Remember the letter-writer whose condescending coworker turned bitter after our letter-writer was offered the permanent position that he wanted? Here’s the update.
After I wrote to you, I was in a position for several weeks where I didn’t really have to interact with Tim – I had to go back to my old department whilst awaiting my official transfer. We would speak occasionally, but I would keep it light and cheerful and if he brought up the fact I got the job and he didn’t, I said things like, “I don’t think talking about it is going to do any good” or “I’m not sure what you expect me to do about that.” Then, because I was working elsewhere in the building, it was fairly easy to make my escape if need be.
I’ve been in my new job for about a month now, and Tim’s still there. The department is understaffed, and there are some major long-term projects that are the focus of the permanent members of the team. This means there are very little resources available for the small tasks that regularly come into the department, so Tim’s doing those. This means I’m stuck with him for at least the next couple of months, but realistically probably longer. He constantly tells me how he doesn’t want to keep working in the team and how, if he’s asked to stay longer, he’ll decline the offer. But every time he’s offered a contract extension, he accepts it, and continues to complain and do as little work as he can get away with.
I’m regularly feeling undermined by Tim, in much the same ways that I wrote about before. If I ask for updates about pieces of work that I started but Tim then picked up while I was out of the department, I get, “Come on, now, you should be up to date with this.” If I mention some aspect of the project I’m working on, I get, “That’s nothing to do with me,” and if some work has to be planned for a few months’ time, it’s still, “I don’t have to do any prep for that, it’ll be your problem.” If I ask any member of the team for clarification, advice or a second opinion, Tim is there in the background, telling me that I’m a permanent member of the team so I should know these things.
I’ve tried telling him that he doesn’t know what the future holds so he should do everything he can to keep his work in order and maintain positive relationships with the team. I’ve tried patiently explaining that I don’t see the point of pretending I know things I don’t, and that the project I’m working on is by its nature collaborative, so I have to make sure I’m on the same page as the person I’m working with on it. I’ve tried being friendly and sympathetic, I’ve tried being more abrupt than usual, and I’ve tried keeping my head down and ignoring him. Whatever I do, I get the patronizing, dismissive comments. And I’m still having to listen to him talk about the impact not getting the job had on his relationship with his girlfriend, his financial situation and his plans for the future.
Despite his best efforts, I feel secure in the job. I mentioned to the hiring manager in my interview that it’s really important to me to receive feedback, and to know as soon as possible if I’m doing something wrong. He’s promised several times to be open and honest with me about my performance. I’ve had plenty of feedback, which has been overwhelmingly good, and various experienced members of the team have told me how glad they are that I got the job and how I have an instinctive ability for it. One of them even explicitly told me he’d been hoping from the moment it was advertised that I would get it and Tim wouldn’t.
There’s a part of me that feels sorry for Tim – it’s never nice to not get a job when you thought you would. But I felt like he was being unreasonable when this started, and as the months have passed I’ve felt it even more so – he no longer has the excuse of surprise. I don’t want to feel like I’m expected to apologise for applying for a job and getting it. I just want to be able to get on with the work without the negativity and condescension.
I suppose the next step ought to be speaking to my manager, but I’m putting this off. I feel like this should be something I can just deal with, and I’m worried that if I do mention something then Tim will know and that will make things worse and all kinds of awkward.
I want to thank you and your readers for your advice and support. Reading all the comments at least helped me accept that I wasn’t mad or blowing things out of proportion!
Me again: Yes, you need to talk to your manager (who I assume is also Tim’s manager), and you should do it ASAP. Tim’s behavior is beyond the pale, and any decent manager would want to know about it. It’s not tattling; it’s raising an issue that’s impacting the work that your manager needs to know about. If you’re concerned that talking to your manager will make things even harder with Tim, tell your manager that too; a good manager who hears that will make it clear to Tim that being a jerk to you over this isn’t an option.