how to deal with a controlling coworker

A reader writes:

I have a colleague who does basically the same work that I do – we’re in the same unit, have essentially the same job functions, the same bosses, and we share an assistant. More importantly, we’re in the same pay grade. I have been in this job longer, but she is older and has more work experience in general.

We have several progress meetings with our various bosses, but she wants the two of us and our assistant to meet once a week to give each other status updates. She generally likes to be the one in charge, and I cannot shake the feeling that this is another attempt by her to exert control and set herself up to be in a position of “authority” over me. These meetings may very well be useful, but I don’t want to be a part of them.

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • I can’t do my new job’s required travel
  • How can I keep staff meetings from turning into debates
  • My manager hires new people without consulting with the rest of us
  • I don’t want to be the backup driver for an oversized company vehicle

{ 85 comments… read them below }

  1. Wakeen's Duck Club*

    Re: “My manager hires new people without consulting with the rest of us” – It seems to me that more often than not, staff who are on the same level as the new employee are not involved in the hiring process. (There are exceptions, of course.)

    1. JulieBulie*

      True, but usually we’re at least given a heads-up that there will be a new team member. It does seem extremely weird to show up to work one day and find out you have a new peer within your own group.

      Sounded like LW was also miffed that his coworkers attended his own interview, but now he’s not getting invited to attend interviews for new people. There’s probably a reason their boss stopped doing that which has nothing to do with LW.

        1. JulieBulie*

          Oh, I agree not involving them in the interviews is normal… but I can see why it would strike LW as weird considering that that wasn’t how it was when HE interviewed for the job. His future coworkers were all there when he interviewed.

          That’s why I said that maybe there was a reason the manager stopped inviting peers to the interviews.

      1. Nicotene*

        On the other hand, I was pretty hacked when my boss hired someone I ultimately oversee (not a direct report, but they’re below me in the hierarchy and I end up directing a lot of their work). I think my boss was excited to hire the person who would report to him – the first he’d hired, I believe – and wasn’t looking for any input, but I did feel devalued since I spend more face time with this person then they do.

        1. Specialk9*

          My friend had the same situation – boss hired someone (utterly unqualified) without her input, but then she had to manage the fait accompli new employee… Who was an incredible nightmare.

    2. Turquoise Cow*

      My first office job, my supervisor was informed by his boss that I’d be starting the next Monday — on Friday at 4:30, as Boss was walking out the door.

      But he (and that place) were kind of dysfunctional.

      Later on, when a supervisor at the same level as my supervisor was hiring a new person at my level, he got the other supervisors to interview the candidates as well, because he couldn’t decide. The coworkers at my level were not asked to review resumes or sit in the interviews (they were too big on maintaining the hierarchy to do that), but we did at least know about the (lengthy) process as it was going on.

      1. Beer Thirty*

        One of my direct reports got promoted to supervisor (still reporting to me, but supervising a group of people who had previously reported directly to me) without me knowing it. He went and talked to our VP, and our VP gave him the promotion without getting any input from me. I was definitely pissed about that.

    3. Formica Dinette*

      My personal experience has been mostly the opposite, especially on smaller teams like the ones in the letter. Our manager made the final decision, but the team got to interview and provide some level of input. And with the kind of work the LW is doing, there’s often lots of collaboration, so it’s important that they can work well together.

      On the other hand, I thought it was a bit much when a friend who does hair didn’t get one job because all of the salon’s staff had to agree on every new hire–and it was something like 10 people.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        Yes, most of the places I’ve worked, you’re interviewed by your peers, and the hiring manager.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      Well yeah, it’s like that here, but I don’t like it or believe it’s ideal.
      The last couple hires we made (or they made, ha) we’re questionable at best.
      And after the manager for that department left, I made sure the new manager knew of all the issues with that last hire and he agreed and let her go. I told him when we’re in the position to hire again, I’d like to be part of it and he was like “hmm we’ve never done that before but that’s a great idea, after all, you have to work with the person”. Duh.

    5. Nic*

      At OldJob one morning I was settling in to work for the day when my manager came up to me. “Hey, this is New Person. They won’t have a computer for a few days, but we want to give them to you to assist with your work. Please start training them now.”

    6. Specialk9*

      Really? That’s the norm in your industry? I’ve always been interviewed by future peers, even future assistants.

  2. MommyMD*

    LW 2 says the job posting made no mention of “extensive” travel. I wonder if it indeed mentioned “travel”? I wonder how it worked out.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Me too. One thing that struck me about that post the first time it ran was the mention of “agency” — at least in the ad agency world, client-related travel is so ubiquitous that it wouldn’t occur to me *not* to ask where the client is located and how often they’d expect someone in my role to go. I also proactively bring it up when I’m interviewing candidates.

      So I wonder whether OP’s not asking was naive relative to her industry norms.

      1. AMT*

        Funny, as a social worker, my first thought was “social services agency.” I think “agency” is too broad a term to read anything into. Could be almost any industry.

      2. MommyMD*

        If the ad post said any kind of travel at all, I’d be asking about it during the interview stage. It might be a deal breaker.

    2. Liane*

      If it had said even just plain “travel” I think the OP would asked for specifics, since she clearly realizes a detail like that needs clarified.

    3. Gruntled Employee*

      I know someone who tells their direct reports that “travel is a privilege.” Uh – NO!

  3. Artemesia*

    I love the idea of preparing an agenda for these meetings and leading the meetings that controlling worker is calling. And on the agenda ought to be ‘how often is is productive to meet.’

    1. KHB*

      But isn’t that exactly the same thing as the LW’s already annoyed at her coworker for doing (i.e., trying to exert dominance over someone who by all accounts is a peer)? Drawing up an agenda for a meeting that someone else has called isn’t acting “assertively like an equal” – it’s acting like you are the one in charge. If the goal is to get the coworker to back off, I don’t think that’s going to work – if anything, it will prompt her to ramp up her efforts and start an arms race where the two of them are constantly struggling for control.

      If there really is a need for more communication between them in their day-to-day work, ad hoc check-ins may be the way to do it, but maybe there needs to be a clarifying discussion on what form the check-ins need to take. E.g., if the LW is getting started on the TPS reports, does she need to say “Hey, coworker, just so you know, I’m getting started on the TPS reports,” or should she just go ahead and do it, and leave it to the coworker to ask about the TPS report status if she ever needs to know?

        1. The Southern Gothic*

          That is really the best response. The other response could be “Let’s invite our supervisor to these meetings. I believe their perspective would be useful in this context”

          Then wait quietly for her response.

      1. designbot*

        That’s what I worry about too–that efforts to push back will start an arms race. But what is the alternative, to just roll over and let her become LW’s de facto boss? I don’t think there is a perfect response from LW, because ideally the change comes from her colleague just backing off.

        1. KHB*

          It’s hard to say what the best course of action is in general, because we only have this one example of the coworker’s controlling behavior (although the LW does say there are others). For this particular issue, I think the answer may be to ask the coworker what information she needs from you that she’s not getting, and seeing if there’s some other way to provide that other than in a meeting (whether it’s each of them agreeing to email the other when they start a new project, or putting together a whiteboard or spreadsheet where they each keep track of what they’re working on, or whatever).

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        Eh, I can see why you are saying the coworker called the meeting–it was her idea. But she’s just suggesting the meeting, and she suggesting that two peers meet. That not the same as drawing up an agenda for a meeting that, say, your supervisor called. I think it would be fine to draw up a proposed agenda in this specific kind of situation and send it around ahead of time, so long as the OP doesn’t show up and spring it on her coworker at the meeting and try to steamroll over her. That way if there are any changes the coworker wants to make, they can come up with an agenda that works for both of them. But it’s a subtle way of saying “we’re equals here.”

        1. Kathenus*

          Another option, if the LW agrees that there might be value in the meetings, would be a response along the lines of “That’s a good idea, and we can take turns setting agendas alternate weeks. I’ll handle this week’s, and you can set next week’s agenda. Thanks for the suggestion.”

          1. KHB*

            I don’t know, the whole idea of an “agenda” for a weekly status update is kind of weird to begin with. A weekly status update is “I tell you what I’ve been working on, and you tell me what you’ve been working on.” I have a hard time seeing that there’d be much of an agenda to set in the first place, let alone any sensible reason why you need to decide in advance who’s going to set it.

            1. nonymous*

              see I’m looking the “agenda” as an organizational tool. Instead of team members sharing ad hoc, it’s all captured in a single document. The problem is that even in a small group of 3 it’s very easy for person A to tell B but forget to tell C. Or the topic might evolve in the time between when A-B have a convo vs A-C. Or B may make suggestions/requests of A that are in direct conflict with those of C. My personal experience has been also that sometimes multiple individuals are working with the same external stakeholder (on different tasks) but there can be value in sharing those experiences from the perspective of efficiency and customer service.

              Perhaps this is rubbing OP the wrong way because the request is coming from the peer and not the Admin? Because I do see a lot of benefits of a weekly confab from the admin’s perspective.

          2. Green Goose*

            I like this idea. Since we don’t know the full backstory, I get the sense that the LW feels like her coworker is asking for LW to report to her what she is doing (like a direct report would do) so alternating weeks could be good. Or maybe even a shared Google sheet where they can put what the are working on each week.

        2. TootsNYC*

          You can certainly draw up you OWN agenda for any meeting–what do you want to get out of this meeting? you don’t have to share it with anyone, but you can certainly make you list and then go down it to be sure you’ve covered what’s important to you.

      3. Specialk9*

        My concern would be that taking on the admin work (creating the agenda etc) for a meeting your pushy co-worker called could actually cement you as lower in the pecking order. Kind of darned either way.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      I’m picturing the two of them duking it out, so to speak, each trying to be in control of the meeting. “As I was saying today we’re going to talk about…”. “No, as *I* was saying, today’s topic is…”. With everyone else looking like they’re watching a tennis match.

    3. TootsNYC*

      Never leave a vacuum.
      Speak first whenever possible. Be the person who says, “Well, it seems like we’re done.”

      Try to answer all important questions before they’re asked, to avoid her asking them. Be prepared. And especially beat her to questions that feel like “boss is asking”: how is it going, when will it be done, etc. Anticipate them, and answer them before she gets a chance to ask them.

      I want to reiterate the “never leave a vacuum.” I’ve been a department head, and I am also a “get things done” and “take charge and give directions” kind of person. If there’s a vacuum, I will have to fight hard to keep from filling it.
      So if she’s just someone whose instincts are driving this, be sure you don’t sit back and be passive, because that will just pull her right into that vacuum. Even if she doesn’t want to b ethat kidn of person.

  4. bleh*

    I had a similar situation where someone I worked with (in a support role but he was not my superior) wanted biweekly check-ins. He otherwise was a very difficult person to deal with and there was definitely a lot of dumb mind games and power struggles going on (one-sided mostly because I didn’t care). I placated him and scheduled the meetings but I insisted he send me an agenda beforehand and that we agree to cancel if there was nothing new to discuss. It mostly worked because we ended up canceling very often. (Which totally proved the point that ad hoc meetings were actually what was needed, but he felt like he got a win by scheduling the meetings so, whatever!)

  5. AthenaC*

    #4 is such a refreshing question after the #1 earlier this morning!

    For reference, #4 at the link is someone who has had a few small accidents who wants to push back on driving a company vehicle because they don’t want to endanger anyone. #1 this morning concerned a coworker who was grossly negligent behind the wheel (resulting in a broken arm for her passenger) who still insists that she’s safe to drive.

    1. JulieBulie*

      Yes. I got hit by an 18-wheeler a little over a year ago. That driver sideswiped me and kept on going. People like #1 this morning give me nightmares. I am relieved to be reminded that there are people like #4.

      1. Charisma*

        I had the exact same thought! Thank you #4 for being so thoughtful and knowing yourself!

  6. Engineer Girl*

    #5 – Pushback for safety reasons is one of the times you have more job protection. In this case you have hard data to back up your position. Maybe collecting all the data on the accidents will show your manager you are struggling with the job? List by date.
    Manager may be thinking “Fergus has had a couple of issues but he’s OK”. If presented the data of the accidents you can see the number of accidents.

  7. Jessica*

    When I’ve taken initiative to meet with role peers (i.e. people who do the same job as me), it was essentially to make sure our workloads were reasonable, that we were using the same processes, brainstorming ideas on how to improve said processes, and to plan out vacations ahead of time so we could coordinate time off and coverage.

    I guess my feeling is that while I sympathize with OP #1 on feeling like you’re being upstaged by someone who wants to be visible with “leadership” tasks (perhaps at your expense), think of it instead as an opportunity. Someone had to initiate, and it was either her or you, so you lost that coin flip. But if you go into it with a “collaborate and listen” (heh) mindset, then the meetings will be that much more productive AND you will both get “leadership visibility” by dividing things between you. One person updates the spreadsheets for Project X and the other person documents the wireframes for Project Y. Be sure and keep notes for the meetings, and what actions you took as a result of said meetings. All of these things are going to look totally awesome at review time, not to mention making your manager’s life smooth sailing when you can both provide comprehensive updates on what you’re all working on.

    So, bottom line is that while there *may* be an argument for your coworker stealing some thunder, it has not in fact started raining yet, and you have tons of ways that you can make this meeting into a great way to organize and document your accomplishments. Give it a shot. If your coworker really does want to turn it into a turf war, that will become apparent later, and you can address that if it happens. But it could work out very well for you.

    1. Mike C.*

      What is productive about these sorts of meetings to begin with? I would be livid if a coworker of mine decided that I needed to drop everything I was doing to tell them what I was working on. That’s a ton of wasted time for no gain.

      1. Queen of the File*

        I think it depends a lot on your team. For us, peer meetings are a way to overcome a lack of role definition and some lacking communication from management. We use the (brief, weekly) time to make sure we are not duplicating work or dropping balls.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        I had a coworker who scheduled weekly “check-in” meetings so we could discuss our workloads and it was definitely a power play. She wanted to make sure she knew what everyone was working on so she could throw a fit and/or muscle in on it if someone else got work she thought was more prestigious or more fun than what she was doing. Also she felt that being the person in charge of the calendar invite gave her leadership cred. I’m sure she’s still going around telling everyone how she organized and led the weekly teapot researcher staff meeting.

        The truth is that 70% of this meeting was people saying “Well I’m doing the exact same teapot research I was doing last week, this is a 6-week project…” and 30% of it was “Do we REALLY need to spend an hour on this every week? I have stuff to do.” As soon as the organizing coworker left the team the meeting was axed by unanimous agreement. Like it was literally the first thing we did as a team when she left.

      3. Jessica*

        My overall thought on this is that it could be territory-carving, or it could be a good thing, and it won’t hurt to at least meet and see what the other coworker has in mind about what these meetings would be for. It could be a good way to collaborate, or if it is about trying to declare turf, then at least OP would know and be able to assert herself in response. But pre-emptively abdicating would only give that coworker free rein to position herself as the “leader” at your expense. Don’t do that.

        1. LazyGirl*

          It could be both territory-carving and a good thing. I took advantage of a situation like that and I’m not gonna apologize for it. I saw a hole, I filled the hole, now I have a promotion and a formal team lead title. The team members who’ve cooperated with me the most *also* got promotions because we are a high performing team, some of which was due to organization (obvs, I’m not taking credit for their work, only the organization piece)

          OP, I don’t disagree with AAM’s advice, but I think you really need to be honest with yourself about whether your team needs to coordinate better and enable that however you can. (Also, it occurs to me that it’s possible your boss has directed or even just implied that she should take on this role, ask him/her if you haven’t)

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        Yeah, while I appreciate Jessica’s initiative, that would not fly around here. My manager would be like “wtf are you doing organizing sh$& like this and spending time on this without my approval?

      5. LQ*

        In our area they have been incredibly helpful. People were duplicating work, doing things they hated that could be done faster by a different person who enjoyed it, knowing when someone was struggling and someone else could pick pieces off their workload. (Could these things be done by a boss? Yes, yes they could. But they can also be done among a group of collaborative coworkers who don’t need to then run to the boss every chance and then have the boss run out and demand and command. But say instead, “I’m a little under water with this thing, does any one have an extra hour this week to help me out?” And someone else says, “Sure, I can pick up this task, or I’ve gotten really fast at that other thing if you want me to take care of it.”) Being able to work directly with coworkers can be great. (The whole being a self-organized team thing.)

        Maybe your work doesn’t allow for any self-determination, but if the work space can? Then why not take advantage of that? Learn things you are interested in, push off things you don’t enjoy that someone else does, improve skills, and help others on the team. That’s a ton of gain for very very little wasted time. (And yes, the person who started doing this organizing on the team got promoted because it was recognized that what she was doing added value to the team and helped the organization and met the goals.)

      6. Meghan*

        I do something similar to this with a coworker and it’s very productive for us. We both work together to run a program at our org in slightly different roles at about the same level. We plan to meet most Mondays to touch base on what deadlines are coming up, be sure all tasks are allocated to someone, and get feedback/share updates on what we’re working on to be sure we’re on the same page. We also communicate ad hoc, but having that set aside time makes it easier to look at the big picture and make sure we’re on target for long term goals. They are nearly always less than 30 minutes and would definitely be redundant if we were part of a larger department that met regularly or if our projects were more independent of each other, but work well given the specifics of our program.

    2. Nicotene*

      Depends on the frequency IMO. Once a quarter or something, sure. But weekly or biweekly is a chunk of my productive time they’re taking, and a peer doesn’t have the authority to make me agree to that.

    3. Turquoise Cow*

      I think it depends on the sort of job you’re doing, and how much collaboration or synchronicity is required between you.

      I mean, if Coworker doing her job correctly impacts you doing yours, then yes, collaborate. But if you’re just filling out the same TPS reports, and it doesn’t matter how you do it, then let her do it her way and you do it yours. The exceptions would be if a) you’re waaay faster at it, or she’s more efficient, and you want to learn each other’s methods or b) if someone above you, or who uses the work you produce, says that you really need to coordinate and do the tasks in the same manner.

      1. Nicotene*

        That to me still isn’t a STANDING meeting. Of course I’ll meet once with anyone who asks at my organization, even the intern – but setting up a recurring meeting just to check each other’s process doesn’t make sense to me.

    4. Jessica*

      We met once a month over lunch. The way our larger team was structured, we had to be very flexible and able to cover projects for multiple categories (different products, same processes). Our manager had a ton of reports, and spent most of his time overseeing projects that needed a lot more hand-holding than we did. So in lieu of trying to grab a piece of our manager’s time to go over these things, we basically did it ourselves. It worked out well, and it was nice to hang out and shoot the breeze over lunch while picking each other’s brains. And it gave us things to talk about in our performance reviews.

      But even a quick 15 minutes of, “Hey, what’s everyone working on? Do you need help? I could use some help on Widget Documentation, maybe cover these areas? Anyone have days off coming up?” covers a lot of bases and just keeps everyone in the loop.

      I would not suggest a meeting just for the sake of a meeting! That’s a waste of time.

    5. TootsNYC*

      well, taking initiative to say, “I think we’re doing the same process different ways–can we compare notes, and maybe come up with something standard?” is very different from saying, “let’s check in weekly.”

  8. Mike C.*

    I’m a bit torn on #4. If you truly feel like you can’t operate the vehicle safely then yes, you should say that. No question here.

    But I have to admit that I’m a bit dismayed that you feel more practice won’t be useful before you even try. I’ve dealt with similar issues with large vehicles and for me, the fear was really an all or nothing thing. Once I hit a certain point of familiarity, got used to using mirrors and backing things up, that fear went away completely. Heck, it took me a long time just to learn how to drive normal cars comfortably.

    Do what you feel you need to do, but this sort of skill comes in handy in unexpected places.

    1. Free Meerkats (formerly Gene)*

      I agree with this sentiment. In a previous job, the new hire who got partnered with me was panicked at having to drive the StepVan (bread truck). One day I “forgot” my wallet at home and she was forced to drive that day. It took her a while to get comfortable over the next few months, but it was a confidence thing.

      I’m also teaching a friend how to operate the boat her husband built for them (he died a year ago this weekend) so she can take it out to be seen so she can sell it. It’s all a confidence thing, she knows how to operate the boat, but gets nervous/panicky in close quarters like docking.

      If you’re convinced you can’t do it, you won’t be able to. Pretty much anyone who can drive a car can drive a truck. The key words in the post are “but I’ve grown to dread it and become anxious every time I’m asked to drive.” and ” I feel like it’s hopeless”. It’s all mental and the LW has psyched herself out.

    2. Stellaaaaa*

      I would agree with this if OP hadn’t already been involved in a few accidents with this vehicle. I mean, I had to suck it up and just deal with driving my own Uhaul when I was in my 20s even though I wasn’t comfortable with it – it’s reasonable to expect adults to adapt to things like this. The accidents are troubling though and I’m surprised that OP’s manager is still pushing OP to do it.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        I agree. It is quite possible that if the OP could tackle their fear, they’d get better, and it would be a nonissue. But since they’ve already been in several small accidents, it’s likely they’d be in more accidents going forward while they are practicing and trying to improve. Why should the company take that chance if there’s any other option? It’s a safety issue at this point. If I were hit by a driver who had been in several accidents, I’d be very interested to know why the company was still letting them drive.

      2. Mike C.*

        I just don’t know what the OP means by “minor accidents”. Does that mean she drove up a curb at low speed or scraped a bumper or something more serious?

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          I don’t think that’s entirely relevant. It’s perfectly fine for OP’s employer to ask her to step up and take on this random task that wasn’t part of her initial job description. It should be a given that the employer should pass the task onto someone else when it’s clear that OP simply isn’t good at it. Even if it’s minor stuff, the company’s driver shouldn’t be someone who rolls over curbs and backs into dumpsters.

          1. Mike C.*

            It is extremely relevant because if you aren’t familiar with normal wear and tear on a large work vehicle then it becomes quite difficult to tell if you’re actually in danger or not.

      3. Liane*

        A number of people commenting on today’s Question 1* mentioned that most insurers would tell a company that they wouldn’t cover an employee who had accidents on their record. I is possible that this OP is talking about accidents that were so minor they weren’t reported, however, like minor dents or paint scrapes

        *Employee who was still allowed to drive a company vehicle after she was arrested for driving into a semi & injuring someone because she forgot this vehicle didn’t have auto-braking sensors.

    3. Bunny*

      You never know what someone’s problems are. I have spatial disabilities and cannot drive a big vehicle. I cannot drive a Chevy Tahoe. I CAN drive my Crosstrek, which has cameras and alarms if I am about to hit something.

      1. DArcy*

        Sure, but she was given the choice to be trained as a backup driver on this vehicle in the first place.

        1. Bunny*

          That’s true. It just drives me nuts when people say “You can do it practice!” No, some people can’t. I will kill someone. Trust me on that. Here’s the paperwork from the neurologist.

          1. DArcy*

            Yes, but someone in your position would have turned it down in the first place. In this case, the OP agreed to be trained for the position “because she thought it would be fun”, the company spent money on training and putting her on the insurance and all those things, and now she doesn’t want to do it because it’s not fun.

            1. Gatorade*

              Exactly. I think the poster owes the driving gig a lot more of a shot given they volunteered to do it and used company resources to be trained in driving the vehicle. It’s a shame they’re seeing it as a firm ‘I won’t do this’ rather than an opportunity to stretch themselves, develop their skills and learn something new. It doesn’t look good to take something on and then refuse to do it any longer based on a vague sense of not feeling comfortable.

              1. Matt*

                Well, accidents that have already happened are a bit more than just “not feeling comfortable”. One can agree to undergo training for a special skill in good belief of being able to achieve that skill, and than realize that they just do not have the skill. That’s bad for the company but still better than a major accident happening.

          2. Mike C.*

            For the vast majority of people, it is true. This is getting into sandwiches land here.

    4. Specialk9*

      I simply don’t know where a big vehicle is in space. I have years of practice with a car, but even then I don’t *squeeze* through a tight spot. Big vehicles are constantly having to squeeze. I would never be able to do it. Add in the longer stopping distance and the way cars blithely cut off big trucks that could squash them… Shiver. No way Jose!

  9. Mina*

    LW 2: Would your boss be open to the possibility of conducting some of your meetings via online video conferencing (for example Webex or through GSuite)? While some meetings really do need to be conducted face-to-face, video conferencing for some of the meetings would save the company money they would have spent on travel. And if you had less travel, you could have more time to plan for less frequent trips (if that’s something that might be feasible for your situation). Best of luck to you!

  10. hbc*

    “These meetings may very well be useful, but I don’t want to be a part of them.” I can see how it burns a bit, but if it’s useful and you’re the one standing in the way of it, that’s probably your fastest path to her being perceived as the one who *should* be unofficially in charge of the group.

    Just…treat it as a meeting among peers. “Yeah, that sounds useful if we cover X and Y.” If she proposes talking about something not so useful, then say no. Say that you won’t be able to attend if you’ve got a conflict or a busy week. Get up and leave if it runs long or if she goes off topic. She may have proposed the meeting, but you both “own” it.

  11. Manager-at-Large*

    for LW3,
    Daily stand-ups are great but it sounds like employees think that is the only time they have access to management and so you get the whole book-of-stamps thrown your way (transactional analysis reference). If you can schedule some one-on-one time with each employee – each week, every two weeks – I think the behavior of using the meeting to through the whole book (of stamps) at you will fall away.

  12. Stellaaaaa*

    For OP1, I would ask the coworker what details she thought were being overlooked in the normal process, or if things frequently went sideways after the fact, making her feel like it was more efficient to cover those bases the first time around. Personally, when I’ve tried to grab the reins or embed more steps into the first step of a process, it’s because I could anticipate problems with the final product. Nothing’s worse than bringing a potential issue to your boss, having him tell you not to worry about it, and then having him reprimand you later when that exact thing goes wrong. You learn to just take care of it yourself and hope to build a reputation for being “thorough” instead of talking about it and being “neurotic and negative regarding current projects.”

    This might not be relevant at all, but I wouldn’t assume your coworker is trying to control you or to act like your boss. She might honestly have concerns about holes in the work process. Or it’s possible that she just likes the structure of formal meetings. Either way, asking questions about the work-necessity of the meetings is gentler than asking her why she’s trying to control you.

    1. Blueberry*

      Except that the LW wrote that this coworker has a tendency to try to control her before this meeting request.

      1. DArcy*

        Except that it’s perfectly reasonable for a more experienced and skilled senior coworker to take a leading role, and OP appears to be pushing back aggressively against completely reasonable work processes solely on the basis of, “We’re the same pay grade so YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!”

  13. Sabine the Very Mean*

    I have a coworker like #1. I simply say, “no thanks” when she pulls that stuff. I say it in the tone of, “please pass the salt”. I then immediately turn back to what I was working on. The one time she challenged me, I just said I had no updates, was focusing on a timely task, and would be happy to update her when I updated the rest of my team so as not to spin my wheels needlessly. Her response to that was, “welp I prefer to know ahead of time” with a tone of ‘do-it-now’ and I repeated, no thank you.

    Problem went away.

    1. Londontown*

      This. To say ‘no thank you is not rude’. Or you could attend the meeting once and the next time say ‘I didnt find it useful, I prefer to update each other informally, whenever we get a chance to have a chat’. Then you decline every meeting or do not respond.

  14. Former Employee*

    I don’t know what OP#5’s manager is thinking. They could lose their insurance coverage or end up paying a significantly higher premium if there is a major accident. In fact, I’m wondering if these minor accidents have been reported or if they just involved some damage to the vehicle so the insurance company was not made aware of them. If the insurance company did know of them, they might decide to exclude the OP from coverage under the policy. That would mean she could no longer drive any vehicle at any time on behalf of the company and that would include her own car.

  15. CanCan*

    Re: “I can’t do my new job’s required travel”
    I don’t know what country the OP is in, but in Canada, this might amount to constructive dismissal – since the employer unilaterally altered fundamental terms of employment.
    If you’ve just started there, that might not have practical consequences, though.

    [lawyer, but not an employment expert]

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