it really is as simple as coworker has had her computer updated to the newest versions, while the other people haven’t. It happens if older computers are slowly being replaced with newer ones.

      For those saying to check the history, what if co-worker is changing stuff, and is savvy enough to do it from OP’s computer? Time stamps would show, but it would still look as though OP made the changes. OP, if you aren’t locking your computer when you are away from it, now might be a good time to start.

      Reply
  27. Rachael

    I haven’t had trainors sabatoge me, persay. However, I have had them say “we forgot to do this” or “you missed that step” when they themselves just never told me. This has happened at the beginning of the training when I am just sitting with them and have not direct imput to the transactions and also when I’m a fledgling and following procedures to the letter.

    It really irritates me when trainers do not take responsibility or accountability of their mistakes while training. It made me look like I was the dumb trainee making mistakes when (1) I didn’t even do the transaction AND (2) I was following procedures and can’t do something I was never told.

    All in all, I’ve found that most places have horrible training periods that can be remediated by having air tight procedures that the TRAINER follows in order to make sure that the trainee learns everything correctly.

    As a trainer I know all too well how easy it is to make mistakes, but I always took responsilbity until it was time for them to “fly” on their own. If they made a mistake that was the result of incorrect procedures I always took the “error spotlight” off them.

    Being trained is such a nerve wracking time because you are only as good as your trainer. Hopefully the OP’s trainer is throughout and is following through on remediation. (hopefully, she is not changing the data. If she is, I would hope she is fired).

    Reply
      1. Serin

        We’re all responsible for maintaining procedure documents on all our work, and things change so fast that my procedure document is mostly printed pages with “LOL Not Any More” written on them in blue ballpoint.

        Reply
      2. Tau

        I have had so much of this in my job and it drives me batty. “Why are you doing X? No one does X.” “So… why does this tutorial you asked me to look at tell me to do X, then…?”

        Reply
      3. Lindsay J

        That’s one of the things I enjoy about my current job.

        If I run into these situations I can ask, “Have you requested an update to the GPM to reflect that?” and pretty much go, “Okay, well until the update is approved I’ll be doing it the way the GPM says.” And if I get any pushback escalate up the chain as needed and I’ll pretty quickly hit someone who takes it seriously.

        Reply
  28. Nicole

    This probably isn’t feasible in all instances, but I’d also use software to take screenshots here and there. That way someone can’t accuse you of changing your copy of the files to support your position. But that’s just me and my paranoia.

    Reply
  29. Np

    I had the misfortune to work with two separate people at two separate companies who did this to me. Both were intimidated by me and sabotaged my work. The one I was able to prove and she was fired. The other was a mess in general and terrified that I was going to take her job. After she showed up to work intixicated after a lunch out and was fired, so I did end up taking her job.

    Reply
  30. Jessie

    I definitely agree that the “hey, I think there’s something wrong with how things are getting saved” approach. Deliberately changing your work to make you look bad is a huge issue, but dealing with it without causing drama can be difficult.

    An example from my experience:

    I was in a situation where certain tasks needed to be closed out within a specific timeframe and they were tracked as metrics. There was a small error in something I had sent up, but the admin had taken over a month to kick and back for me to fix. Two days after she sent it back down management started asking about the status and she forwarded them the aforementioned email traffic … only the date on the email she had sent me had been changed to be three weeks prior (it was in Microsoft outlook, so doing so only required changing the text of the forwarded email traffic.) I thought this was a very dishonest thing to do and I confronted said admin about it. At first she tried to insist that that was when she’d sent the email, and when I pointed out the fact that the actual email was time-stamped in my inbox, she got really upset and tried to claim it must have just been a mistake.

    What ended up happening is that I looked bad for confronting her about a “silly mistake” and making her cry. So I think a better action on my part would have been to simply replied to everyone and said “oh, I think you forwarded the wrong email traffic, here’s the correct one”.

    Reply
    1. Mike C.

      Why did you look bad for point out that someone had forged a time-stamp? The fact that she start crying like a child for getting caught is on her, not you.

      Reply
  31. Nom d' Pixel

    We have some outdated computers in our department that can get a bit glitchy. If I am working on one, I always do multiple saves as I am working on a document, and if something is important, I close the document and reopen it to make sure that it was properly saved. You can also run checksums on documents to see when they were last modified.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous Educator

      I’ve worked with several databases, and a couple of them have been very glitchy where you have to save twice or save, go into a different record, come back, and save again. I’m not kidding! That said, if the program is glitchy that way, you would hope the person training you would say so and not just watch you fail…

      Reply
  32. The Cosmic Avenger

    All this speculation is moot…as I pointed out in an earlier comment, Track Changes is available in Excel, the OP can just turn it on, and the document will save what was changed, by whom, and when!

    Reply
  33. bopper

    Also you can just look in file manager when the last time the document was updated…you could screen shot that and then later look if it changes.

    Reply
  34. Nom d' Pixel

    I have to second Alison’s recommendation to be very sure that you are not making more mistakes than you realize. We recently had an employee who had somehow skated through life without being accountable for anything (the only hypothesis I have for someone who would throw his garbage on the floor and expect someone else to pick it up). We have a detailed, extensive training period and the employee was making numerous mistakes. He accused his first trainer of sabotage, claiming that the guy wanted his job. The trainer had never had an issue with anyone else and had expressed frustration to me and our director that the training wasn’t going well and the new employee couldn’t keep up with the typical schedule.

    I was his direct supervisor, so I was tasked with his training, even though I don’t have much training experience. Within the first 30 minutes, I saw just how slow and sloppy the guy was. Then he accused me of sabotage for reasons that were never made clear.

    I am not saying that this is the case with the OP. The point is that even if the employee had turned his training around and sailed through it, he would have been regarded as paranoid and untrustworthy by much of the department for a long time. A new person doesn’t have a track record and has to be careful about building a reputation. It would be far better to ask someone for input about what you can do better and to give specific examples of things that have gone wrong (with the statement that you want to make sure you are doing them correctly) than to just start accusing a veteran employee of sabotage.

    Reply
    1. Seattle Writer Gal

      I’ll second nom d’pixel on this one. I had a very similar situation happen at a previous job.

      New co-worker in a remote office location was tasked with uploading a PDF to company website each and every day. This was a BIG DEAL, as it was part of our federal contract requirements. As the company webmaster, my job was to report out on whether this requirement was being met. When I discovered that the PDF was not being loaded every day (which was very obvious from simply looking at the public website since PDF contained a calendar that needed to have items filled in each day), I alerted the program supervisor and co-worker.

      Co-worker swore up and down that she was loading PDF every day as required. We provided her with proof (backend reports and front-end screenshots) showing that it was not. She continued to swear that she was doing it right and that I “had it out for her” which is why I kept “throwing her under the bus.”

      After further investigation (not by me) it came out that co-worker was in fact loading PDF into the website CMS every day as required, but failed to realize that she needed to hit the “save” button one more time in order to publish it live to the website (something she would have known had she bothered to look at the website herself instead of waiting on my report).

      So, OP, moral of the story is to really be sure that you are doing things correctly before accusing someone of bad intentions.

      Reply
  35. Kapikui

    In my experience crap like this happens all the time. Do whatever you can to get proof of it. Even if you can’t use it to keep your job, at least you won’t end up doubting your sanity, but be ready to use it. Document absolutely everything. If at all possible do so on a system that is not part of your work system, that they can’t alter or even see.

    I had a manager and supervisor actively gaslighting me altering documents, telling me to do one thing one thing then saying I was told something else entirely (pocket recorders can do wonders) and actively sabotaging (sometimes physically) projects and tasks I was working on. I had my organizational email altered after I asked for instructions in writing. Since that had been forwarded to another account that they didn’t control (my manager had administrative email access at the time) I noted the differences in the one on their servers vs the one on mine.

    I even had my department head lie to a vice president in order to terminate me claiming I said something in the final termination meeting that I did not, and I have the recording of the meeting and a copy of the letter he sent to the VP to prove it.

    Again, document absolutely everything that happens so you can figure it out and protect yourself. Either that or just quit. It’s just a job. There is frankly no job worth even minor stress. If more people would get this, employers would have to vastly change the way they approach things.

    Reply
  36. Pipette

    Late to the game, but I agree with Alison that maybe you do make more mistakes than you think. I see this quite often in both myself and my colleagues whenever we are working with new/seldom used softwares, work flows or content. Lots of small, sloppy errors that you might expect from a newbie, but made by respected professionals with over a decade of experience.

    Also, you mention that you find the tasks very easy, and that might contribute as well. I often find that when I’m under-stimulated by a task, I get more sloppy.

    Reply
  37. Will D

    As long as it’s possible that you’re simply making more entry mistakes then usual, I’d avoid letting on that you’re having thoughts of anything that could be interpreted as paranoia. Reason being when you’re in a new environment you do make more mistakes than usual because your attention is split and gets diverted very frequently. You notice the flickering light, the way your new office smells different, the dent in the wall, the way your chair sits, what someone just advised you, the names of everyone you just met, etc. You might not be able to give 100% of your attention to avoiding entry mistakes at the moment, so it might seem highly unusual that you’re making so many.

    When this happened to me at my old job I started turning on the tracking history where possible, and when not possible put in extra columns with warnings that would alert if there was a mistake or if a column hadn’t been summed properly. It was a humbling experience learning how often I really made them- meanwhile no one else ever saw them.

    As far as the entries go, they were 100% on me. Turns out my manager would have the same suspicions about me too sometimes (that were expressed every couple weeks) when she’d make the same dumb mistakes everyone does.

    Reply
  38. Janet M Baxley

    Every company should have a standard pattern of backing up excel files that shows up in the Previous Versions with a date and time stamp. Does the Track Changes function also Track Changes when the Previous Versions are erased? I know that when errors happen, the previous versions is either not available or the date and time stamp are not at the standard 7pm and 12 pm back up times and there is no consistent pattern going back every working day for 3 months indicating this standard back up pattern. For example, a date and time stamp may appear for 11:08 am, the system doesn’t back up then, and that is when the errors show up, not when you can look at a “Clean” history of back up at 7pm and 12 pm daily. That is erased and random times and dates are put in. I can’t say if this is due to a glitch or to sabotage. I document that the non-standard back up pattern is not available. I think I might start taking screen shots of the previous versions of my work. That proves the work was saved. And if the error turns up and back up history is different than your screen shot, then it proves the latest version was not retained. It does not necessarily prove sabotage, however, it would be an odd pattern if all errors had odd date and time stamps as compared with the screen shot that has three months of standard back up dates and times.

    Reply
  39. Janet M Baxley

    To add to my previous entry, another scenario is when the date and time stamp record on the previous versions are intact, meaning that the standard back up protocol was followed and there is an individual excel file in question, then going forward, take a screen shot of the date and time of the original file and a date and time stamp of the excel file after you changed it and re-saved it. Then simply have a folder with both excel files, the date and time before you made the change and after. So, if the SAVE AS function does not work correctly and the 2nd revised file is not saved, in theory, you should have the 2nd revised file with the date and time stamp to show your manager or IT team so that the glitch can be tracked and fixed. If you continue to feel that you change things and save them but the files are lost, you can keep the “Screen Shot audit trail file” ( BECAUSE EVEN THOUGH THIS NEW FILE SHOULD BE THE ONE THE SYSTEM SAVES AND RECORDS AT EVERY BACK UP, IT DOES NOT ALWAYS WORK THIS WAY, SO THE FIRST ENTRY I MADE ABOVE WILL NOT DETECT ALL GLITCHES) and additionally save the file using another name and when you delete the first file write “DELETED DOCUMENT, replaced with a newer version PLEASE DON’T PUT BACK IN THE WORK FILE” and therefore, if the second change is not saved, you have proof that not only did you delete the document but you replaced it and the replacement is not in the file because it was removed (even though re-named), If you simply delete a document, that deleted document could show back up in the work file and the one you re-named may or may not be retained. So, in essence, you are working around a system that is glitched because it is not saving the latest versions of a file. I have done a combination of these things with no problems. When I just go back to assuming the system will work as it should, i.e. always retaining the latest excel file version in all of the back up records, that is not always the case and if you have no back ups or work arounds in place, a lot of work will have to be re-done. It might truly be a technical glitch but if enough people have before and after date stamps to show to their managers and IT people and then it becomes apparent that the after the revisions time and date stamp is missing from all the records and all of the standard back ups, then maybe IT can isolate the glitch and determine how to fix the system so that the audit trail is working as it was designed to work. Sometimes it is just easier to re-name the file and make the note on the deleted file if you are in a hurry. But this will not allow the IT dept or your manager to fix the problem. Having the date and time stamped files will and if you see the first file was put back in folder, you should be able to have the second file with the second date and time stamp screen shot. There should not be a way for anyone to alter all of the screen shot showing the revised file was completed and saved. In time, the glitch should be able to be resolved and most probably, it is a technical hang up somewhere.

    Reply

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