my coworker is badmouthing my work – and some of her complaints are true

A reader writes:

I’m a teacher, and last year I worked with a team that did not work together well.

I’m teaching a different grade this year, but one of my planning partners from last year keeps talking to others about how my lesson plans were bad and how I uploaded them to our Google folder at the last minute on Sunday so she didn’t have time to modify them to her liking. And some of it’s true! It wasn’t my best year as a teacher: I had a challenging class, and I was really overwhelmed.

But also, she has never addressed any of her problems with me directly, and I didn’t know that she felt this way until after the fact. We get along just fine besides this, unless she harbors a secret dislike of me.

I just don’t know what to do now. Do I talk to her about the ways I fell short as a teammate last year and apologize? Or should I just move on, pretend that anything I don’t hear directly from her doesn’t exist, and do better this year? And what do I do when people tell me that she’s gossiping about me behind my back?

If she had just mentioned it in passing to one person and you happened to hear about it, I think you could just let it go, especially since you know that it’s true you weren’t at your best last year.

But it sounds like she’s talking about this repeatedly and to multiple people, so I do think it’s worth talking to her to clear the air (and doing so may make her less interested in complaining to other people about it).

I’d just address it head-on and be honest that you know that it wasn’t your best year and you’re sorry that it ended up affecting her as well. You could say something like: “I was hoping I could talk to you about last year. I’ve heard through the grapevine that you were disappointed in how I managed my lesson plans, and maybe some of the other ways I managed last year. The truth is, I know I wasn’t at my best last year. It was a tough year for me, and in retrospect I should have done XYZ differently. I feel badly that it affected you, and I didn’t want you think I was cavalier about that. I do take it seriously, and I’m approaching things differently this year.”

If you don’t want to say “I’ve heard through the grapevine that you were disappointed,” you could replace that language with “I’ve gotten the sense that you were disappointed.” She’s likely to figure out that you may have heard it from others, especially since she’s been talking about it to others, but you might be more comfortable not putting that out there so openly.

You could also add, “If anything comes up this year that you wish I’d navigate differently, please talk to me about it. I’m really open to hearing it!”

If she’s a decent and reasonable person, she’s going to appreciate that you recognize the issues and the need to do things differently, and will appreciate you acknowledging the impact on her.

Updated to add: I just realized I didn’t answer your question about what to do when people tell you she’s gossiping about you behind your back. As a commenter pointed out below, “She may be kind of unfair about how she’s going about it, but she might also seriously be trying to help others in letting them know what (she thinks) they’re in for so they can adjust before they get to it. Because of that, I would tackle this by acknowledging her points while explaining why they’re not relevant – without badmouthing her in return.” I agree with that, and you might say something like: “I had a rough year last year and wasn’t at my best. I can see why she’s saying what she’s saying! But it’s not something that should continue going forward — although if you ever have concerns like that yourself, please come talk to me so that I can address it!”

{ 152 comments… read them below }

  1. animaniactoo*

    I would add “Honestly, I wish you would have said something to me then so that I could have tried to make adjustments.”

    But – before doing that, I would go digging through your own memory. Was she saying it to you and you were brushing it off or thinking it wasn’t as serious an issue as she apparently did? Did you think they were casual “Ugh wish it wasn’t like this but I get that’s what you do/how life works” comments? Because if so I would be explicit about that instead: “I’m sorry that I didn’t take your feedback about what was not working for you seriously. That’s something I’m going to have to try and work on.”

    1. Naomi*

      Yeah, the one change I would make to Alison’s answer is adding something like “I’d prefer you to tell me directly about the criticisms you had before complaining to other people.”

      1. Gingerbread*

        No. The aim here is it keep it low key and make you seem approachable, so I think Alison left this out for a reason.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yep — that’s too likely to take it in the territory of adversarial and muddy the main message. Ideally yes, the coworker would address concerns with the OP directly, but that’s not the biggest message I want the OP delivering in this conversation.

          1. Gingerbread*

            And surely by not mentioning this in such a confrontational way you increase the chance of them coming to you in future.

          2. Wendy Darling*

            It makes sense to not want to muddy the main message but also it’s completely appropriate to find a kind and professional way to encourage people to come to OP directly instead of complaining to others, maybe towards the end of the conversation. I’ve learned that complaining about it once is venting, more than that is whining/gossiping and not interested in changing anything about it. I think this is an important part of the situation that this coworker is not just venting to one person but complaining about this to multiple people about OP.

            In some of my circles we have a concept called mind trust. Which means if Sally wants to complain about Sue to me, my responsibility is to encourage Sally to talk with Sue directly. My suggestion to OP would be to ask people who come to them saying that coworker is complaining about the lesson plans again to tell coworker they should bring it up to her directly.

            None of this takes away the onus of delivering work product in a timely manner or even how the OP feels themselves about the quality of their work. I hear that OP wants to own their part which is admirable and shows integrity (even if it’s after the fact).

        2. designbot*

          I think it could be said in a compassionate way rather than an adversarial one—like “wow I can see now this really bothered you. I wish you would’ve said something and we could have resolved this at the time!”

          1. Holly*

            I still think that sounds adversarial! The key is tone here – that could be said very nicey-sarcastic, and it comes off as passive aggressive. I think leaving that between the lines is better.

    2. Anon today*

      I agree about saying that you wish she had said something at the time. Especially if the things she is complaint about are not things you actually did wrong. It sounds like she wanted you to do things earlier but never actually said that. If you did not have a deadline to upload your lesson plans, then uploading them on Sunday night sounds reasonable. If she wanted something done differently, she should have asked instead of simply badmouthing you for not reading her mind.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Actually, uploading a lesson plan at the last possible moment that you’re both supposed to be working from is wrong always. That you don’t have a specified deadline of “this will give me enough time to work on it if I think it needs adjustment” is very different from “because we don’t have a specified deadline, I will never leave you time”. The latter is what the OP describes having done.

        Modifying lesson plans with/from co-workers is so common that she should not have had to specifically spell out to OP that she needed more time. It’s also possible that it’s why she never raised it – it’s so commonly known that she thought OP really just didn’t care and saying something wouldn’t have made any difference. She still should have made the attempt – I’m just raising it as a point of how common the practice is such that it would have influenced her thinking about OP not doing it.

        1. Anon today*

          If it is commonly understood, then that does make a difference. I’m not a teacher, which probably influences how I see it. Uploading at the last minute (just so long as it is before the deadline) is not an issue in my field and actually pretty common.

        2. Maggie*

          Oh geez, I don’t know about this. What grade and subject does she teach, and in what state? If she’s an elementary art teacher and the 2nd grade teacher needs to tie the curriculum together directly, maybe, sure. But I’ve been a high school English teacher in union states for a decade and have never been required to upload lesson plans anywhere weekly in my entire career. Blech. It sounds exhausting just thinking about it, and micromanaging, and if I didn’t think anyone really cared about it, I would definitely be uploading it Sunday as late as possible only to CYA.

          Schools can be weird, weird, toxic places where adults who mostly work start treating other adults like children or places where unions embolden people to be awful to each other because there’s little recourse.

          My advice to OP is to talk to her direct supervisor and current team, and then put her money where her mouth is. Unions exist for a reason, the job is hard, a particularly challenging group of kids can be devastating to your mental health. You made it through, dust off and try again to look for the root of problems and address them just as you would were they teapots, not children.

          1. Dragoning*

            Well, OP does mention that she was working in a group project with this person, so yes, I’m assuming review of it was expected.

          2. animaniactoo*

            There’s been a major push in a lot of places for teachers to collaborate and share the work of lesson-planning. So either one teacher is the lead for a subject, or if it’s the same subject they may alternate writing plans/split the work between material being covered, etc. The idea behind it is to a) share the workload (because if you’re slightly modifying a good lesson plan rather than starting from scratch, you’re ahead of the game) and b) make sure kids are getting the same/similar information and are not ahead or behind because of which teacher’s class they ended up in.

      2. Lexi*

        Since the school week starts on Monday getting a lesson plan on Sunday night would never be reasonable. (most teachers by sunday night are packed up with what they need for the week not just getting started) OP stated the plan was always late and not good. The other teacher is not bad mouthing her or gossiping she is warning her friends/co-workers to not rely on her or expect much. You shouldn’t have to go to your peer and ask them to do their job on time and reasonably well.

    3. Cassandra*

      I might adjust this to something more forward-looking. “Are there any remaining issues I should deal with? I hope you’ll bring them to me — I want to fix them!” or similar. Less accusatory, possibly more constructive.

    4. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      I think it depends on what you want out of this. Are you trying to smack someone down for talking about you behind your back, or are you trying to clear the air and have a conversation that probably really needs to happen anyway?

      I think there are a few things to keep in mind:
      1) This isn’t something the complainer is making up to manufacture a beef. It’s was a real problem that impacted her work, and the OP recognizes this.
      2) The two of them generally get along. This isn’t some long-simmering conflict or an eggshells situation.
      3) There is a whiff of drama – but we can’t pin down its point of origin. This came to the OP second hand. So sure, it is possible that the person complaining is just two-faced and gossipy — but it is just as possible that there is an honest miscommunication exacerbated by a game of telephone. (Or that the tale-bearers like a little excitement at work and are trying to spin this into “a thing.”)

      This doesn’t have to be a confrontation about talking behind someone’s back. If it were, I’m pretty sure Allison would suggest tackling it directly. But I think her advice is really good. If you did a bad job and made someone’s life at work harder for a whole year, you should apologize and tell them how you will do better. There is no need to
      send that conversation off the rails into a “why don’t you say that to my face?” zone.

    5. Lissa*

      I wouldn’t add this, though it does sound reasonable. The thing is – and I’m not saying this applied to OP at all of course – that it’s just so so common for people to say something like “if you ever have a problem with me, be direct and tell me” or “I wish you’d have said something at the time” but then when direct feedback is given, or someone does “say something”, the reaction is…not that. There’s such a huge disparity between the number of people who believe they’d respond reasonably and correct a situation if told directly about it and people who actually do.

      That’s not to say it’s not important to be direct – of course it is. But saying something like this isn’t going to help, IMO, because just about everyone would say “of course I’d rather be directly addressed than have people talk about it later to everyone but me” but the reality is there are lots of reasons why that doesn’t happen.

    6. LW*

      Hi! No, I made sure I was checking in with her regularly about what she needed, and she never said anything. I wonder now if I wasn’t clear that I was asking for her feedback.

      1. Observer*

        Either that, or it wasn’t clear that you REALLY meant it. I’m not saying that you didn’t actually mean it. But, as others have noted, many people say they want feedback but react poorly to that feedback. So, it’s quite possible that she believed that you wouldn’t react well to her feedback.

  2. Amber Rose*

    Even if it’s true, she’s still going on and on about it repeatedly behind LW’s back well after the fact. I have a hard time believing she’s going to be a decent, reasonable person about this.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yeah, I’d be cautious about Alison’s script here, because if she’s not a drama-monger, it’s fine — but if she is, I think it’s more likely she would hear the OP agreeing with what she’s spreading, and it could really embolden her.

      1. SoCalHR*

        BUT – Addressing a drama monger head on sometimes does help squash them – they know that you’ll call them out if you hear they’re talking behind your back (and then usually pick a new target). In this case, since the talk was at least partially true, I think it makes sense to address it as Alison outlines. But I would definitely keep an eye on that person in the future until they prove this isn’t a chronic thing with them.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          I can see your point, but I’m not certain I agree; my experience with people who tend to do this is that they’ll see it as a victory that their complaints got back to the OP without them having to actually make the difficult step of having a direct discussion.

          1. SoCalHR*

            I think its a situation where the results could actually be either one – and its sometimes hard to know which will work (like does a little kid punch a bully in the hopes he takes a step back because the kid is willing to fight back? or is the kid going to get beaten to a pulp by the bully if he tries to stand up?).

    2. Persimmons*

      Same. The script is insanely apologetic, considering this woman is running around trashing LW. I’d have a very hard time coming at things from this angle.

      1. Les G*

        I think “trashing” is probably a stretch. Personally I blame the title for the disconnect here, because “badmouthing” is a helluva lot worse than what the OP seems to be describing.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t know if she’s running around trashing her vs potentially sharing legitimate concerns about problems. The OP says much of what she’s saying is true and it sounds like she did cause some problems for the coworker, who has legitimate frustrations. Given that, the first step here is to acknowledge her own pieces of this, even if the coworker isn’t handling things perfectly herself.

        1. Les G*

          Yup, we posted at the same time but exactly this. If the OP assumes goodwill–and it sounds like she does–this will go better for her.

        2. Drop Bear*

          She didn’t say ‘much’ of it was true, she said ‘some’ which is – imho – different. Her colleague isn’t just venting to a few people about the lateness of the OP’s uploading of plans, she’s also keeps telling others that they were bad (which the OP hasn’t said they were). This crosses a line between legitimate sharing and trashing I think. It’s one thing to advise the OP to apologise for not being 100% and another to advise her to not take some action to deal with her colleague bad mouthing her abilities and potentially her reputation.

    3. McWhadden*

      Honestly, even if that’s the case (and as has been said that’s not necessarily true) then Alison’s approach still likely wins the Optics Award. If it comes up again LW can explain the issue and why it won’t be ongoing and then say “I spoke with Miriam and apologized for any difficulties it caused.”

      1. Merci Dee*

        Precisely. Apologies cost us nothing to give, but they almost always let us keep the high road. That in itself can sometimes be a significant gain.

    4. Jessie the First (or second)*

      She’s not really “trashing,” it seems like. She is warning people that the OP was really difficult to work with the year before in a way that is a big deal for teachers. When a school has a team approach to teaching, and teachers have to collaborate on lessons plans, one teacher slacking on plans can be a majorly disruptive problem. It’s not a small thing, it is something other members of the team would really want to know and would need to plan around/be proactive about, etc. And the teacher’s perspective could be that the kids suffered from the problems of poorly-thought-out lessons last year and she is trying to keep the next crop of kids from experiencing the same issues.

      This doesn’t mean she is right in how she is talking about it! It absolutely should have been something that the teacher talked to OP about last year. But I still just don’t think it means she won’t be decent/reasonable if OP actually addresses, for what sounds like the first time, how she let the teacher team down. I have loads of sympathy for the OP (a challenging, difficult classroom can turn a teacher’s year upside down!) – but it sounds like she really may have spread her bad year onto her team.

      If her coworker is a drama monger and unreasonable, apologizing won’t make it worse. If she’s *not* a drama monger and unreasonable, apologizing will likely make it better.

      1. It's Pronounced Bruce*

        Yeah, I don’t think the coworker is necessarily being inappropriate here. There is no “behind your back” at work– if you caused someone difficulty with your work style and they tip off people who have to work with you in the future that this is something they might need to look out for or talk to you about, that’s… Very normal. It’s only inappropriate if she’s doing it in a specifically inappropriate way.

        I also don’t think her not mentioning it before is super relevant, honestly. Think of all the times you’ve worked with someone who did something that was frustrating, but not worth pushing back on for you personally. That doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be a bigger issue for someone else and be worth giving them a heads-up about. Especially if the OP was really overwhelmed and this coworker knew that, she may have been ok with giving her a lot of slack while realizing that not everyone else will.

        The people I side-eye in this situation are the people who are running back to the OP to tell her they heard a criticism. That is pretty rarely necessary, and in this case it seems really super unnecessary.

  3. SheLooksFamiliar*

    ‘If you don’t want to say “I’ve heard through the grapevine that you were disappointed,” you could replace that language with “I’ve gotten the sense that you were disappointed.”…you might be more comfortable not putting that out there so openly.’

    OP, I hope you are comfortable with Alison’s suggestion. If your advisor is telling everyone but you about her concerns, she *should* be called out on it. This person is doing a lousy thing: you had a challenging year, this person failed you by not providing suggestions and support when it mattered, and she’s talking about your performance with everyone but you. Not Nice.

    1. Snark*

      It’s a really lousy thing, and it’s very separate from whatever performance issues you may have had last year.

    2. Sarah N*

      I don’t think this is a supervisor, though, but rather a coworker who’s at the same level and was depending on the LW’s work to complete her own work. While obviously addressing it directly would have been the better choice, I think many of us have sometimes complained to our coworkers about another coworker with subpar performance, especially if it’s making our own job more difficult (which it sounds like it was). Again, not the best choice ever, but also very different from a supervisor complaining about someone who works for them. It can legitimately feel weird to raise a concern with someone who is the “same level” as you (like it’s “not your place”) and if you talk to a supervisor it can feel like it’s “tattling”, and so complaining to other coworkers feels natural, especially if you really are inconvenienced.

    3. Delphine*

      It sounds like she was a coworker, not an advisor. I don’t think it’s necessarily a coworker’s responsibility to tell their colleague that they’re performing poorly, particularly if it’s something that’s expected as a part of the job.

    4. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I thought I posted my reply to this thread, but seem to be challenged today – copied from downthread:

      Wow, my mistake! I read too much into the OP’s comments. I’m walking back my comment about the colleague’s ‘badmouthing.’ It’s not great when co-workers do it, but it’s not as bad as when an advisor does it.

      Still, I think the colleague should have said something to the OP about those work-related issues at the time they occurred. You don’t have to be someone’s boss to explain how their poor work habits cause problems for your own workload.

  4. animaniactoo*

    And what do I do when people tell me that she’s gossiping about me behind my back?

    Hmmm, that’s not really “gossip”. Gossip would be stuff that wasn’t related to what people could expect of working with you. She may be kind of unfair about how she’s going about it, but she might also seriously be trying to help others in letting them know what (she thinks) they’re in for so they can adjust before they get to it. Because of that, I would tackle this by acknowledging her points while explaining why they’re not relevant – without badmouthing her in return.

    “Yeah. I had a rough year and wasn’t at my best, and while I’m in a better place right now, I understand why she would have reason to doubt that and try to warn others about what they can expect in working with me. All I can say is I hope people will see the difference in where I am now and try better to make adjustments if people let me know something is a problem for them.”

    1. SoCalHR*

      I’ve always heard the standard for gossip is 1) is it true 2) is it kind 3) is it necessary. I think your point is that at minimum 1 and 3 were justifiable. The “necessity” of it depends on what context the former partner was discussing it with others. And if she’s doing it repeatedly, in not-solid “necessity” zone, then it is gossipy.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Depends on who it is kind to – co-worker may be thinking it is kind to the person who is going to be dealing with it to have some advance notice. But potentially co-worker could be doing it in a way that is kinder or more beneficial to OP. My point here is that OP needs to back off the idea that it’s gossip rather than true and acceptable stuff to share, and then address it from that standpoint regardless of co-worker’s delivery method about it.

        1. SoCalHR*

          I agree. If it is truly necessary (i.e. the kindness to the new people dealing with OP that you outline), then the “kind” in the equation would be HOW the coworker relays that information. An objective relaying of the facts would be kind, in my opinion, but sharing that information with a mean spirit or exaggeration is not kind.

          I don’t think we know from the letter how “necessary” the co-worker’s sharing was, which means we’re not fully sure as to what level of gossip this amounted to. You may be 100% right that it wasn’t gossip, per se. And it is a valid point to OP to have her really about if it was done in a gossipy way or not. But its also possible that it was on the gossipy side of things.

      2. JSPA*

        It may not be directly kind to OP, yet still be “for the greater good” in a utilitarian sort of way. I’d approach it with that possibility firmly in mind. In fact, if being forewarned makes OP’s current team more proactive or more mentally prepared, it actually MAY be (indirectly) kind to OP, and contribute to OP and the team having a better year, this year. (Even if there’s some pent up frustration seeping through around the edges, which…there probably is.)

        More generally, the rules for defining gossip in a social setting–where there’s often very little that NEEDS to be communicated, and where the bulk of conversation is optional–are really not relevant to a business setting. We have no right to a tabula rasa at work. Knowing how your teammates have operated in the past is entirely relevant (so long as the conversation is factual and remains 100% focused on work, and does not devolve into a “B eating crackers” free-for-all).

        For that matter, the rules are not very good for non-professional settings when the topic in question has broader implications. It’s not gossip if a parent is showing up drunk to drive the kids home from practice, either (contrast, showing up with hair mussed and lipstick on their collar, which is strictly MYOB territory).

        1. SoCalHR*

          “the rules” even as you explain them actually work in both professional and non-professional settings. You’re disputing the ‘gossip test’ as inapplicable, when I think you are just misinterpreting them. Both of your counter arguments to the rules not applying actually fall under the “is it necessary?” to share the information element of the ‘gossip test.’

          The argument you give for a professional setting then meets the standard of “yes, it is necessary to share this information” and therefore the information should be True (which in this case, it is). The kindness factor comes in with regard to motivation and how the info is communicated. For non-professional settings then your example of the drunk parent also falls under “necessary”. “So-and-so arrived late to pick of their kids drunk” may be necessary information to share with another parent, and yes pointing out that they messed up hair and lipstick on the collar would tilt the communication of the non-gossip into the gossip territory because you are no longer being kind in your delivery/intentions.

          1. JSPA*

            The gossip test, as presented, is classically construed as an “and” function (all three things must be true for it to not be gossip) not an “or” function.

            At least, that’s how I first encountered it, lo these many years ago.

            It was…perhaps…or perhaps not…tolerable when being applied to gossip shared between “housewives” over the back fence while hanging laundry. I vaguely remember that Edna Ferber might have popularized it (no doubt with a wink and some caveats), but it’s older than that.

        2. LW*

          She actually didn’t say any of this to my new team (in fact, she spent all of last year badmouthing my new team!). She’s saying this mostly to her new team. It’s venting, not warning.

    2. ArtK*

      Once would not be gossip. Repeating it? That takes it over the line. It’s completely unnecessary except to trash the OP.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think it depends on details we don’t have. If it’s coming up in discussions with different people about workflow, systems, etc., it’s not necessarily intended to be mean-spirited.

        1. Viki*

          Exactly, it’s kind of a warning to other teachers, telling their experience.

          Like OP is someone new’s planning partner, and the old one is letting the new partner know what it was like working with OP. I’d want to know if I would have to scramble to see lesson plans on a Sunday night, rather than a Friday or whatever the norm is.

      2. JamieS*

        I’d only consider it trashing if it’s not true. My POC is that if someone is making factual statements about my work and that’s considered trashing then that’s indicative of a personal shortcoming on my part not an indication the other person did anything wrong.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          If I make a comment once about it, then I’m venting or seeking input on how to address the situation. If I’m still talking about something that’s true but unwilling to talk to the person who’s doing the thing, then it’s gossip and unproductive.

          1. anonners*

            To add to that, if the the person keeps doing the thing despite you (and others) repeatedly addressing it with them, still talking about it isn’t necessarily gossip – it’s often about finding new ways to work around the issues they create.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              Point taken. I agree. As long as that IS the intention. It’s a fine line, isn’t it. If I’m seeking solutions, then it’s ok to continue talking about if a confrontation has happened repeatedly to address the issue. But if I’m not actually seeking a solution, in spite of it, how does continue talking about help me? Rhetorical question. Something to think about. I have been on the receiving end of someone complaining about another person a few times and my input, being the neutral third party, is 1: talk to the person, 2: is there someone else you can talk to about it?, 3: who else can help you resolve this issue? and lastly, if it’s not resolvable (which I imagine can happen), what about it bothers you and what can you do about it? Acceptance goes a along way and then learning how to work through, around or move on from it are important.

  5. Snark*

    And if you find yourself on the opposite end of this question, badmouthing your coworker but never having brought it up in a serious and professional way with them, maybe just do not do that. Yeah, yeah, I get that it’s difficult and awkward and you wish they’d just pick up on your oblique expressions of disapproval and exasperation, but this is not how human communication works. Go have the conversation. You’ll feel better, and so will they, because they’re not getting the grapevine while you smile pleasantly at their face.

    Signed, someone who had this happen to them and did not enjoy it

    1. Exhausted Trope*

      Yup. 100% agree with Snark. This happened to me during my first year of teaching. I found out through my students that a teacher was telling others that I was not a good teacher and couldn’t manage a classroom.
      It would have been nice had she talked to me about her concerns rather than gossiped about them to others (including her own son who happened to be one of my students and was the person who told me!)

      1. Observer*

        I do have to say that what happened to you is a lot worse than what the OP is describing. I can’t imagine a legitimate reason to tell your *students* how lousy of a teacher you were. It’s one thing to flag abuse or if a teacher is making kids feel really bad about stuff that they shouldn’t feel bad about. But not being able to manage a classroom? No.

    2. CM*

      I have given similar “warnings,” and I don’t consider them badmouthing or gossiping. More like, if I worked with somebody who was always flaky about deadlines, even if I never said to them directly, “I am unhappy that you don’t meet your deadlines,” I would assume they knew this was a problem. And I might say to someone about to start a project with them, “When I worked with Bill last year, he had trouble meeting deadlines,” to help them know what to expect from Bill. I would probably still be nice to Bill and wouldn’t see it as a personal failing, but also wouldn’t be eager to work with him more — I don’t see that as hypocritical either.

      On the other hand, if it was something more subjective that Bill may not have realized, then I definitely think it warrants a conversation before talking about it with others.

      1. CM*

        Also, I think Alison’s script works very well in this situation — if somebody acknowledges a problem and says they are working on fixing it, that goes a long way to restore my faith in them. Even if it there’s no immediate fix, it’s way better to show that you actually care about the problem and are taking it seriously.

        I also think these comments have a lot of exoneration of the OP and contempt for the “gossiper” that aren’t warranted. OP is saying that she DID mess up in the past, it’s just bothering her that now this rumor about her incompetence seems to be spreading behind her back. The “gossiper” is apparently saying things that are true — even if she hadn’t specifically told the OP before that she was annoyed, the OP was aware that she wasn’t the greatest team member next year.

        We don’t have to take sides here and say who is right and who is wrong. I’m sure it will help to just have the OP defuse the situation by acknowledging the problem and bringing it into the open.

      2. Snark*

        “even if I never said to them directly, “I am unhappy that you don’t meet your deadlines,” I would assume they knew this was a problem”

        I’m not sure that’s an assumption I’d care to make, because it assumes they a) fully understand how many deadlines they’re missing, b) that those deadlines being missed was a Problem, and c) what the effect of missing those deadlines was. Obviously, an excellent worker is going to have a full understanding of all of those, but they’re not all great! I had a coworker once who was chronically late with a monthly deliverable tracker, and he didn’t understand that if he was 24 hours late sending it to me, that affected my ability to collect and edit the entire task order’s deliverables and submit them so we could invoice and, y’know, get paid. He just sort of vaguely concluded that I just filed them somewhere. Once I was like, yo, your lateness is a problem and here is why, he was much better about it because he understood there were actual effects.

        Whereas if I’d just whined to my officemate that, Jesus, Dweezil is constantly late with the goddamn deliverable tracker, absolutely nothing would have changed or improved.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          I’m all for direct talk, and the teacher missed an opportunity to say something directly and figure out what was going on, certainly.

          But also…. this is education and teaching. They work on a team and are planning partners. How is it possible OP would not have known that refusing to share the common team lesson plan until the *night before it had to be taught* was a problem? The whole reason lesson plans exist is so that teachers know ahead of time what they are doing and how and plan for it, and they all know the actual class the lesson is being used for is the very next morning.

          I mean, in this context, I assume OP absolutely knew that what she was doing was a problem for her teammate. (And I don’t mean to demonize OP, she was overwhelmed and miserable!)

          1. Snark*

            My comment was more generally applicable, but even in context…yes, sure, she knew it was a problem. It still merited a direct communication.

          2. LW*

            It wasn’t the *night* before, although I understand that even Sunday morning didn’t give her enough time. We talked through the lessons on Thursdays when we had our (limited) planning time, then I made copies by the end of the week and typed up all or most of the lesson plan. It was mostly the presentation slides that took longer for me to finish, and I would sometimes finish on Sunday morning if I didn’t finish them on Saturday.

    3. Wendy Darling*

      +1 Snark! Yes! Have that conversation! It might feel a bit confrontational but it’s an opportunity for learning for everyone involved!

  6. Let's Talk About Splett*

    Keep in mind there’s a difference between gossiping behind someone’s back and honestly reporting something,

    If you are responsible for Step 1 and I am responsible for Step 2, and I’m late with my task because you were late with yours, I am going to say, “I didn’t get this until Sunday night because that’s when Jane uploaded it” if Step 3 coworker or my boss asks me why my part isn’t done on time.

    1. Future Homesteader*

      Yes, but at the same time – this is a year later. It’s not an explanation, it’s talking about something from the past. I’m not sure if it’s gossip or not, but the large time delay makes it more likely to fall into that category, for me.

      1. RandomAnon*

        I think we have to keep in mind that school is just starting back up in a lot of places (or getting reedy to). These coworkers/teachers might just now be getting back together to go over school plans and classes. There might not have been a chance to really discuss it at an earlier time.

      2. animaniactoo*

        Actually, it’s not a year later. “School years” operate differently, so for most teachers, this was “last year which ended a couple of months ago”. It’s still fresh and present from that perspective.

    2. I'll think of a clever name later...maybe.*

      Agreed, but in this case it doesn’t sound like the co-worker is sharing the news in that way. From the way the letter is written it does appear that this may be someone who is going around complaining to multiple people about OP without her opinion being solicited. That IS gossiping.

  7. Murphy*

    It’s amazing how much an apology can diffuse a situation sometimes. I’m not saying the OP owed this person an apology since OP didn’t know how she felt, but it’s possible that saying this could really make a difference!

    1. Sarah N*

      I actually think an apology is perfectly appropriate here…the LW may say they didn’t know how this person felt, but it seems pretty much common sense that dumping a bunch of plans on someone Sunday night when they (presumably) need to use them to teach starting Monday morning is not that great. And it sounds like LW DOES know that. Of course, everyone can have a challenging year and be overwhelmed, so I’m not saying she’s, like, a monster for having done this! But there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging, hey, I was overwhelmed last year, but I also realize that my behavior negatively impacted you and probably made YOU feel more overwhelmed, and I’m sorry about that.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      I’m coming at it from another perspective. An apology means absolutely nothing without change. So many times these days people think “I’m sorry” is sufficient. It’s not.

      The coworker had to spend several Sunday nights staying up late working on late inputs. That’s a real weekend breaker and a huge stressor. And it happened week after week.

      OP, what have you done or are doing to make sure these things aren’t happening this year? You need to include that in your apology. Otherwise your coworker will expect more of the same.

    3. LW*

      I do think I owe her an apology! I know it would have been more helpful for her to have the complete materials earlier than Sunday morning. It was really tough to try to balance quality with timeliness when I was stretched really thin. I should have been better about it!

      1. Cat Herder*

        Yes, just telling your co teacher that you’re having a rough time and letting her know your part of the lesson planning was going to be late — that would have been helpful. I’m
        sympathetic— learning to let people know I can’t meet expectations and/or need help, has been a hard lesson for me to learn. I keep a little note on my desk at work: ask for help bozo!

  8. Snark*

    Sorry, I posted again because the previous one disappeared – please feel free to disregard/delete

  9. Lisa Babs*

    If I’m reading the OPs letter right, she is not on the gossipers team this year. I’m taking it as the teams are by grades and she will be working with different people. And because it’s not going to be on going I would recommend saying something brief and move on.
    “Hey XXX! I’m so excited about teaching this new grade. Last year was tough, and in retrospect I should have done XYZ differently. I feel badly that it affected you, and I didn’t want you think I was cavalier about that. I do take it seriously, and I’m approaching things differently this year. I can’t wait to have a great year!!!”
    If she continues to gossip you can prove her wrong by doing an awesome job this year. Good luck!

  10. Female-type person*

    This is highly cultural, and is very typical of K-12 education, where direct communication is not favored, and where people talk about others constantly. If you engage in direct communication with this person, in the context of the culture, you will be seen as confrontational. You are not the first person she has ever trashed, and will not be the last. Your best strategy is to rise above it and focus on having a good year.

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      Agreed that this is a very field-specific approach. Many people use passive-aggressive or indirect communication styles with peers and parents because it’s what’s favored and approved of. I’m sort of known for being “crazy tough” and “super fierce” but I’m the head of the special ed department so people think it’s part of the job. I’m really just an assertive communicator but it looks confrontational and aggressive in the context of K12 education.

      OP, I would apologize for last year, say you hope you can move past it, then absolutely kill it this year. Good luck! Hope you have a fabulous year!

  11. Mel (Cow Whisperer)*

    I’ve taught for a while – but never in a situation where my lesson plans (or any portion therein) for the next day or week were completely dependent on another teacher who failed to upload lessons in time. Why hasn’t that happened? Because we set up deadlines for uploading lesson plans of Saturday of the weekend before so that reliant teachers had all of Sunday to modify plans. One teacher did upload on a Sunday morning once – but there was a family emergency involved so we completely understood that life doesn’t always work just right.

    If the coworker was really upset about not being able to modify plans because of late times for uploading, the responsible thing to do would be to address the concern directly at the next planning meeting or through a email when it happened. Teachers are professionals and addressing concerns with coworkers in a timely and cooperative manner is part of being a professional.

    If the coworker truly never mentioned her concerns to the LW, then complaining about the fact that the LW uploaded plans at a time that was inconvenient a year later when the LW was no longer on the same team reflects much more badly on the speaker than the LW.

    My two-cents is to ignore it or if you must, reply in a non-confrontational manner, “I wish So-And-So had told me that a Sunday upload was not acceptable to her. I would have gladly changed my uploading times had I known.”

    Since you are on a different grade team now, it’s water under the bridge.

  12. voyager1*

    If the person is really a gossip I would seriously consider putting whatever script you use in email. People who gossip tend to exaggerate the truth.

  13. AKchic*

    This is so childish.
    Not you, OP… the whiny gossiper. Instead of talking to you about the perceived problem, they are talking to everyone else because they *want* something to complain about.

    Maybe I’m in a mood today. Maybe I’m just fed up with bs games. Who knows. My inclination is to meet it head-on. Someone tells you about the gossip, I’d be saying “okay, well this was never brought up with me, so I can’t fix what I wasn’t aware of and I can’t go back in time. It’s unfortunate that they had to do this and inadvertently cause drama where none was necessary. The team wasn’t as coherent as I’d like, which is why I transferred.”
    Yeah, be politic about “inadvertent” (giving them the benefit of doubt, but not really), and still tossing subtle shade that the team wasn’t quite coherent (and gee, maybe *that* was the reason why, but hey, you’re not going to badmouth).

    Like I said, I’m in a mood. My advice and comments should be taken with salt, lime and a whole of tequila.

    1. PiggyStardust*

      The OP admits that the issues are mostly true.

      If I know I’m expected to do X and I don’t, I KNOW I was in the wrong. The OP knows she messed up. Why did her coworker further need to point it out to her, if she acknowledges she didn’t do what she’s supposed to?

    2. Observer*

      Do that, and be forever tarred with the person who messes up and never takes responsibility.

      While the coworker should have brought it to the OP, no one is really going to take a claim of “this was never brought up to me” very seriously. This was something the OP should have known was a problem without anyone saying anything about it to them. The fact that they were so overwhelmed that they missed it doesn’t make them a bad person or even a poor teacher. But it does mean that the fact that they didn’t do what they were supposed to be doing is their responsibility. Trying to make is someone else’s responsibility is not a good move.

  14. Cordoba*

    I think we need more details about how this is being discussed.

    In the past, when a colleague has given me a heads-up about a new teammate’s legitimate work performance issues I’ve regarded this as a helpful thing rather than harmful gossip.

    1) “Make sure you stay on top of Bill about those lesson plans, he was often late with them last year and seemed to have a hard time getting the contents right” is reasonable, actionable, information that would be happy to have if I were working with Bill.

    2) “Ugh, I can’t stand Bill. He’s lazy and dumb, and wears ugly shirts” is unprofessional gossip.

    If this co-worker is saying something like #1 LW should just try to do better in the future; especially as they admit that the comments are true.

    If it’s #2 then that’s something LW needs to address directly.

    Not everybody is great at every job. It’s not unreasonable to give people a heads-up when they might be in a position where their success is dependent upon somebody who has a track record of struggling.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      I agree. Delayed lesson plans until Sunday night is a major issue for teachers. This isn’t a minor inconvenience. It could be a serious impact. Having said that, I think the LW needs to decide how to handle this. Schools are notorious for being passive-aggressive and often gossip ridden. So, she needs to tread carefully and be super-duper on the ball this year.

      1. LW*

        It wasn’t Sunday night. It was Sunday mornings, at the latest. That said, I understand that she probably had to scramble. If I had to do it over again, I might sacrifice some quality for timeliness (which is what she did with her plans and materials) (although apparently she thought that my lesson plans were bad already? Even though we talked through them together?). This year, now that I understand that my reputation is on the line, I’m planning to do what I need to in order to have everything done by Friday.

  15. gecko*

    OP, it may help to reframe this as a reputation problem instead of a gossip problem. You can never squash gossip but you can work on a reputation.

    You acted professionally last year in a way that negatively affected your reputation. It sounds like you may not have had much of a reputation at all, neither positive nor negative, so this additional piece has temporarily overwhelmed the balance towards negative.

    So what do you do with this kind of reputation management? I’d say, you apologize and be able to talk about the last year honestly and forthrightly without self-flagellating. Then you become quite scrupulous in the coming years.

    Also, think of a person you know who advertises themselves well for your industry. For instance, in the breakroom, they may talk about how much work they have, but there’s a definite sense that they have it under control. How do they talk about their work, do they even join in the venting sessions, how do they let people know that they’re capable? So don’t just _do_ your work well, learn to _talk_ about it well.

    Good luck!

    1. Lily Rowan*

      That’s a really great point. At least one person now thinks of you as a bad colleague, and is working to be sure other people do, too. [My personal context is that several times over the last year or so I’ve screwed something up at work. It is always ALWAYS something connected to one person. Who is powerful and hard to please. My boss has been very clear that I can fix it, but I need to be impeccable going forward. Easier said than done, for various reasons, but I’m trying.] OP, as someone says above, you have got to kill it this year, in addition to anything else you do about the actual colleague.

    2. LW*

      I love this advice! Thank you; I am reframing it a reputation issue. I know that I have some serious work to do to stay on top of things this year.

  16. Middle School Teacher*

    I feel I need to point this out: depending on the rules of the teachers union (if applicable), according to their code of conduct, if a teacher has an issue with another teacher in terms of professional practice, they are OBLIGATED to bring it to their colleague in question before mentioning it to an administrator, or someone else.

    There are two problems here: one, the OP has not really been discharging her professional obligations by uploading lesson plans in a timely manner. She has acknowledged this in her letter. I have worked with a teacher like this. It sucks.

    BUT, the colleague is also in the wrong by discussing it with other colleagues, especially if she did not bring it to OP. So the OP would be within her professional rights to say, “I understand you are upset, but by talking about me to our colleagues, this is in violation of our code of professional conduct.”

    I know other commenters have pointed out that it’s entirely possible the colleague did register her feelings about being left high and dry by OP and she just didn’t realise it. I agree with that; I know when I worked with someone like that, I tried to keep my message soft and non-confrontational at first: “this lesson plan was a little later than I would have preferred” or something similar. It’s not until I finally said “you made me wait, you took too long, I just did it myself” that my message went through.

    The best thing for OP to do is apologise, say she will do better in the future, and be scrupulous about adhering to her code of conduct.

    Again, YMMV depending on union rules and terms of code of professional conduct. But I know under the terms of ours, if a teacher went around badmouthing a colleague like this, they could (and would; I have seen it happen) be the subject of a complaint to the union, which would be investigated. Our union takes professional interactions between teachers very seriously. (Source: I sit on the discipline committee for our union.)

    1. Another Teacher*

      I was coming here to say this as well. I’ve recently seen a colleague investigated for talking about other teachers behind their backs. Where I live we are expected to address any issues we have directly with colleagues and then speak to our administrators. There is no time where you speak to colleagues about another teacher even if that teacher is not fulfilling their professional obligations. Doing so would be grounds to be investigated by our union.

      I’ve never worked in a school where we were expected to create lesson plans for each other, although we collaborated, shared ideas, and planned together often. I’ve always had the expectation that I was responsible for being prepared for my class. If I was in this colleagues situation and my grade partner didn’t share plans with me, I would be prepared with my own. Clearly YMMV based on your school. If it’s understood to be part of your professional obligation to create and share these plans with your colleagues I would clear the air with the other teacher and apologize for dropping the ball last year. Going forward, the best thing to do is be polite, professional, and get those plans done for your new team in a timely manner.

      1. LW*

        In the middle of the year, the administration did in fact tell us that everyone needed to do their own lesson plans! All the literacy teachers started doing their own things, but she opted to keep sharing–which seems weird to me now that I know she didn’t like my plans or my timeline. The administration never got on our case about sharing.

        1. Another Teacher*

          I might be overreacting based on my own experience with being involved in an investigation for unprofessional conduct (I was called as a witness for another teacher), but I would document what other people are telling you somewhere in case it escalates at some point in the future. Better safe than sorry. It still might be a good idea to address it with your colleague to maintain a good working relationship and then let it go.

          Colleagues who complain about other teachers to me are people I’m a little wary around and I wonder what they say about me when I’m not there. It probably says more about your colleague than it does about you. Good luck!

          1. Traveling Teacher*

            You took the words right out of my mouth, Another Teacher!

            I’d also make sure that you are scrupulously, cheerfully above-board in any and all interactions with her and about her from here on out, LW. Then, if this ever did escalate, you can rest in the fact that your colleagues would be able to honestly stick up for you and your conduct towards her in this new school year.

  17. EmKay*

    I’m not sure I understand why she’s complaining that OP’s lesson plans are unusable or that she got them late. I used to be a high school teacher, and it was always my responsibility to have my lesson plans ready for my classes. Teachers who had my classes previously could of course share their lesson plans with me if they wished, but that was by no means a requirement. And even if they did share their lesson plans, it was my responsibility to go over them ahead of time and see what I could use and what I couldn’t. If this colleague didn’t make her own lesson plans because she assumed she could just use OP’s wholesale, that’s 100% on her.

    1. Middle School Teacher*

      But it depends. If you’re collaborating, it’s normal to say “I’ll take care of this and you take care of that.” If that’s the case, the colleague thought she could count on OP to have things ready to go. That’s a normal deal to make in schools where multiple teachers have the same subjects.

      1. EmKay*

        Sure, but even then, it’s my responsibility to go over that lesson plan before I teach it. I’d never just show up to class, open the lesson plan someone else prepared, and go from there. I’m slightly horrified that someone else would.

        1. Middle School Teacher*

          Of course you would. You should. But how can you do that if you don’t get it until the last minute?

        2. Sarah N*

          Yes, that’s exactly this teacher’s complaint! That they wanted/needed to review the plans in advance and make their own edits, but they didn’t receive the materials until the last minute and thus were unable to do so. So your “slightly horrified” is exactly why the other teacher is pretty annoyed at the situation and complaining to people/warning people.

        3. McWhadden*

          “I uploaded them to our Google folder at the last minute on Sunday so she didn’t have time to modify them to her liking.”

          1. LW*

            Just to clarify: We always sat down and talked through what I was planning by Thursday. I always made copies for her ahead of time, and finished the lesson plan by Saturday usually. The presentation slides were usually what I finished last, and I never uploaded them later than Sunday morning when I finished them.

            That said, if I could do it over again, I absolutely would have stayed late on Friday nights to make sure they were done then. Her own strategy was to do very minimal lesson plans and bad slides, but at least finish them during the week.

        4. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Emkay, I feel like maybe you misread the letter? I think the teacher was *also* horrified – horrified that the OP expected her to just grab the OP’s lesson plan and go, without advance prep. The school apparently uses a common planning/team approach in some way (OP doesnt explain it in detail, but says this was her “planning partner”) , so the teacher needed OP’s lesson plan. And OP consistently shared it at the last possible second.

          If the teacher was irresponsible, then it wouldn’t have bothered her that OP was late every week; the teacher would have just opened the lesson plan and taught whatever OP had down. The teacher wanted to prepare and modify and *plan* and OP’s negligence made that impossible.

          1. EmKay*

            That makes perfect sense. I guess I’m not seeing the purpose of repeatedly complaining about it *now* during the following school year, rather than at the time of the problem, when changes could have been made.

    2. animaniactoo*

      There is currently a major push in education to work collaboratively on lesson plans to ensure that students are getting same/similar info and not being at the mercy of which teacher’s class they landed in and how thoroughly that teacher taught X or whether they thought Y was really important to cover despite it being supposed to be part of the curriculum.

      That’s how you end up here.

  18. Bea*

    You’re no longer on her team it sounds like. She’s just being a brat “warning” your new team of her past experience? I would address it to the people bringing you the gossip instead. “Suzie said you slacked last year.” “yes, last year sucked. I’m better equipped this year, you shouldn’t have to worry about that behavior continuing!”

    Going back and talking to her is going to ruffle feathers since it’s all secondhand. She’ll then have another chip on her shoulder about you.

    1. PiggyStardust*

      I agree with taking it up with the people who mention it to you. I do think it’s crappy to call the “gossiper” a brat.

      If I had a project to work on with Dave, someone telling me “I did this project with Dave last year and he usually submitted his parts late so I couldn’t finish my report in time” is useful because it’s an advance warning. If I have a hard time working with Dave and then someone tells me AFTERWARDS that Dave was unreliable with their project too, I’m going to wish I’d known.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        YES to your second paragraph. I’ve been in this situation with folks like OP before and have warned the relevant parties that working with a certain individual could be challenging due to A, B, or C and they could combat that by doing X, Y or Z. They were always very appreciative of the information and everyone has always indicated that they appreciated the heads up so they could plan accordingly. Like you, I’d be upset if I found out that someone had information that could have made my life easier, but withheld it.

      2. Bea*

        Airing your grievances with someone else to others, even under the guise of giving them a heads up, is bratty behaviour. Had she spoken with the LW first and gotten nowhere, then is the time to hand out warnings to others.

        I’ve been there. As adults we should try the professional way first.

  19. Dr. Johnny Fever*

    How valid is the feedback she’s giving to others? Were your lesson plans objectively bad? Did she need to make edits to her liking or is that simply her custom?

    It’s hard to own up to behavior and apologize about it when you don’t know what’s being discussed and if it’s even valid.

    1. Observer*

      It doesn’t really matter if the work objectively needed edits. The reality is that the other teacher needed to be able to review the plans and to be able to make edits if necessary. And that wasn’t possible. So that was an issue even if every lesson plan was perfect.

      1. Wirving*

        +100. Plus lesson plans require differentiation depending on the classroom makeup, which OP’s planning partner likely wanted to amend/add for her own students.

  20. SC*

    Wait—why is she using your plans as opposed to creating her own? It sounds like she’s using you to do her planning for her, no? Why isn’t she doing it on her own—especially if she doesn’t feel your work is up to snuff?

    1. Sarah N*

      The talk of “planning partners” and “teams” in the letter makes it pretty clear from inference that there is a formalized process of dividing planning work and sharing materials at this school.

    2. McWhadden*

      The letter says she was part of a “team” and that the gossiper was her “planning partner” so they were partners and likely divided up the work and relied on each other’ portion.

      1. Amelia*

        It’s pretty common in elementary schools where teachers need to have 5-6 daily lesson plans.
        One grade level person handles Math, the other ELA, the other Science etc.

  21. Lemon Bars*

    Alisons plan is great but honestly you are probably going to have to prove you are better and that won’t come with talking, you are going to have to show the other people that you are doing a good job by getting your stuff done early and done well (be the first one to upload and the best quality no mistakes). Most people want to know if they are working with someone who is not pulling their weight and for last year that was you so this year until you prove that you are better it just is what it is. Sorry I don’t want to come down on you, but I would want to know what I am up against.

    1. Starbuck*

      Agreed; I teach in an informal ed setting, and work with a lot of teachers and know some personally too. The problems OP mentions aren’t minor things. I know teacher schedules are ridiculous and many (especially new) teachers work pretty much all day everyday, including evenings and weekends, but if I’m teaching a class on Monday I want that lesson plan before the end of the day on Friday so I can actually do some prep. Sunday night is way too late. If that happened to me more than once, you bet I’d have some negative feelings about it because that would be super disrespectful to my time.

      OP definitely needs to do better, that’s step 1. I think it also might be worthwhile to talk things out with this other teacher and explicitly acknowledge what went wrong, that you know it was a problem, and that you’re committed to making sure that issue doesn’t happen again. A lot of other commenters are assuming this teacher is a drama-loving gossip-monger, and maybe that’s true, but I can also see from this teacher’s perspective that what they’re saying to others might be totally reasonable, true, and helpful to other teachers. And how would this teacher know that OP is planning on doing better this year, if OP hasn’t said anything? OP knows this teacher better than we do, but I think they’d be well-served to think twice about treating this as a gossip issue, rather than a legitimate work performance issue.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Thank you!!!!

        I see several issues that people aren’t getting:
        – it’s a serious performance issue on lateness (and OP should have known this)
        – it’s pervasive (several times)
        – the work needed modification
        – the coworker had to stay up night after night fixing this.

        I suspect the coworker mentioned it on several occasions but OP didn’t get how bad it was. It’s possible she minimized the input.

        It’s also possible that OP is minimizing the impact that it had on others. OP is new, so may not understand that the quality of the work is worse than thought. I hate to say it, but disorganized and poor quality often go hand in hand.

        I suspect the coworker spent hours upon hours fixing this. And is very upset. In short, coworker had to compensate for an underperformer. I know it sounds harsh, but there you go.

        This isn’t gossip.

        1. EloPod*

          Not only does this not seem like gossip to me, it seems this person may have had to explain to others why her own work may not have been up to snuff; she didn’t have the resources she needed! Not saying anything could reflect badly on her and derail her career because people will think SHE’S the unprepared one, and she’s expected to not explain it to other people? Not okay.

          1. It's Pronounced Bruce*

            Ooh, that’s a really good point. Now as they’re prepping for this year, it very well may be coming up again because the coworker needs to give context to what’s going on with their lesson plans.

      2. J.B.*

        Good comment. Also I have heard from teachers that getting guidance on how to deal with tough kids/paperwork/everything is huge in making progress. Is there someone at your school you could go to who has good advice and is willing to help you improve?

    2. LW*

      No, I absolutely agree. I know I need to do outstanding work this year to recover from last year.

  22. Grammarianly*

    If this runs afoul of nitpicking grammar, please delete it – but I see it increasingly frequently, and it always makes me chuckle: “I feel badly” technically means “I am not doing well at the task of feeling”, e.g. “I feel badly because I burned my fingertips and destroyed the nerve endings”. I know most people don’t care, and it’s definitely an oddity of mine, but whenever someone tells me they “feel badly”, my immediate thought is the technical sense and I chuckle inside (insert joke about never mastering braille *here*).

    1. SarahTheEntwife*

      That phrase has a significant history of being parsed both ways, and the comment is pretty much the definition of nitpicking grammar. :-/

  23. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Wow, my mistake! I read too much into the OP’s comments. I’m walking back my comment about the colleague’s ‘badmouthing.’ It’s not great when co-workers do it, but it’s not as bad as when an advisor does it.

    Still, I think the colleague should have said something to the OP about those work-related issues at the time they occurred. You don’t have to be someone’s boss to explain how their poor work habits cause problems for your own workload.

  24. Cordoba*

    I don’t get all the comments saying that it was LW’s co-worker’s job to tell them that their work performance was not up to snuff. From the letter it seems that the LW was already aware of this. If they weren’t they surely should have been.

    If I have agreed with my teammate that “I’ll upload the McGuffin by 7PM on Sunday” and it’s not there at 7:01PM then I’m wrong. I know I’m wrong. I do not need them to tell me (an adult professional) that I’m wrong. That’s the whole idea of making a plan in the first place, so that everybody knows what “wrong” looks like and can work to avoid it.

    If some non-emergency came up that required me to upload late then it was incumbent upon me to send my team a message explaining the situation *before* 7PM.

    If I don’t upload the assignment and don’t send out a message then I better be dead, at the hospital, or in jail.

    I an happy to play things casually with regards to most workplace stuff, but if peers are depending on you to have Task X done by Time Y as agreed on previously that’s Serious Effing Business and it is unforgivable to repeatedly fumble that obligation.

    1. animaniactoo*

      When it impacts your own work and you’re having an issue with it, you have an obligation to say something to that effect to your co-worker. Particularly if you’re bothered enough by it that you’re going to go around warning other people about it.

      1. Lexi*

        I think most if not all people would warn other co-workers when they are working with someone who doesn’t get work done consistently and the work is bad. Especially if they know each other.

        1. EloPod*

          Yeah, and if the work is bad enough, it’s not the work of a co-worker to point it out. That’s what supervisors are for. You are supposed to provide good work to your colleagues and it’s not the job of the person who relies on you for it to baby you.

        2. LW*

          My lesson plans had about the same level of detail as hers–even more, most weeks. While I definitely should have been more detailed objectively, I think she considered them bad because we had some different ideas of how to teach the material. Ideally she would have shared the strategies she wanted to use if she thought they were better. She’s really weirdly competitive, and from some things she’s said, I think she was keeping a mental tally of who was teaching the material better.

  25. Sue Wilson*

    1) I think you definitely should follow Alice’s advice re: the true stuff.

    2) For the untrue stuff, it would keep the situation calm if you asked her about the other accusations in a way where it seems you want to improve or get clarification. Those claims may seem untrue to you, but you don’t know whether she’s so mad she’s throwing the whole garbage bin at you or if you weren’t seeing the problem, or if she’s just not articulating her problem in a way in which you understand (especially since this is all second or third-hand).

    3) If the untrue thing is just untrue, when others ask you about those things, it would help to have a sense of her perspective when you correct it with them, so you can avoid badmouthing her. If she’s persistent about the untrue accusations, then I think a stronger confrontation is allowed, but after you have apologized for the under par work you performed first.

  26. A username for this site*

    One of the things I’ve observed about work, is that people will shout from the rooftops about petty problems, and be incredibly tentative about actual, serious problems.

    “UGH! Every time I have to share this workspace after John, I have to throw away his food wrappers, old newspapers, and wipe down the keyboard because of that disgusting hand lotion he always uses!” gets shouted at the top of complainer’s lungs to anyone who will listen after two infractions.

    “I’m really concerned about Jackie. She’s been coming in late a lot, she’s short-tempered and snappish in meetings, her work quality has fallen and is really inconsistent, suddenly we’re getting a lot of customer complaints about her, and I often see her crying in the restroom,” is whispered in a closed-door, blinds-drawn meeting with one person who has minimal power to suss out what’s wrong with Jackie or propose a solution, six months after Jackie started showing signs of having issues.

    It’s like there’s an inverse relationship between the size of the problem and how much attention it garners.

  27. HS Teacher*

    I think all of the advice I’ve read for this poster has been solid. I just want to add that I became a teacher after serving in the military for six years and then working in corporate America for another ten, and some of the nastiest coworkers I’ve had has been teachers.

    It surprised me because I assumed they were all professionals who were passionate about kids. Boy, was I wrong!

    1. Not an Teacher*

      What you are passionate about when you start your career may not always show through midway to the end. I’m assuming that with 3 different careers Military, business, and teaching that you changed when you lost the passion in each or gained a new passion. While I would hope everyone would change career when their passion fizzles, I also cant imagine a harder job than teaching the youth of today. My sister is a teacher 4 years in because of Kentucky’s bureaucracy she makes less than $40K a year, our family supplements her so that she can live in our lower middle class suburb. We also supplement her classroom where she has a washer and dryer for children who come to school dirty, we supply extra uniforms for her kids that dont have the income for ones without holes and stains, Shoes, coats, socks gloves and nutritious snacks because despite her class being recipients of blessings in a backpack and free lunches school food is all some of them get all day and new clothes is never on their horizon. We also supply school supplies because the kids in her class never come with them, and its hard to teach 3rd graders with no supplies. So while I understand what you are saying working at my job where I have half the education as my sister, but make close to 3 times what she makes a year, it’s hard to judge how someone in her position can lose their passion. I hope you will judge them less as well, it’s a hard job that most aren’t willing to do, including me.

      1. Bea*

        My grade school teachers were the ultimate blessings who made me who I am. It sickens me knowing now how bad they had it. I saw the burnout in my high teachers were all nearing retirement.

        I’m grateful for your sister and her sacrifices for the children she educates and helps to grow into themselves.

        There are terrible people in every profession known to man. The good people like your sister deserve much better.

    2. cheluzal*

      I believe it. Teachers can suck. The script provided will not change the coworker’s attitude. She should’ve spoken up sooner. She’s probably a perpetual complainer though and everyone knows.

      Unless the admin/evaluator complains, ignore others. Easier that way.

      PS-so glad we don’t have to upload plans…ugh, sounds horrible.

  28. LW*

    Based on Alison’s response and the comments, I think I definitely owe her an apology. I didn’t upload things as late as Sunday night, but sometimes I uploaded my slides on Sunday mornings because they took so long to make. And my lesson plans were not as detailed as they could have been. In fact, my coach and I worked through that together in the spring semester and I made an immediate change when I realized that they needed to be more detailed. This year I found out that my planning partner had thrown a “hissy fit” towards the end of the year (her own words) to our other coworker, who brought it to my coach. I never heard anything about my planning partner being unhappy with my lesson plans, and in fact my coach insisted that the planning partner had nothing to do with the coaching I received.

    The thing was, my planning partner often complained about the lesson plan template we were required to use and thought that the slides should be enough of a lesson plan since they outlined everything that we were going to do in class–and her lesson plans were even less detailed than mine, almost incomprehensible. I just used her (minimal) slides as the plan. That’s why I didn’t realize she wanted more detail from my plans. Or maybe she would have preferred to have less detailed plans and slides than what I gave her, but earlier. I still wish she’d said something to me directly when I asked her if she wanted me to change the way I was doing lesson plans (and I did check in with her several times throughout the year).

    As a side note, I wrote the plans for my team this week, and one of my new teammates told me this morning that she would prefer me to compile all the lesson plans into one document instead of separating them out into a document for each day, and that she wanted me to email them to her instead of just uploading them into Google Docs. It was eminently actionable, and I’m so grateful to be on a team this year that just tells me what they want. Maybe I should have intuited what my planning partner wanted last year, but I’m glad I don’t have to anymore.

    1. Gumby*

      “one of my new teammates told me this morning that she would prefer me to compile all the lesson plans into one document instead of separating them out into a document for each day, and that she wanted me to email them to her instead of just uploading them into Google Docs”

      It’s nice if you are willing and able to do this. But what happens when Jane wants them emailed, Fergus wants them in a series of tweets, and Rosie wants them translated into interpretive dance then posted on YouTube? It would be good if the whole team got together and decided on a format that the whole team will use. (And you are taking turns with this stuff, yes?)

      1. LW*

        Yes, we will split it up when we start teaching academic content. I made the plans mostly to keep myself organized; my teammates are veteran teachers and already have a firm idea of what they’ll do in their classrooms for the first two weeks. I shared in case either of them wanted to use the plans.

        I’m sure we’ll decide on a format together when we meet on Friday—but I also don’t really mind copy pasting and emailing. Mostly I’m looking forward to deciding something as a team! We had a tyrannical grade-level chair last year who dictated a lot of things that were not really hers to dictate. Maybe things would have worked out better for our team (and me) if we’d made decisions with input from everybody. We were so bad at communicating with each other.

    2. Observer*

      I can see why your planning partner acted as she did, although I do agree with everyone who says she should have spoken to you directly. But, for you *coach* to actually lie to you about this, is mind boggling. Even if she had intended to deal with this anyway, the fact that your partner was this upset was something you should have known about.

  29. LW*

    Oh! One last question for Alison/the group that I didn’t think to ask. Do you think it would be okay to have this conversation over text, or does it really have to be face to face?

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Concur (as someone who strongly prefers text to face-to-face in general). Face to face if at all possible; if you can’t, then phone. If for some reason both phone and face-to-face are impossible, then email.

        The problem with text is twofold. One, it’s often perceived, however unfairly, as more casual/more of a brush-off than other methods of communication. Two, it’s really way way too easy for tone/inflection to be lost in a text.

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