How to deal with a jealous job sharing partner

Dear Joan

I have been reading what I can on dealing with jealous employees. Most say to ignore it and continue working. I am not sure if my experience is that of a jealous employee or that of ‘bullying.’

I have 18 years business experience in management. So for me this is a rather odd situation I find myself in and I am hoping to find some information that may help make the situation better.

I recently took a part time job. I have been away from business for a few years as I have started a family. I felt I wanted to experience a less demanding work role, with a busy life style. I am finding my new role to be very stressful.

I was hired to relieve another department manager, on her days off. I feel I am doing a good job and really enjoy the challenges of running her department. I try very hard to make her job easier by being helpful as best I can. Unfortunately the better I do, the worse it is for me. My bosses are really pleased with how things are being done and that I don’t require supervision. My management skills make the job easier as I can organize and make effective choices.

The problem I am now having is she is constantly bad mouthing me and my work behind my back. She is relentless in her attempts to make me look bad, or point out every little mistake. She won’t say anything to me, but will run to the boss every time I work there; complaining about trivial issues, and complaints of my work ability. Everything from forgetting to throw out a box, or a pack of mints I forgot to put back in my pocket.

I have only been doing this job for 3 months and she has been the department manager for 3 years.  I am not sure if I should slow down and make it look like she is better or just keep doing what I am supposed to be doing?...The better I do, the worse it is for me. A while ago we had an extremely busy day and the department sales were awesome. I was told I had done an outstanding job.

This made me feel really good, until… Apparently she went in and a couple things weren’t done as we were tremendously busy and the jobs weren’t a priority. The department looked good and so she thought I hadn’t done anything and left the work for her to do. I guess when she complained it back fired on her, as she was told what a busy day we had. Since then things have been getting really difficult for me. She is manipulating things to make the work load more than I can handle, and leaving unreasonable jobs that cannot be accomplished.

I am in need of some good solid advice. I am starting to feel inadequate. I am now depressed, knowing when I go back to work there will be a complaint of some sort. I am such a happy person, and really enjoy my job, yet I find this to be really getting the best of me. I don’t want it to affect my work performance, but it’s already showing in small errors. I am so worried about having things perfect that I am spending extra time trying to insure she will be happy.

Any advice or direction you can point me would be greatly appreciated.

 

Answer:

There is going to a showdown in the OK Corral. Right now she has her guns drawn and is shooting at your feet—wanting you to “dance” every time she shoots a complaint or criticism at you. One of you is probably going to have to get out of Dodge and she is doing her best to make sure that person is you. Your co-worker sounds jealous—pure and simple. Your bosses love your work and the more they tell you (and her) the more this insecure person will try to discredit you.

You aren’t in a “part-time job.” You are in a job sharing situation and that role requires a delicate balance-- usually only successful when both parties know and trust each other in advance. It’s critical that both parties practice over-communication, so no balls are dropped. When the shared job is a management position it is especially difficult to juggle, since you risk confusing employees with duplicate or contradicting directions. If one manager is badmouthing the other, the arrangement is doomed.

While it is risky, I recommend you go have a talk with your boss and give him/her a head’s up about what you are going to do and ask for some advice. It is risky because your boss may try to step in and the situation could escalate, but I think it’s better to inform your boss about the situation you are in. After all, what do you have to lose? If things keep up, you could lose your job. I think it’s better that he know your side of it.

First check your perceptions by asking your boss for honest feedback. If your manager affirms that you are doing great, tell your manager that you are going to initiate a conversation with your colleague and put your cards on the table. Tell your manager that you will be tactful and won’t accuse her of being jealous or try to guess any motives for her behavior because you know that will make her defensive. Tell your manager you will say, “It appears that you have been talking to a number of people about my performance and I’d like to have that conversation with you directly. If you have concerns I’d like to resolve them but if we need to discuss these issues with our boss, that’s fine, too.”

If she lists some of the things she wants you to change (and they are reasonable) create an action plan or approach. If it’s clear she is going to be petty, suggest a regular huddle at frequent intervals so you can both be on the same page. Then let her know that you are going to communicate openly to your boss and get ongoing feedback on how you are doing. Suggest occasional three-way meetings.

Circle back and tell your manager how the meeting went. I doubt this relationship can survive without a clear directive and strong leadership from your boss. Even with that, I don’t hold out much hope for it working when one of the parties is so insecure. Don’t dumb it down just so she feels better about herself. In the end, one of you will win. The outcome depends on whether you really want this job and on the skills and insight of your manager. 


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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