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

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.

{ 98 comments… read them below }

  1. videogame Princess*

    Incredible. If this is your team, can you say he’s no longer welcome and you will hire someone else, thank you very much?

    1. videogame Princess*

      Ok, I see the promotion wasn’t to management. But still, don’t let him walk all over you, or anyone else. There should be plenty of support, and if not (which I doubt given what you’ve written) it would be a signal to leave anyway.

  2. Dawn*

    Tim is gaslighting the heck out of you and making you doubt yourself. He’s projecting his own insecurity onto you and, as Alison said months ago, is a total complete and utter tool.

    Go to your manager! This is not “a little thing”- Tim is a cancer that will spread and infect the rest of the team if he hasn’t already. Not to mention his attitude and demeanor is tanking his own productivity and ability to contribute to the team. GO TO YOUR MANAGER!

    1. neverjaunty*

      Yes, this.

      OP, it’s very clear that ‘dealing with it yourself’ is not going to fix Tim’s behavior. There is nothing you can do or say that is going to set him back on his heels and make him think gee, maybe he should knock it off and act professional. He does not and will not accept that you got something he thinks was rightfully his. Therefore, you cannot fix the problem. You need to escalate to your manager.

      As others have said in this thread, it is ALREADY awkward. By going to your manager, you are putting that awkward right back on Tim where it belongs.

      1. The Bimmer Guy*

        Oh, that’s a good response. When someone violates clear professional or interpersonal norms and creates an awkward situation, it is not your (the victim’s) responsibility to bear that awkwardness…although the perpetrator would often like you to think otherwise. The Duck Sex Club letter earlier this year was a good example of that. The manager felt awkward for a) having walked in on her employees without knocking, and b) for having to explain this nonsense to her supervisor. But why should she feel awkward? *She* didn’t have sex in the middle of the copy room.

        Same to you, OP. Calmly go to your manager and explain that this has been going on. Try and leave your feelings out of it and focus more on an accurate account of things Tim has done, specifically the part about him hampering your ability to do your job.

      2. M-C*

        One thing you can do tough, OP, which will be helpful to everyone, is to document. Yes, this is not a permanent employee, and so you should be able to ditch the jerk without any problem, or having to justify it, no matter where you are. But it’d be so much more solid, when you talk to your manager and when they talk to Tim, if you had in hand a written list of incidents. Don’t make it about your feelings or him trying to undermine you, make it all about the work – Tim not doing something, Tim witholding information, Tim stopping short of doing a task properly, Tim not taking a needed initiative, Tim refusing to listen to work directives, in short Tim just not doing the job. That is what will get your heard, and will get you rid of him eventually. It sounds like you only need to collect a couple week’s worth of documentation to make a really good case that something needs to happen.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Yes yes yes. And if he’s not communicating when he’s supposed to be, he’s impacting your work and that of the team–this is what managers are hired to deal with.

      I dearly hope the OP’s manager is the kind who will act on this and not just say, “You need to deal,” because then I will want to smack both him AND Tim!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        If I gave the non-answers Tim is giving, I’d be shown the door. OP, you know you cannot go up to Tim and get a straight answer on anything. This is baseline stuff, it’s a minimal requirement of all jobs- answer people’s questions. If a person cannot interact with others this limits that person’s ability to do the job, period.

    3. Artemesia*

      Yes go to the manager but with a ‘here is the behavior that is undermining the team — and here is what I have done about it so far. This isn’t working and he continues to take potshots at me publicly and demean the work of the team. It is a morale issue.’

      i.e. make it clear you have done your best to respond positively but this guy won’t quit. Time for him to go.

    4. Coffeecup's Co-worker*

      (Being more anonymous than usual)

      Coffeecup got his nickname because I could have out-performed him on top of my regular job just by having an extra cup of coffee. But it wasn’t all of us going to the manager and saying “I will not work on a joint project with this person because I end up doing it myself; do not believe him when he claims he has done anything at all” that got him fired; that only meant the poor manager had to work with him to try to get him to improve.

      Nope, what finally got him kicked out was when he started gaslighting our remote teammate with “oh, I’m so valuable, but everyone here isn’t sure you can cut it” – which was the total inverse of reality, but since Remote wasn’t here to see the day-to-day interactions, he had no clue. And that, apparently, was only the start, but the rest is known only to HR. Gaslighting = hostile work environment = go to your manager ASAP.

      1. AcidMeFlux*

        Yes. Tim’s repeated comments and self-pity and refusal to accept rejection and move on are similar to a stalker’s behavior. It’s time for OP to go to managenent.

  3. Nina*

    For starters, congrats on the job, OP. It sounds like things are going very well (with the exception of Tim) and I’m glad you’re adjusting to the new workload.

    That said, this stuff with Tim has gone on too long. It sounds like you’ve done everything you can to take care of it yourself, but it’s time to get the manager involved. He may have an inkling of this problem already, since your new coworkers have told you they preferred you get the position instead of Tim.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Brings to mind, OP, to recap what you have done so far to lessen the situation with your boss. You can give a short review like you said here. It’s very clear. We all understand that you have done everything imaginable to get this situation turned around.

      1. AnonInSC*

        Yes – You have definitely done all you can to deal with this yourself. Which only shows how great of an employee you are!

  4. Myrin*

    Oh Jesus Christ. This is kind of the inverse of many other letters Alison gets where people immediately want to bring Comparatively Minor Thing to their supervisor and Alison advices them to try to talk to the offender first. Here OP is trying to deal with it herself but yeah, I wholeheartedly agree with Alison, this has gotten to a point where it’s necessary to get support from a higher-up.

    I find this situation especially frustrating because everything but Tim seems to be going wonderfully, OP got a desired position, gets very good feedback, and her coworkers like her and like doing work with her. Argh!

    Also, I think I already commented on this on the original letter but “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.” is still so beyond the pale to me, I don’t even know. Why the heck should you care about his girlfriend and their relationship?! It’s like he sees you as his personal nemesis or something.

    I’m also still wondering about his motivation for all this. Does he seriously think OP will quit if he just keeps whining? I mean, given how well everything else seems to be going, how likely is that? Or does he just get some perverse joy out of being a PITA and making her life difficult? I know we probably won’t find out and it’s irrelevant in how to deal with him but I’ve got to wonder.

    Anyway, I wish you all the best, OP! You’ve already proven to be a mature and professional person and I’m absolutely convinced you will be able to continue doing so and take the right steps!

    1. Anonsie*

      Or does he just get some perverse joy out of being a PITA and making her life difficult?

      Yes. He believes he is far and away more qualified and deserving, and the LW needs to be punished in whatever small ways he can dish out for taking away his dues from him.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Sounds like Tim has a major case of Entitled (White) Guy Disease. I’m 90% sure OP is female as I doubt he would *ever* act like this with another dude.

        1. Laurel Gray*

          I thought the same thing too. I know a few (black) female engineers who have climbed the ladder at their respective employers and have had to deal with Tims along the way nagging and whining that the promotion should have gone to them.

        2. LCL*

          Careful there. My Tim isn’t white and isn’t Cis male. Still won’t quit though, they have that in common!

        3. FiveByFive*

          Wow – that’s all kinds of inappropriate.

          I know this is somewhat of a safe space here, but I’d like to think there are at least some boundaries when it comes to race and gender targeting. Eeesh. :(

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            This is actually not a safe space in the way the term is usually used, although it should be a civil and reasonably kind space. (There are too many varying viewpoints here for it to be a safe space in the common usage.)

            But I understood RVA Cat’s comment not to be slamming white men in general, but pointing out that it’s really common for women to have to deal with this kind of thing from some men, which is true. However, as LCL points out, this behavior tends to transcend gender.

                1. F.*

                  Absolutely. It does nothing except potentially derail the conversation to assume personal details that are not provided and then to use them to feed in to stereotypes based on the assumed characteristics. Readers and commenters in this forum are of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, races, religions, ethnic backgrounds, abilities, political persuasions and have numerous other characteristics, and all deserve to be respected.

              1. AcademiaNut*

                Fundamentally, I’ve found that this sort of behaviour comes when the Tim sees the other person as less deserving/worthy for some reason other than workplace performance. So being outdone for the promotion becomes a personal insult to Tim’s sense of worth, and the other person needs to be taken down a peg in retaliation. It’s not necessarily a conscious decision, so the Tim themselves may not realize why they’re reacting so strongly.

                Gender and race are definitely very common reasons why the Tim sees themselves as inherently more worthy. Age and seniority are also common – managing someone who thinks they should have been promoted because they’re older, or have been there longer. You could also have a prestigious education (“but I graduated from X!”), or relation to the boss (“but I’m her niece!”), and so on.

                1. Creag an Tuire*

                  Yes, though IMO it usually works the other way ’round — few people are brazen enough to think they’re more “worthy” because of their race, but it’s very easy to tell yourself that “Jane beat me for the promotion because of the effing diversity quota” rather than admit “Jane beat me for the promotion because I’ve been a mediocre employee”.

                2. Anonsie*

                  This is a very good way of explaining it. I tried to come up with a way to put this into words before and couldn’t really come up with a way to do it that didn’t sound like a real big generalization.

    2. Kvaren*

      I wonder if this guy bragged up about the promotion he thought he’d be getting to his girlfriend, then got maximum butthurt upon learning that he did not in fact get the promotion. He probably had to come clean to his girlfriend, and since then, he put OP to blame for any of his shortcomings.

      1. Laurel Gray*

        I definitely think expectations is a main part of why he is constantly nagging at work and to the OP (wait, am I allowed to use nag when talking about a man or is there a different word?). Either way, Tim needs to take a stroll down to CVS and get an $8 tube of Preparation H and soothe his butthurtness, not take it out on the OP.

          1. neverjaunty*

            I am thinking those pillows, if emblazoned with “For Your Butthurt” in sappy script, would be a huge seller.

      2. Cactus*

        The whole “girlfriend was mad because he didn’t get a promotion” thing makes me imagine him looking/talking/acting like Johnny in The Room.

    3. BeautifulVoid*

      You know, if I were OP, I might be at the point where the next time he’s a tool (especially if it’s around other people), I’d ask him really, really loudly, “Well, what would you like me to do about it, Tim? Quit so you can have my job?” Just get all the awkwardness and toolishness right out there in the open and make him deal with it. It sounds like everyone else on the team knows the score, anyway.

      1. KB*

        But what should the OP’s response be when Tim says something like “Of course, I mean you clearly aren’t capable of it! You can’t even keep up with X and Y!”? Right-thinking people would find that sort of question awkward. Tim isn’t and so he wouldn’t.

        1. BeautifulVoid*

          Oh, I don’t doubt that there’s a possibility that Tim would answer honestly. Still doesn’t make him look good, though, and definitely won’t get him the results he wants. There are a ton of ways to respond if he did shout that out. I’m a fan of the silent, steely look/raised eyebrow combination, followed by carrying on with the task at hand as if nothing happened. Or, as others have pointed out, saying “I’m not the person you need to be discussing that with, then”, or something along those lines. Or a simple “Oh. Interesting.” (followed by the returning to the task at hand as if nothing happened)

      2. Not So NewReader*

        From the sounds of it at this point Tim can’t even do his own job, never mind OP’s job. Tim’s emotions have gotten in the way of his professionalism. I have all the empathy in the world for people who miss out on promotions. But I ran out of empathy for Tim.

        The sad thing is that if Tim threw 200% support behind OP in her new job, OP would be in telling the boss how great it is to work with Tim. What a totally different picture than the one we actually have here.

        1. afiendishthingy*

          Yeah, I’d be tempted to say earnestly but a little too loudly “I’m not sure why you’re telling me about your relationship problems, Tim. Have you tried the EAP?”

          1. AnonInSC*

            Or innocently asking people how the team is going to handle Tim’s departure. I mean, he told you he wasn’t going to renew his contact…you didn’t know hadn’t notified anyone else yet. Of course you assumed he would have done so…..

          2. Dynamic Beige*

            My vet has an awful awesome letter framed in her waiting room. It’s a rejection letter from a veterinary college dated 1964 (or maybe 2)? The male dean is explaining why she has been turned down and it boils down to there are only 3 slots open every year for women, but if a deserving male candidate comes along who needs it, he gets it and that year they had many stellar applicants. It then goes on to suggest she enroll in nursing or some other profession that isn’t as strenuous as veterinary medicine. It is an awesome example of the kind of awful shite women were subjected to all the time.

            I think I’d be at the point where I’d be all “well, it’s a good thing then that jobs aren’t assigned any more based on whether or not you’ve got a little woman at home to support” or “Why? Is she unemployed? Oh! She makes more than you, doesn’t she?” Shouting over shoulder at rest of team — “Hey! Tim doesn’t know the status of ProjectX? Can anyone tell me what’s going on with it?” and walk away.

            Or “Tim, if they didn’t give you the promotion/full time job before, what do you think your odds are now that everyone on the team has seen the way you’ve been behaving since you didn’t get it? Do you think they’ll give it to you now just to get you to stop complaining? Because life doesn’t work like that.”

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        Or, “Geez Tim, if only you put the amount of energy into your job that you put into throwing me shade for getting this position”.

  5. Anonsie*

    I believe it’s time to be more abrupt than more abrupt than usual.

    It’s pretty clear here that folks in this department know Tim is the problem and probably dislike dealing with him just as much, which makes LW’s job of 1) really clamping down and 2) talking to their manager a lot easier since there’s a good chance he’s at least vaguely aware of the issue.

    1. The Bimmer Guy*

      Yeah, typically people whose attitudes are as bad as Tim’s can’t brown-nose their way out of having their poor reputation eventually waft its way up to a manager. Not to mention that if Tim is as uncooperative and unproductive as OP says he is, his productivity is noticeably below-par.

  6. Former Retail Manager*

    I almost wonder if Tim is trying to push your buttons? I would have lost it on him long ago. Kudos to you for remaining professional and trying to address it head on. However, as Alison and everyone else said, please tell the manager. People like Tim are rarely unknown to the higher ups. As another person said, your manager is likely aware of Tim….perhaps your boss is just waiting for someone to bring something to his/her attention that will enable boss to let Tim go?

    1. Alabama Vet*

      OP, totally agree here. You said in your update that “Tim” keeps getting his contract extended, right? Well, if you appraise your manager of this butt-head’s actions and seeming attempts to “torpedo” you as a team leader, this could be just what your manager needs to send him “far, far away”. Good luck & Happy New Year!!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Sure, Tim is trying to push OP’s buttons. OP is accessible. It would not be appropriate to talk to the boss in a similar manner. Check it out- the boss is the one who made the decision on the promotion, not OP. Tim’s anger is totally misplaced, but he has targeted the least threatening (to him) person in the situation.

      I truly do wonder what he expects OP to do. It’s up to you, OP, but you could consider saying, “Tim, this seems to be an on-going concern. Because your concern is on-going, I think that you and I should sit down and talk it over with the boss. Boss is the person who made the decision, not me.”

  7. animaniactoo*

    The situation already IS “all kinds of awkward”.

    Yes, go to the manager, but also – you’re letting “Tim” verbally push you around. You can speak up more strongly in response to him with statements like “That’s actually not true, Tim. Even permanent team members need others to fill them in when somebody else has worked on the project. If you have a special osmosis technique of getting info, I’d be glad to hear it.”, “Actually, it does have to do with you since you may be working on this at some point.” and “I’m not going to apologize for getting the spot. I’m sorry your gf is upset, however I don’t want to talk about it/hear it” (or depending on your temperament “That’s nothing to do with me”).

    You’ve been conciliatory, abrupt and attempted to be absent. It sounds like one thing you haven’t done is be a little more direct about your tolerance level and how ridiculous he’s being.

    1. neverjaunty*

      It doesn’t help to throw in little digs about ‘osmosis’ or ‘I’m sorry your girlfriend is upset’ – that’s simply buying into Tim’s desire to make this a personal issue between himself and the LW. Better for LW to simply skip over the whining and pretend it’s a professional interaction – ignoring his whines and changing the subject (“Sorry to hear that. So, about that report…”), or repeating herself when he tries to hold back information (“Again, I’m asking you about the third-quarter deliverable. Where are you in that process?”).

  8. afiendishthingy*

    Ugh, Tim sucks. I hope your manager is the reasonable sort who will STOP EXTENDING TIM’S CONTRACT if he keeps this up.

    1. KR*

      I hate when people swear that they’ll quit and they never do. It reflects so poorly on your attitude about working.

    2. Isabelle*

      I feel that Tim doesn’t deserve any more chances so this current contract extension should be his last. This is not just a short-lived knee-jerk reaction from his initial disappointment, it’s an ongoing nightmare that interferes with the duties of OP and her colleagues.

      Tim needs to go because the way he’s behaving is completely unacceptable and it won’t be long before it damages the morale of everybody in the team. It would also do him a favour, it’s the short sharp shock he needs to get out of the toxic thinking pattern he’s stuck in.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Agreed. If I were the manager, the thought of keeping Tim while losing good employees who would leave to escape him would have had me terminating that contract YESTERDAY.

  9. Observer*

    First of all congratulations.

    Secondly, I’d keep it short and professional with Tim. Complaints about his finances, GF, etc? “That’s not a discussion to have with me.” and either on to the topic at hand or turn / walk away (whichever is appropriate). “You should know that” gets either silence from you to him, if you are asking someone else for information. If you are asking him for information then it’s “I asked you a question. Please answer.” or “I asked you for information. Please provide it.” etc.

    And, absolutely, DO go to your manager. This is not about someone who is not being nice. He is being uncooperative and actively trying to interfere with your work. You are not his manager, thus don’t have the authority to force the issue. Tell your manager that you have tried ignoring him, talking to him, any approach tht you thought might work. At this point you are just trying to keep it minimally cooperative and professional but you can’t force him to behave like a professional adult.

    1. videogame Princess*

      I am wondering if one of the things the OP is afraid of is that Tim is correct and she SHOULD know these things. (S)he needs to remind her (him)self that these are expectations that her manager should set, not Tim. In fact, why not talk to the manager in the framing of “I’m confused about expectations for myself, Tim keeps suggesting that maybe I should have background knowledge that isn’t always available to me, how should I handle it”? That way even on the off chance that Tim is correct (not likely) it isn’t accusatory and the OP can approach this fearlessly.

      1. Anna*

        Because that gives the power to Tim and doesn’t at all address how unprofessional and childish Tim is being. There comes a time when a person shouldn’t have to hedge or beat around the bush and this is one of them.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Actually, I partially agree with Videogame Princess. I think OP should ask her manager if there’s some knowledge that she’s missing…but that would be AFTER the conversation about Tim being an ass and would constitute just a fraction of a percent of the conversation. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to ask the manager if there’s something she’s missing.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I think that OP sounds like she has a good handle on things, though, in terms of what knowledge she should or should not have. It would not hurt to ask the boss, “Have I missed something here?” That is a good question for many situations.

          2. Anna*

            Except Tim is the only one who’s commenting on it and he’s not a reliable source. If other people were making comments similar to Tim’s (just less assholey), I could see having that conversation. However, there’s no reason to trust that Tim’s shitty attitude might have some truth to it. He hasn’t earned it. The OP could ask for feedback, but it should be as part of being new to a role, not because Jerkface Tim might have a point anywhere other than the top of his head.

        2. The Bimmer Guy*

          True, and even if OP does have some kind of knowledge deficit, most managers aren’t going to advocate rudely brushing off a coworker who needs assistance by saying, “You should know this.”

          Tim is acting like a five-year-old.

        3. videogame Princess*

          I get this–but if she is really that nervous, she needs some way to broach this topic. Sometimes it’s better to couch it in these terms than to say nothing at all.

  10. TT*

    That’s the kind of behavior that would make me want to kill Tim with sarcasm. A moment where you know you should report this jerk to the boss, but you don’t really want to explain your actions either.

    Tim: my girl says I should get the job! She’s disappointed!
    Me: Well Tim, she’s dating you. I’m sure she’s used to disappointment by now.

    Tim: You’re on the team, you should know this!
    Me: Oh wow, Tim – thanks for the great advice! Is knowing x,y,z how you got the job? Oh, wait…..*fake sad face*

    Ok, ok….I wouldn’t say those things in real life but I’d SURELY be thinking them. The one-liners pretty much write themselves with good old Tim.

    1. get some perspective*

      What about holding up two fingers in the shape of an upper-case L and asking him “Do you know what this means, Tim? It’s the letter L. As in Loser.” How about that?

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        That’s more unprofessional than Tim’s behavior. He’s angry about being passed over and OP is seeking remediation, and hopefully – rehabilitation for Tim.

        That’s taunting. No OP, don’t do that.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Exactly. One, because Tim isn’t worth the effort, and two, because OP doesn’t want to be in the position of the manager saying ‘both of you are behaving badly’.

          1. Artemesia*

            I think the aura of pity and concern is the right note to strike. ‘Oh Tim, you must feel just awful about that’ when he whines about his girlfriend and not getting the job. ‘oh I’m sorry, I thought you would know the answer to that, I’ll just get Wakeen to update me on the project status. I didn’t realize you didn’t know.’

            ‘Have you checked with HR, I think they have some EAP programs that might help you with your feelings.’

            1. The Bimmer Guy*

              “I’ll just get Wakeen to update me on the project status. I didn’t realize you didn’t know.”

              That’s a good one. Then, Tim would either have to go with the fact that you just said he was as uniformed as you were…or he’d have to admit that, yes, he does know that information, but is just being a jerk and withholding it for no good reason.

    2. Shannon*

      “I didn’t ask for commentary, I asked for information on X.”

      “That’s got nothing to do with me.” “How’s that ambition and hard work working out for you Tim?”

      Sigh. If only we could say to coworkers what we really wanted to say.

  11. The Bimmer Guy*

    Tim sounds like a tool (Tim “The Tool Man”…haha). His churlish, manipulative and immature behavior is impacting your work and making you miserable. You need to do as Alison says and address this with your manager immediately. Any good manager would want to put the kibosh on Tim’s behavior.

  12. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    One of the things that you have to endure – if someone was passed over for promotion and you won the position – whether you are the better candidate or not – you may have some flak to endure.

    1) I have always observed, in such situations, that management will support the successful candidate and not the rejectee. You should have management support. Obtain it. USE IT. Management made a decision to choose you – a candidate – if they don’t back you – they’re not backing their own decision. Unless they promoted you to hang you out to dry, ask your superiors for support. But do understand, you’re dealing with someone who is angry.

    2) One by-product of people being passed over for promotion – especially if it’s one for a position that they’ve been aiming for, for a number of years – is that they may tank. There is no further incentive to excel, drive is diminished because there’s nothing left to work toward. This may be hard for people to understand – but the goal that this person was striving to attain has been pulled out from under him. “The fire is extinguished.” This can happen. Gotta live with it and work around it. He has to live with being passed over, rightfully or wrongfully. You have to live – or handle – this situation. You can say “be a professional.” What you’re really telling the guy is “get over it.” Some people can’t just “get over it” or consider it “water under the dam”. And they will gloat in your failures.

    So – go for 1) and hope it works out for YOU and your company. It may not work out for this other guy – unless they can find him another position. Good luck.

  13. Rahera*

    Really sorry to hear this, OP. Tim’s behaviour is inexcusably immature. I hope your manager is supportive and constructive.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Yes, but it’s important to note that we are seeing a reaction to his being passed over.

      It renders a justification, a defense for management’s decision. But things might have been VERY different if Tim had been promoted.

      His being passed over was a vote of “no confidence”. He is returning the same.

  14. Pointy Haired Boss*

    It sounds like management did a bad job of being transparent with the internal candidates.

    When an internal candidate is selected over an external candidate, it’s rough, but most applicants can understand it — it shows that the company promotes from within, which is usually a sign that it treats employees well.

    When one internal applicant is selected over another, however, the feedback to the rejected internal applicant needs to be a lot clearer, otherwise they will naturally assume the worst-case scenario, such as that the person who was selected was selected due to playing golf with the boss rather than their hard skills.

    It sounds like that is what Tim has started to assume. There are two ways you could solve this. The best way, although often not practical, is to demonstrate your competence in ways that makes it hard for even the most bitter skeptic to remain skeptical. This happens a lot when a “paper-pusher” is assigned to direct people with more hands-on jobs, for instance. Getting on the shop floor and showing that they know their stuff squashes a lot of the paper-pusher suspicions, while evading it simply encourages them to hassle you and reinforces their belief that you don’t know what you are doing and that not listening to you is best for the company.

    The other is asking the hiring panel to give Tim a blunt de-briefing on why he wasn’t selected, even if that sort of thing tends to cause HR to panic. Get him to sign an “I won’t sue you” form, if necessary.

    Once he has clear feedback on why he was the worse candidate, or clear evidence that you are the best candidate, the hassling will likely stop.

    1. neverjaunty*

      No, it’s not “natural” to “assume the worst-case scenario” because one co-worker got picked for another for a promotion, transparency or no. It’s actually pretty self-indulgent in the absence of any reasonable belief that there is unfair bias – such as the promoted co-worker in fact being Boss’ golf buddy.

      And no, it’s also completely unreasonable to suggest that the LW needs to “prove” herself by being so competent that even a bitter twerp like Tim can’t ignore it, much less that she should get HR involved. (“I won’t sue you” form? WTF? What is Tim going to sue for? Tortious butthurt?)

      1. Pointy Haired Boss*

        If not natural, it is remarkably common — if someone were to put two glasses of water in front of me that to my standard palate looked, smelled, and tasted the same, yet they insisted that the one on the left was superior, would the reasonable thing be to assume they had some sort of secret water connoisseur knowledge, or that they were making their decision based on personal preference? If the former, why? Especially if it is also unreasonable for them to have demonstrated their expert-level water tasting abilities at any point in the past. :-) If anything, I’d be paranoid as hell to be surrounded by employees who seem so unconditionally trusting — it’s far more likely in that case that I’d surrounded myself with yes men who would agree with any fool thing I said.

        Also, yes, lawsuits for tortious butthurt are a big (if irrational) fear. Businesses know that once they reach a certain size, individual employees don’t have the power to hurt them, but the courts still have that power.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Sorry, I really don’t see how the analogy to glasses of water makes any sense, unless we’re assuming that candidates for a job are most commonly just as alike as identical glasses of water (that is, they have no distinguishable productivity, experience, education, or seniority whatsoever). Also, as you know, people may prefer one brand of water over another because of its presentation, convenience, or other factors besides how it looks in a glass – and jumping to the conclusion of “you must be buddies with the guy who owns the bottling company” is kind of silly.

          You’re also missing that Tim is upset not because he thinks he is identical to OP in terms of qualifications, such that only favoritism could explain the difference; he thought he was superior. Do you think someone this immature is going to settle down and be cool with the situation if management were to go with radical honestly, and, say, tell him that he lost out because of his attitude?

          The alternative to “jumping to conclusions” is not “unconditionally trusting”, btw. In a situation where somebody really is the boss’s golfing buddy, and then got promoted over persons with less experience, of course people will speculate. But I’m seriously not understanding the argument that all sensible people immediately assume favoritism and bias if they don’t get a job they think they were entitled to – much less that the candidate who did get hired, and the company, ought to cater to their feelings or act terrified of a nonsense lawsuit.

    2. doreen*

      I don’t agree that it’s natural to assume that there is some sort of unfair bias and I don’t agree that the hassling is likely to stop if “Tim” is given clear feedback about why he wasn’t chosen or why the OP was the best pick. In my experience, people who assume there is some sort of unfair bias aren’t going to be swayed by feedback or evidence – they simply think the feedback is being made up to justify the biased decision and they don’t acknowledge the evidence that would show that the OP was in fact the best candidate. The people who will be swayed by feedback are the more reasonable types who can see that what they have to offer may not be what the decision maker is looking for , even if the candidate thinks the decision maker is dead wrong. There is someone in my agency who will never in a million years choose me for a promotion. It’s not because she’s biased against me – it’s because she prefers to promote people who will do what she says without question (even when they are more knowledgeable about the subject than she is) and who will run every decision past her. Those aren’t the preferences I have when I am promoting someone , but they are hers. If for some reason I really wanted a promotion in her area, getting feedback might help me present myself in a way that meets her preferences.

      ( But of course, that would never happen. Because just as I am not the type of subordinate she prefers, she is not the type of supervisor I prefer.)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I agree with this. It won’t stop because Tim is getting something out of it. He can’t have what he wants, so he’s painted himself as the victim. He would only see a blunt discussion as another attack.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      The Tims of the world do not respond to transparency that well. Even if Tim is told to beef up X, Y and Z in order to be considered for promotion, a Tim type person will be too busy saying how much he deserves the promotion and will not hear the message. The same goes for a de-briefing, Tim will not be listening to what is said.

      OP seems to be demonstrating stellar competence at her new job. Additionally, she does not owe any proof to Tim in any manner. She has gone out of her way to try to quell the situation and every method she has chosen has failed. Tim is not consolable because he chooses to be inconsolable. You can’t make a person understand or calm down if they chose not to understand and calm down.

      I don’t think the problem is severe enough to require that Tim talk to the hiring panel (if any) nor does he need to sign a “I won’t sue form”. I think that OP needs to loop in her boss, state the problem, state what has been done so far and ask the boss how to proceed as the problem has not been resolved. It’s up to the boss to take it from there. A good boss will pick up on this type of situation.

      I do think that OP is on firm ground in going to the boss with this. Tim is sabotaging work flows by not providing OP with information she needs. Additionally, Tim has made himself into someone who is not approachable as he is unwilling to get along with OP. Our willingness to get along with others is basic to any job, Tim lacks that willingness. This could harm the company in the long run if left unchecked.

      While in general I agree with what you are saying, I think due to the specifics of OP’s setting other angles need to be factored in.

      1. Pointy Haired Boss*

        I suppose it’s hard for me to believe that this “Tim” archetype is that common. It seems like someone arguing that everybody they normally meet is like the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, convinced that losing their arm is “just a flesh wound”, or Bill Murray in Groundhog Day freezing to death in a blizzard as he tries to argue with a cop that it isn’t really snowing so bad the roads should be closed. :-) I mean, how doomed is humanity if acting like the comic relief characters from movies is the new norm, rather than the rare exception? It just seems too much for me.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          “how doomed is humanity if acting like the comic relief characters from movies is the new norm, rather than the rare exception? It just seems too much for me.”

          Been following American politics lately? :)

          I remember when I thought the Tims of the world were rare. They are not, unfortunately. Some people can bluster themselves into believing anything, especially about their own skills. Check out the Dunning-Kruger effect for the psych info on how this happens – way more often than one might think!

    4. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      As NotSoNewReader said – the “Tims” of the world don’t react well to transparency. There was also the problem – he is almost certainly still convinced that HE should have gotten the position.

      Also – if there was a lot of transparency, and the reasons were illogical, “we needed a woman in that position”, “OP is more popular”, “you are better technically but OP has a longer future here”, etc., OR — “it was a toss-up, OP was going to leave if we didn’t give this to her” , YES THAT HAPPENS . Worst of all = “I dunno, it was just something.”

      If it came down to subjective factors, Tim would have been owed an explanation and analysis, plus a plan to get to the next step. He has invested a term of his working life toward the company. He’s owed that.

      Unfortunately for Tim, he is reinforcing management’s decision to select OP for the slot over him. “See, look at Tim now! We did the right thing!”

      Tim, on the other hand, knows that he’s valuable to the company somehow, because they wouldn’t keep extending his contracts.

      Management is in a dilemma – they probably had two qualified candidates, and they now face terminating or losing the guy who didn’t get the job.

      I once saw a show – “What’s Happening?” – where a good manager had two good internal candidates for a higher slot. He chose one – he could ONLY choose one. How did he handle the guy who was passed over?

      a) told him he could have done the job well, it was competitive, and he chose the other guy, and it was difficult for him to make the choice.

      b) he couldn’t give him the promotion, but he did give him praise – and a raise….

      Demonstrating –
      a) he wanted to keep him in the fold, he needed him
      b) he is a valuable member of the team, he wanted to show it
      c) he wanted to give him something, knowing that he just threw a disappointment on him, but wanted him to get through it
      and –
      UNSTATED – he has him in reserve in case the promotee doesn’t work out. in the higher position.

  15. OP*

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. I’ll be bearing in mind everything you’ve all said.

    Just to clear up a few things that have been mentioned – yes, I am female, and I’m in my mid-20s. Tim is male and approximately 10 years older than me, the same gender and around the same age as about two thirds of the department I work in. All my other colleagues have been so helpful, welcoming and supportive, which has helped me to think of this situation in terms of Tim being how he is, rather than it necessarily being an age or gender-related issue.

    As to why I got the job and Tim didn’t, I can only go on the feedback I received and what Tim told me he was told. The people who interviewed me said that I interviewed really well (they said they didn’t have any negative feedback), the work I’d been doing in the department was exemplary, and they were really looking forward to working with me. My manager added that it had been a difficult decision but that he had to do “what’s right for the team long-term”. Tim told me that when they told him he didn’t get the job, they said he’d under-prepared for the interview, and that his attitude in the interview made it very clear that he was unwilling to be managed by one of the interviewers (not our current manager, but the manager of a closely connected team we have a lot of dealings with – Tim has often told me that he doesn’t like her, so I guess this must have come across).

    To tell you the truth, it’s getting me down. Only today, I’ve had him peering over my shoulder to see what I’m doing, and loudly asking, “Have you even done anything today?” I heard him complaining on the phone to IT about how it’s not fair that my computer’s better than his, and every time I say anything – even in a casual, non-work related question, even if I’m speaking to someone other than him – I can see him rolling his eyes and raising his eyebrows and sighing, as if to say that I’m completely stupid.

    I’m not really at my best in general. The winter blues have been creeping up on me, making me fantasise about sleeping for about the next three months, and I have ongoing family problems (without going into too much detail, my mother’s long-term physical and mental illnesses are simultaneously worsening, meaning that when I’m not at work I’m constantly worrying, panicking and figuratively putting out fires). Add Tim’s toolishness into the mix and I assume you can imagine how fed up I’m feeling.

    I’m a bit of an ignorer by nature in these types of situations – my instinct is to shut it out and hope it goes away. But it’s been so long now, and I have to deal with him every working day, that I know I have to do something. I’ve got a development meeting with my manager in the New Year so I will raise it then.

    Thanks again for all your advice everyone, and sorry for being such a downer!

    1. Tomato Frog*

      Do raise it! He just sounds sooo gratuitously unpleasant, and it’s terrible to think that you or any other employees should suffer because of this asshat.

      And please keep us updated, in the Friday open threads if not through Alison.

    2. KDL*

      Tim is acting as the boss here, he’s asserting non existent authority over you. He’s bullying you and you’re allowing it.

      You are his boss NOT the other way around, you were promoted he was NOT, you have the authority he does NOT.
      Appeasement only makes the aggressor more aggressive.

      Stand up for yourself.

  16. KDL*

    Take Tim to one side/in your office sit him down, and say very firmly look, this has been going on for too long now and it’s got to stop.

    If it doesn’t i’m going to have to escalate things. I don’t particularly want to but if i have to i will. Do you understand? Have i made myself clear?

    You were promoted, you are his boss, Time to start acting like it, otherwise those who promoted you might start thinking they made the wrong choice. But even if they did they still wouldn’t promote Tim, they’d go external and where would that leave you? Demoted, moved, possibly out of a job. But Tim would still be where he is now.

    Time to use your authority and put your foot down.

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