my coworker is bitter that I got the permanent position he wanted

A reader writes:

My current job was the first one I got when I left university, and I’ve been there for a few years. About six months ago, the department I worked for “loaned” me out to another team that needed help. The work of this team is way out of my comfort zone and completely different to the types of work I’ve always done before. But I was recommended by a senior manager who thought it would be good for both me and the new team, and I felt that any new experience would be a benefit to me, so I went.

Over the past few months I’ve learnt so much, and I feel that certain aspects of the way I work really fit with what the team does. I’ve been able to share my knowledge from elsewhere in the business, which has helped the team do things more efficiently. I’ve had some tough times, made a few mistakes, but all in all it’s been a successful and happy time for me.

At the time I started, another member of staff also joined the team. I’ll call him Tim. His route to this team was very different to mine: he’d applied for the job, been through an interview process, and been given an official, documented secondment for a set period of time, with the option to extend it. He had lots of experience in similar roles at other companies, which I imagine is what helped him get the job.

Tim’s always been fairly friendly and supportive to me, but there’s something about his attitude that I find irritating – I feel like he’s being encouraging and complimenting me because he’s comfortable in how much better than me he is. He takes great pleasure in explaining things to me and telling me what to do, and has often discouraged me from doing certain aspects of the job, saying, “I’ll do it, I’m not sure if the manager will be happy with you doing this, as you’re not really a member of the team” (although recently I’ve discussed these tasks with the manager, who is absolutely fine with me doing them). I’ve often felt patronised by Tim, but it’s never been so bad that I’ve felt I couldn’t deal with it just by being friendly and getting on with my job.

Anyway, the team recently advertised a permanent position. Tim and I both applied for it – both of us expecting, I think, that Tim would get the job and I would be offered a secondment to replace him (unless some other amazing candidate/s turned up and ousted one or both of us).

The really great news is that I was offered the permanent position. As you might expect, I’m completely over the moon, excited to have a real job in the team (and the new knowledge and skills and connections and money that comes along with that) but also really happy to have overcome my anxiety to succeed in an interview, and to have received such good feedback from the manager and other members of the team.

The bad news is that whatever weirdness was simmering under the surface with Tim is now much worse. He’s still in the team until his secondment ends in the New Year, and may stay longer still if it’s extended. He now spends lots of his time complaining about the hiring process and the manager, and telling me how he’s not bothered about doing the job anymore. Whenever a new long-term project is mentioned, he always says, “That’ll be your problem, I’ll be long gone then”, and if a problem arises with the work we’re doing now, he drags his heels about fixing it because he thinks he won’t be there to have to deal with the fall-out. He spends lots of his time telling me about how he feels cheated out of the job, how angry his girlfriend is that he didn’t get it and how disillusioned he feels with the whole thing.

I know there’s probably nothing I can do to change his attitude or the way he acts, but do you have any advice about how I should act/how I can deal with it, bearing in mind I’m going to have to be working with him for at least the next 3 months?

Tim is a tool.

He was a tool when he was patronizing you early on, and he’s being a tool now that you got a job he wanted.

Let him be a tool. It reflects on him, not on you. You should continue being pleasant and professional; his toolishness is not your problem. Be polite, but limit contact as much as you can.

Speaking of which, you’re not obligated to listen to a never-ending stream of complaints about the hiring process and your manager or hearing about his disinterest in doing his job. When he starts down that road, you should cut him off. For example:

Him: (complaint)
You: Hmm, I see it differently. But you’ve sounded upset about this for a while now. Since it’s bothering you so much, I think you should talk to (manager). I’m not the right person to talk with you about this.
Him: (complaint)
You: Again, I think you need to talk to (manager) if this is still on your mind. I need to get back to work.

Him, round 2: (complaint)
You: Tim, I asked you not to draw me into this. I like and respect (manager). I’m not the right person to talk to about this.
Him: But (whine)
You: If you’re upset, please talk to (manager). I need to get back to work.

And frankly, if you wanted to mention to your manager at some point that Tim is spending enormous amounts of time venting bitterly, that wouldn’t be unreasonable.

But either way, please cut him off and don’t let him draw you into these conversations — it’s going to distract you from work, potentially make you look bad to others if they observe you providing a sympathetic audience to this kind of stewing, and will signal to Tim that he’s being reasonable.

{ 130 comments… read them below }

      1. MashaKasha

        Very cool!

        Now all we need is a wise neighbor that could tell Tim, from a safe position behind the fence, that Tim is a tool, and needs to stop being one.

        1. periwinkle

          I’ve long envisioned Alison as only visible from the forehead up – just a cascade of red hair behind a chocolate fence.

    1. LBK

      I laughed out loud at that line. I never cease to be amused by Alison’s willingness to be more blunt and profane than other advice columnists.

    2. KDL

      Tim is allowed to be pissed off and probably has a right to be. But NOT to you, NOT in the general workplace (it’s ok for him to tell you that he’s not happy but only once, then it shouldn’t be mentioned again), and NOT in company time.

      I suspect he thought he was certain to get the position (he may have been led to believe that or even actually told as such). I also suspect that he’s probably asked “management” why? how? when? etc and what does he need to do in the future to make certain that he gets the promotion next time, and they’ve just danced around around the bush, fed him a load of wishy washy bullshit, not given him any straight answers and basically not given him anything to work with, and essentially said “tough shit and piss off”.

      This management’s problem not yours, one of their own making. Tell him you understand he’s disappointed (not patronizingly) but there’s nothing you can do and refer him to management.

      Tim is a tool, probably sleeps in a toolbox, and should go and work in a tool shop, or maybe even a tool factory!

      He’s probably looking for other opportunities (and nobody would blame him), in the meantime tell him to grease his own nipples!

  1. Kvaren

    brb Googling what a “secondment” is.

    the detachment of a person (such as a military officer) from his or her regular organization for temporary assignment elsewhere

    1. Chriama

      Just think of it like an official temporary assignment. It happens in private companies as well the military, although I always thought it was more european.

        1. Blue Anne

          That was my thinking too – first when she was talking about secondments, and then definitely when she said “not bothered”. :)

      1. Lara

        Secondments also pretty common in the UK, or at least at the company I work for. An easy way for a member of staff to gain experience in a different role, and an effective way for businesses to staff short-term projects, cover maternity, handle crises and respond to fluctuations in workload between different teams.

      2. Liane

        One of my former USA employers used “secondment” and “seconded.” They were based in Hull, Great Britain, though.

          1. jamlady

            My husband and I are actually discussing this haha we both have backgrounds in various sectors of government. But really, it’s all the same lol

  2. Mena

    Congratulations!!

    Tim and Tim’s attitude isn’t your problem; this doesn’t reflect on you. Just keep doing the great job you are doing.

  3. Snarkus Aurelius

    “I don’t know what to tell you.”

    Say this over and over again because it’s the truth.  Don’t apologize.  Don’t explain.  Don’t defend.  Don’t justify.  Don’t do anything as a direct result of his complaints.  (This phrase is especially handy when he tells you about his girlfriend’s complaints.)

    None of this is your problem.  If anything, it’s a good thing for management to see so they can feel good about making the right decision.

    As for the mansplaining, unless you’re in a position of authority over him, you can’t shut that down without a fight with him.  I recommend going with this phrase:

    “Looks like nothing has changed from my understanding of the situation.”

    I used that zinger when a male coworker explained the history of health care in the United States to me immediately after we worked for over a year on a big project related to the Affordable Care Act.  (To this day, I have no idea why he thought all the women in the room, including my boss, needed a lecture.)

    1. Katie the Fed

      “I don’t know what to tell you.”

      I use this a lot with excessive complainers. It works really well.

      1. neverjaunty

        Also, it’s literally true!

        …even if it means leaving out the second half of the sentence, which is “….without telling you what a complete tool you are, because that’s just not worth the hassle.”

        1. Blue Anne

          My dad used this on me all the time. Also, when I was being indecisive, “If you don’t know, I don’t know.”

          Both very good things to be told as a kid!

      2. Lily in NYC

        This dude deserves something more like: I’m sorry you’re a butthurt hoser, Tim.

        I think he was threatened by OP from Day One and his patronizing manner was an attempt to marginalize her. It’s sweet karma.

    2. AW

      “Looks like nothing has changed from my understanding of the situation.”

      That is SO GOOD! Definitely have to save that one.

    3. Natalie

      “(To this day, I have no idea why he thought all the women in the room, including my boss, needed a lecture.)”

      I’ve got a guess.

  4. YourUnfriendlyPhlebotomist

    Congrats to the OP, I have a feeling management knows Tim is a tool and that’s why he didn’t get the position. He’s now pouting. I get annoyed with petty complaining like his so once I had heard it a few times id probably turn to him, firmly and say ” Tim, You interviewed just like I did. Management decided I was the best fit for the job if they thought you were a better fit you would have gotten it. There’s nothing that you can say to me to take away my accomplishments so please do your job so that they don’t decide you don’t deserve that one either.

    1. Gandalf the Nude

      Next time Tim complains about the hiring process, just look him in the eye and say, “Really? I thought it went very well.”

      1. AnonyMoose

        This is actually the perfect response, because it’s succinct and to the point: our experiences were different, realize that we’re both looking at this from opposite perspectives; oh, and you’re an idiot.

      2. Kira

        Yeah, how toolish is it to complain to the person who GOT the job? That’s not “wah, they shoulda picked me,” it’s “wah, you suck and don’t deserve your job. Empathize with me!” That’s not whining, it’s just mean.

    2. Not So NewReader

      Management already knows about Tim. I totally agree with this. They saw stuff with Tim that you are now seeing at its fullest, OP. You have done very well at this place, continue to do so because they really like you. Part of continuing to do really great is to just shut Tim down with statements such as, “I can’t fix that”, or redirecting him to the manager. Don’t get caught up in his pity party. (I will say, I did have initial empathy that the did not get a new job, also, but that empathy went away when the childlike behaviors came into the story. It does not help that Tim was not really a likable professional to start with.)

      So for the next three months you go-tos are that you can’t fix this, talk to the manager, you don’t want to discuss this anymore, etc. He WILL tire of asking you about it, but it will take a bit to wear him down. With his GF being so angry, I would not be surprised to find out he does not complete his remaining three months. The on-going discussion at home will wear on him, also.

      1. Stranger than fiction

        The sad part is though, Tim is probably completely unaware of his behavior’s cause and effect. I hope one day it dawns on him when it happens at jobs over and over again. And his girlfriend having only his side is probably like “that Op what a beotch”

    3. AcidMeFlux

      So totally yes. Good decent people don’t change overnight when they face a setback like this. Tim probably whined his way out of the job a long time ago.

    4. ReanaZ

      “Maybe if you spent less time complaining and more time producing high-quality work, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

      But seriously, everything about this due makes me go ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew. Ew.

  5. I am now a llama

    I would also recommend that you not let Tim affect your confidence in your work.

    One thing I noticed specifically was that you thought he would get the job too. Just because he’s putting you down, doesn’t mean you have to believe him.

    1. alexcansmile

      +1

      Tim is a tool, as Alison said. Let him stew in his bitterness and just shut him down, using the scripts that Alison gave you. You got the job because management thought you were the better fit. You can choose to Nope out of those conversations. “Nope, I’m not going to talk about this.” “Nope, I’m not the right person to discuss this with.” “Nope, I’m not going to engage in your negativity, which is bringing me down when I want to be happy and excited about my new position.”

    2. Persephone Mulberry

      Eh. I didn’t get the impression that OP was letting Tim’s condescension get to them. Considering Tim came into the role with an official (if temporary) placement and had experience to back it up, and it sounds like the OP was on loan for the learning experience as much as anything, it’s not that surprising that OP would expect Tim to get the permanent placement.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Yeah, I think OP has her act together, pretty well. I think that she figured Tim would get the job because his background is, in her view, more extensive than her own. HOWEVER, likability is a huge factor many times. OP sounds hardworking, flexible and level headed. I think that people enjoy working with her.

      2. Jen S. 2.0

        OP would do well to remember that it’s not always about who has experience. If they interviewed, say, 10 people, 5 could have learned the job just fine or already knew how to do it. Of those 5 — including you and Tim — you were the one they liked as a person enough to want you as a coworker while you learn / do the job. Tim may already know how to do the work, but that’s a moot point if they could tell in the interview that they did not want to put up with his toolboxery for the next several years.

  6. Not Myself

    Similar situation. A coworker applied for a management job in my group. She’s quite experienced, but keep turning down opportunities to grow and make an impact because she doesn’t have time to do them. A previous manager also severely poisoned her reputation to our senior manager (he was a total ass in so many ways…). Anyway, earlier this week we were pulled in to interview with the two final candidates for the poison she applied for, and she wasn’t ever even seriously considered. She’s really unhappy and bitter and considering quitting, but I do understand the hiring manager’s thinking. It’s hard to listen to the complaints (especially since they told her that there wasn’t an opportunity to promote her the same day they told me that I’ll be promoted in a few months).

    1. some1

      A similar situation happened at a company I worked at during the economic crisis a few years ago. The company had a history of promoting the receptionist to CSR or dept assistant positions, so the receptionist was really upset when she was passed over for a marketing assistant opening. But she had issues with calling out too much, and the economy being what it was, the hiring manager has a huge pool of over-qualified and qualified candidates to choose from.

      1. Chinook

        “receptionist was really upset when she was passed over for a marketing assistant opening. But she had issues with calling out too much, and the economy being what it was, the hiring manager has a huge pool of over-qualified and qualified candidates to choose from.”

        I saw half a dozen (temp) receptionists who the company tried to replace me with and not until the last one did someone figure out that the temp position was actually an audition for the real thing. Office Manager and I were shocked by the work ethics and attitudes we saw when they were essentially promised a permanent position if they showed they could do it well (and I did it for a year, so I knew it wasn’t difficult – complicated, yes, but not difficult if you put in a little effort). Some1, your receptionist failed to realize this same fact – if you know a position is a jumping off point for something better, it is in the employee’s best interest to wow them with how awesome they are at that “lesser” job.

    2. Dr. Johnny Fever

      “the two final candidates for the poison she applied for”

      Best. Typo. Yet.

      I knew someone similar, incredibly capable but there was enough baggage from a previous boss’s complaints that it killed her career mobility. Sadly, some of the feedback had been valid and she had worked incredibly hard to action it, but people looked past her current work and fell back to, “Well, So-and-So said…” I’d want to scream, “But S0-And-So left 4 years ago!”

      She wound up leaving the company and going elsewhere. Luckily she was early enough that it didn’t set her too back in the long run, but ouch.

      I left that dept shortly after before the same kind of haunting toxicity that covered her could hit me.

  7. Anna

    Congratulations OP! Clearly your original manager and your new manager see how good you are at the job. And Tim, too. You don’t spend that much time condescending to someone who you don’t feel threatened by in some way. I think Alison’s advice is spot on. Don’t give his complaints anywhere to land. I think sometimes we feel guilty about getting a position over someone and that makes us let bad behavior continue longer than it should, but you obviously earned your new job. Don’t feel guilty about being the right person for the right job.

    1. Adonday Veeah

      “You don’t spend that much time condescending to someone who you don’t feel threatened by in some way.”

      Very this. Own your awesomeness.

  8. Golden Yeti

    Is it just me, or does it seem like Tim was only putting effort into the temporary job because he had his eye on a promotion?

    If the job you originally apply for isn’t “good enough” for you, you probably shouldn’t apply in the first place…

    OP, this may be snarky of me, but I would be inclined to call his BS once and for all: “Tim, whether you’re here later or not, I still have a job to do. And for right now, so do you, so please–let’s get this done.” And if he kept on, I’d be inclined to report to the manager that Tim is deliberately stalling/slowing down projects and generally being unsupportive to the team because his feelings are hurt. If Tim is saying things like, “That’ll be your problem,” he’s being obstructive and uncooperative, and, as Alison says, if he’s persisting after you’re direct with him, management should know.

    1. Ted Mosby

      Yes to all of this.

      I can’t believe his audacity. He’s basically coming to you and saying :

      1)I should have your job
      2) I’m going to f**k you over later by not doing my job now because I’m butthurt

      Tim, the fact that you STOPPED WORKING when you didn’t get the promotion you wanted is a great example of why you didn’t get it. It’s weird that he’s given up seeing as how they might have extended his contract before (and maybe eventually had a position for him) and now most definitely won’t.

      If him not doing his work now will effect your work down the line, I really hope you take it up with someone, or just slap him the next time he says that, whichever feels right to you.

  9. TheExchequer

    “Tim is a tool”. Right up there with “black magic is one of many occupational hazards” in the category of Telling it Like It Is. :)

  10. MashaKasha

    This made my head explode: “…how angry his girlfriend is that he didn’t get it…”

    Okay, sounds like Tim is in a well-matched relationship, in that his girlfriend is also a tool, yay for Tim. But how on earth is this OP’s problem? OP doesn’t need to hear this stuff.

    1. Shell

      I wouldn’t say the girlfriend is necessarily a tool. I’ve been refused for a promotion before and my parents were far more upset than I was (and then when I pointed that out, said something along the lines of “we’re being supportive! Do you want us to not care? Do you not care?”). But that was before AAM taught me the perspective of the management and several (relatively more) naive years ago. (I’m much better at shutting down my parents’ well-meaning but sometimes overbearing responses by now!)

      Anyway, my point is, the girlfriend is trying to be supportive of the disgruntled employee. In the eyes of our loved ones, of course we’re rockstars, best of the best, etc. While Tim is undoubtedly a tool, and more so for passing on his girlfriend’s annoyance by proxy, I don’t think the girlfriend’s reaction speaks to her character.

      1. neverjaunty

        We also don’t know what she told him (assuming she exists). “She’s upset” could mean “I bragged to her for months about how much better I was than you and now she’s telling me it’s karma”.

        1. MashaKasha

          “We also don’t know what she told him (assuming she exists).”

          Hahaha again so true!

          Or it could be him saying “I’m so mad at this place and at OP! Aren’t you mad?” and her saying “yes yes, of course” while rolling her eyes… but it’s still a yes, so she must be angry.

          1. Julia

            That’s how my mother relays comments from my brother. “He said my new recipe was delicious!”
            Reality: Mother asked brother if new recipe isn’t delicious and he said “hm” or “sure”.

      2. ginger ale for all

        Also, he could have just made that up. My boyfriend has told people that we cannot go to certain things because I am supposed to not want to go when it is actually he who isn’t interested in going but he didn’t want to say it.

      3. Liz in a Library

        Yep. There are some people in this world who miraculously are always the victim when things don’t go exactly their way…she probably didn’t get an objective version of events.

  11. Mike C.

    Yeah, this is one of those situations where I like so say, “I’ll go cry about it later in my shiny sports car”.

    The OP is on top, your career is going places and this guy can’t touch you. It’s annoying as all hell, but don’t let it bother you. Follow Alison’s advice or maybe even start teaching him a thing or two.

    Besides, three months is nothing. Continue kicking ass and don’t let this guy drag you down.

  12. OP

    Thanks for the advice and comments, everyone. I will definitely take them on board. Mostly my approach so far has been to say very little and just focus on my work, but I can definitely see the benefit of actually telling him not to say all this stuff to me (and perhaps of also speaking to my manager if it continues).

    When I first joined the department, I had a good knowledge of the industry but literally no experience of doing the work, and very little idea of what it entailed. I’m a questioning person anyway, so I spent a long time querying things, investigating and experimenting and just generally working out how to do the job. The manager and other members of the team have told me that this is the right attitude to have, and that having an inquisitive, questioning mind is one of the most important traits needed to do this job. But I can see how Tim, with all his experience, might have seen me being like that and assumed (to some degree correctly) that I didn’t know what I was doing. That doesn’t excuse his condescending attitude, but I think it probably goes some way towards explaining it.

    I kind of feel sorry for Tim. It’s not a nice feeling to not get a job – especially when you were sure you would -, and to have to continue to work in the department after you’ve been told they don’t want you to stay permanently must be awkward and difficult to handle. But however much I sympathise, his attitude is really annoying me. He’s coming across as petty and resentful and his lax approach to his work is going to cause several people problems in the future. I kind of want to point out to him that he’s definitely not doing himself any favours if he’s thinking of applying for another internal position in the future (within this department or any other), but I don’t think he’d appreciate the advice.

    I’m really delighted about getting the job, and excited to get my teeth into some long-term projects. I’ve been trying hard not to seem to be gloating, but I’m not going to apologise for it.

    1. voyager1

      Looks like you responded as I was. You sound like you are handling this well and grasp Tim’s situation and how it effects you.

      And again congrats on the job!

    2. MashaKasha

      I don’t even feel that much sorry for Tim. This is life. My x husband was a contractor for fifteen years. Every year, he and his other fellow contractors would apply for permanent positions. Every year, most of them would get turned down. They’d say something like “that’s a bummer, oh well, there’s always next year”, and get back to their work. He finally got a perm position this year. One year he and his friend both applied, his friend got the position and he didn’t. There was no resentment. I don’t think it ever occurred to him or anyone else that there should have been resentment. We were all happy for the friend. That’s life, the longer you work in a field, the more jobs/new positions you apply for, the more times you get turned down from a job, a perm position, or a promotion – it’s a numbers game. Being able to accept this and get on with your life is what separates a professional from a Tim. Best of luck in your new job, OP! It sounds interesting!

    3. ElCee

      I lost out on an internal position recently. A temp got it over me. At first I was really down on myself (privately) for not even being able to get an internal job, but I learned who the successful candidate was and guess what? The hiring manager made the right decision, for many reasons. And even if I WAS still bummed and/or felt like it was an unfair decision, bellyaching about it *at the workplace* would just be tragic and make me look like, well, a tool. From the other side, I can assure you that Tim just can’t handle it like an adult, and you are right to ignore his whining. Congrats on the position!

    4. Elizabeth West

      Congratulations on the job, OP!

      No, he probably won’t take the advice to heart. He’s mad because he didn’t get the job, but he’s not in a position yet to see WHY he didn’t get it. Maybe when he’s moved on from this placement and gets some perspective–but I wouldn’t hold my breath. In any case, that won’t be your problem.

      If his tantrums are keeping you from doing your job, I think you’re justified in going to your boss and using Alison’s tried-and-true advice in making it about the job, like “I’m having trouble getting the flower reports from Tim and it’s affecting how I put together the teapot decor documents. How would you like me to handle that?”

    5. TootsNYC

      But I can see how Tim, with all his experience, might have seen me being like that and assumed (to some degree correctly) that I didn’t know what I was doing.

      Do you see how Tim, with all his experience and condescension, himself does NOT have that inquisitive mind and willingness to question?

      He was so busy proving to you how much he knows that he proved he’s not open to learning.

      When his lax approach is going to cause trouble for the future folks, you should call it out. First directly to him: “Tim, if you don’t do that promptly and right, the people who work on that in the future are going to have difficulties. That’s not cool.”
      And when he says, “It’ll be your problem,” say, “and right now it’s your problem to get this part done right.”

      and if he doesn’t do something right or promptly, flag it for your manager: “This isn’t getting done right/quickly enough; I think we’ll have trouble later. I thought you should know.”

    6. Blue Anne

      It sounds like you have exactly the right attitude, OP. Congratulations on the new job. In the meantime, stand up to Tim, and I hope his lax work ethic doesn’t cause you too many problems in the future.

    7. Observer

      I think you have this nailed pretty well. If he’s not doing what he needs to be doing, and saying something to him – straightforward, but low key and politely – doesn’t improve matters you probably should talk to your manager, and you should definitely document what gets left undone or not done properly to the best of your knowledge. This way, when the problems you expect come up, you have information that will make it easier to get to the problem (and hopefully fix it.) And, possibly you could pass that information on to whoever takes over Tim’s position or responsibilities before things blow up.

    8. AcidMeFlux

      Your reply, and your general description of the whole situation, shines with the attributes that eventually got you the job. Congratulationsl. And Tim’s behavior in response to his not getting the job show why he didn’t.

  13. voyager1

    I sort of disagree with AAM maybe. I think Tim is doing you a favor. You are seeing the true side of him. As for him being gone in 3 months, that is good news for you. I probably wouldn’t call him a tool, he is bitter which is fair, but that is no right to be unprofessional.

    One thing to consider though. He may know he isn’t get a new “secondment” hence why he feels that way. Honestly I wouldn’t want him touching any work that could be lead back to you just because he could try and sabotage your work.

    Congrats on getting the job!!!!

    1. ReanaZ

      Allison didn’t remotely suggest calling him a tool to his face. She suggested acknowledging to oneself that he’s a tool whose ‘advice’ and comments can be disregarded, while advising the OP to continue acting politely and professionally for the remainder of his tenure.

  14. Shell

    I wouldn’t say the girlfriend is necessarily a tool. I’ve been refused for a promotion before and my parents were far more upset than I was (and then when I pointed that out, said something along the lines of “we’re being supportive! Do you want us to not care? Do you not care?”). But that was before AAM taught me the perspective of the management and several (relatively more) naive years ago. (I’m much better at shutting down my parents’ well-meaning but sometimes overbearing responses by now!)

    Anyway, my point is, the girlfriend is trying to be supportive of the disgruntled employee. In the eyes of our loved ones, of course we’re rockstars, best of the best, etc. While Tim is undoubtedly a tool, and more so for passing on his girlfriend’s annoyance by proxy, I don’t think the girlfriend’s reaction speaks to her character.

    1. Shell

      Damn, this was supposed to be a reply to MashaKasha. Alison, please delete if you have a moment, sorry!

    2. Bend & Snap

      I used to have an employee who would tell me that her boyfriend was mad at me because I made her work late.

      After a bunch of other BS…she got fired.

    3. Chinook

      “Anyway, my point is, the girlfriend is trying to be supportive of the disgruntled employee. In the eyes of our loved ones, of course we’re rockstars, best of the best, etc.”

      Or, we know that pointing out all the mistakes they made (which we know they made without telling us because we know our loved one) is truly a pointless effort because a)they aren’t self aware enough to change yet, b) pointing out these issues just makes them resent you as much as the workplace, and c)helps them save face in at least one part of their lives.

      I love DH and my immediate family dearly (but in different ways) but whenever something goes their way I know exactly what they did to shoot themselves in the foot and how what a waste if breath it is to say “I told you so.” So, I am supportive and let them vent to me. Luckily, they do the same for me in return.

  15. Solidus Pilcrow

    I have to wonder if upper management had picked up on his condescending attitude earlier and that (in addition to being out-shone by the OP’s awesomeness :) ) played a part in him not getting the position. From what the OP wrote, it sounds like management is pretty on the ball.

  16. Artemesia

    I love the idea that Tim thinks the OP will be a sympathetic ear to whine to about a job the OP got. ‘Don’t you think management did a dreadful job in this hiring’ — ‘well not really — ‘ (how could it be otherwise when you got the job.

  17. steve g

    I’m not getting all of the negativity about Tim. The question wasn’t “do you agree Tim is a jerk,” it was about how to deal with this type of situation. Being upset you were turned down for a promotion hurts. Not everything is black or white. We can’t assume the Tim’s work and overall skills suck just because he’s made some less-than-smart comments over the months.

    I’m also wondering how much of Tim’s responses were truly being condescending vs general ignorance about OPs skills + his unwillingness to let junior staff experiment with projects they aren’t as experienced in. Anyone whose every had a mission-critical project or one involving lots of money and/or lots of exceptions knows how scary it can be to just let go of it and give it to someone not as experienced.

    And no, I’m not playing devil’s advocate here, I just truly don’t get why people are SO down on Tim when we don’t know much at all about him. If I ruled out every coworker who said things I didn’t like or that were unprofessional, all of my workplaces would have been half the size!

    1. Artemesia

      I think the definition of tool may be ‘endlessly whining about losing a job and how unfair it is to the PERSON WHO GOT THE JOB.’ This is inexplicable for any fully functioning human with an ounce of self awareness.

    2. AnonEMoose

      Actually, I think the OP told us a lot about Tim. That he was “friendly,” but at the same time, took great pleasure in pointing out his greater knowledge and experience, discouraged her from doing some aspects of the job she was hired to do, and patronized her.

      I’m taking that and thinking “Right. Tim was threatened by the OP from the get-go, and used this superficial friendliness to make sure she understands she’s ‘below’ him in the pecking order.” I’ve seen this from the receiving end. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, ritually burned the t-shirt, scattered the ashes.

      If he weren’t a tool, he wouldn’t be acting butthurt to the OP. He’d suck it up, congratulate her, and realize that he’s only shooting himself in the foot long term.

    3. Pennalynn Lott

      I think refusing to do the work you were hired to do because you didn’t get something you wanted is the very definition of “tool”.

    4. Treena

      “I feel like he’s being encouraging and complimenting me because he’s comfortable in how much better than me he is.”

      I had a coworker like this. She had done the job technically for more time, but had been out of the workforce for 2-3 years raising children in a field that changes weekly. She had plenty to say about how I could improve (some of which I agreed with and sometimes did not, it was more a question of style). I remember one time I had said to her, “Oh you probably didn’t hear about this but (Gov’t Agency) updated (a piece of info) and I wanted to let you know.” She cheerfully explained to me that it wasn’t important to give updated information to students because things change all the time anyways and why bother?

      It’s really hard to define this particular attitude, but you’ll know it when you see it.

  18. AW

    how angry his girlfriend is that he didn’t get it

    This is the weirdest part. It’s ridiculous how he apparently expects you to care for his feelings* over the fact that you’re the one that got the promotion, but why on earth are you supposed to care that his girlfriend is upset.

    There’s a review of a Taylor Swift song (I think it’s “15”) by ToddInTheShadows where he says the song loses its emotional impact when you find out it’s about her friend, not Taylor herself. He says something like, “I can’t feel sad that Taylor’s sad that her friend is sad. And don’t email me telling me you’re sad because I definitely can’t feel sad that you’re sad that Taylor’s sad that her friend is sad.”

    Why are you supposed to feel upset that he’s upset that she’s upset?

    1. Charityb

      I’m a little upset that you’re not upset that he’s upset that she’s not upset that the OP didn’t wasn’t she he was I you eek systemerror reboot54321

  19. coffee powerrd

    I must applaud OP for his/her grace in the face of this person. I think you are doing the right thing but I agree with Alison that it’s probably time to cut off the negative-Nancy behavior and focus on work (which is the point of work).

    It reminds me of a similar time when a former boss was looking to hire/expand a subordinate role he had. It would have been a promotion for me to accept this job if offered, but he ultimately decided to go with another candidate. I was mildly annoyed because I thought I was a shoe-in, but ultimately I didn’t let it affect my good track record with him or the other managers of the unit.

    Today, that choice not to whine has proven to pay many dividends. I was promoted twice, once by the same manager and then I took another promotion to move to another agency, while keeping the good relationships intact.

    The message simply is this — if you won’t promote me here, I’ll take my talents elsewhere!

    It sounds like Tim the toolman thought that one work relationship was his golden honey pot for life. Oh how wrong he is about that–and by complaining incessantly he’s probably assured that he WILL NOT get promoted where he currently is.

    Stay safe and C-Y-A!

  20. Mishsmom

    This reminds me of the Facts of Life episode where Jo’s boyfriend can’t handle her being more successful than him. That’s how idiotic this guy is.

    1. Steve G

      Ha! I appreciate a Fact’s of Life reference because it’s one of the first shows I remember, but I don’t remember this one. I remember the later ones where they had the store already I guess:-). I love the 80s

  21. Patty

    I’ve been there, I was hired for a permanent position from outside over three long-term part time folks, all of whom assumed they’d get my job.

    What worked for me is to remember that they chose me, not him. They did so for a reason… In your case, they probably noticed his Tool-nature and didn’t want him around permanently.

  22. A

    I was in a fairly similar situation at my last job, except I was in Tim’s position since I was the one who got passed over for an internal job. I was a temp contractor in what was essentially my dream job at a top tech company, but temps were only allowed to stay 1 year. I loved my job and worked as hard as I could, often holding many of the responsibilities that full time employees had, and upper management constantly told me how much they wanted me to officially join the team. I spent a year thinking my dream job would come true until they finally told me there was no headcount for new hires. When an extremely rare similar position opened up in a different group, I was told that I was their top choice and scheduled an interview. But then I found out at the last minute that they decided not to interview me and instead they gave the position to one of my contractor coworkers. I found out later that his manager was good friends with the hiring manager which got him special priority treatment for the interview process.
    I realize my experience involved special treatment and is a bit different from the OP’s experience, but I can say that I understand Tim’s pain and frustration. I certainly hope I approached the situation better than Tim did. I simply avoided my coworker and eventually quit when I could no longer deal with the depression. Not that quitting made a difference– my contract was almost up anyway. Its an especially awful feeling to actually love a job but then be forced to leave because its only temporary. And yeah, I’m never doing another contract position…

    1. Steve G

      I’m on the fence about this letter but I appreciate your comment. I commented a little bit up that I don’t understand the angst vs. Tim. If you’ve ever been turned over after a long period of waiting for the promotion or to go perm, it burns, worse than a breakup – especially if you live somewhere rural and/or where there aren’t that many jobs to begin with and you are vying for a spot in the one or two big companies. It stings. Which is why I also kind of feel for Tim…………

      1. A

        Agreed– it felt way worse than any breakup, imo. And yes, a big factor in this is that I am in a very competitive niche field and this job was one of the few in my area, which just so happens to be with the top company in that field.

    2. Been There, Done That

      I was in a similar situation after the dot-com bubble burst. I wasn’t tech but was one of many temps/contractors in various disciplines at a dot-com company that not only survived but was growing and thriving. I felt deceived and was disappointed as hell because any job was very hard to get, plus I loved the company and the work I did. I chalked it up to: with temp/contract jobs, employers don’t hesitate to dangle the carrot under your nose so you eagerly commit and stay, maybe even pass on other opportunities because this one looks certain. Right up till the moment they don’t need you anymore and it’s sayonara.

  23. stellanor

    I had one of these. Very similar situation. I got the full-time job. Difficult Coworker did not get a full-time job despite being more qualified on paper (almost certainly because she was so difficult no one wanted to work with her). Difficult Coworker was incensed and spent a while trying to get me to help her slag the hiring manager.

    When that didn’t work she just started insulting me to my face. Which was ridiculous, but OP should possibly brace for that possibility and practice their ‘I cannot believe that just came out of your mouth, you are shockingly boorish’ facial expression. “Wow, Difficult Coworker, that’s a horrible thing to say” never did work on Difficult Coworker, but it did make me feel better.

  24. JD

    Same type of situation here, but we both had a permanent full-time position. They were worried that there wouldn’t be enough work to go around(why he thinks that they would get rid of multiple people right away instead of just reducing staff to the level they had before we had to do makework projects). Would say direct insults to me and I didn’t retaliate(didn’t want to start any workplace drama if I could avoid it), so they started taking any comment I made and would try to twist it into an attack on them personally(even if it was no where near an attack on anyone to begin with). After they made a harassment complaint, I started to keep a log of insults they said about me. They would generally insult me about something, then later on make a complaint that I had insulted them on the same topic that they insulted me on by twisting something completely unrelated, so they most likely were trying to bait me into an insult war that would have resulted in my instant dismissal with very little effect on themselves. If I don’t do anything objectionable to a reasonable person, it shouldn’t be able to stick with me past my current job(and hopefully not even after he leaves)

  25. boop

    Heh. We have one of these at work who thinks he’s way too good for the position he accepted. He’s not terrible at the work, but he hasn’t demonstrated mastery of it, at least not as much as he constantly says he is. Hates authority, mansplains literally everything. All it’s gotten him so far is on the fasttrack to the worst shifts (from previously the best). Surprised he hasn’t quit yet, tbh.

  26. Been There, Done That

    I’d love to receive others’ feedback on this, because I’m in a similar boat EXCEPT–“Tool” is the boss’s favorite and Boss wanted Tool to have the promotion. I came from another group and Tool has worked for Boss for several years. Boss told me frequently after I came on board that Tool got shafted. Boss also asked Tool to “train” me. I only needed to be oriented to that group as I brought extensive experience/qualifications (that’s how I got the promotion). But as trainer Tool was incredibly nasty to me. Speaking up for myself (among my other iniquities that Tool doesn’t like) sends Tool to Boss to complain, and I get called on the carpet. It hasn’t helped to speak to Boss about the ugly behavior and speech; Boss makes excuses for Tool, and did I mention that poor Tool got shafted? It’s been quite some time, but the animosity still bubbles under the surface at times. Unfortunately, my position and Tool’s are supposed to work as a team. Guess who freezes who out? We now have detente but I don’t know if there’s any way to improve things. I’ve tried being friendly, being formal, demonstrating that I value her knowledge. No go. If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

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