View Full Version : Territorial Coworker and General Advancement Issues (LONG)

5-19-11, 5:38pm
I've worked in my current position at this employer (reporting, data management, project management, etc) for about 6 years. My background is in IT and it is a fairly soft IT position. The work is fine with me but I really would like to get to a place where I work more with people and less with data, but I love the work environment and the people I work with. Plus, I am pretty good at this job so day to day there is not an enormous amount of pressure. The downside, is basically that with this job I will stay in this cubby (ok, its actually a large office with a fabulous view) forever and I will be doing the same reporting stuff in May of 2031 that I am doing this month. I'd like to eventually progress somehow career wise.

So, about 5 years ago I decided to pursue a Masters degree in an unrelated field, Counseling. At this time I was adamant that I hated data and wanted to work entirely with people...ehh, at this point I have decided that the lifestyle changes (which amount to about a 50% pay cut and a 50% work increase) are not worth it to me to work in Mental Health. My classes were free and I finished the degree having learned a lot and generally happy with my choice there and I graduated in Dec 2010.

A year or so ago my manager began discussing a new program our area may seek to implement in the future. It is just being discussed, totally nebulous at this point, but it would be one of the few areas that would actually completely work for an IT and Counseling background. We batted around ideas, and talked in generalities about me possibly transitioning over to this potential area. She also mentioned this would tie in perfectly with doctoral research, and I took that as a hint that if I want to pursue this I may need to start towards yet more school. Right now more school is still on the table, and I am not entirely opposed to it. I may pursue something in Higher Ed Admin just because I plan to stay here, whether or not this thing pans out.

Anyway, the above area would be very complementary to another area we already have. I knew as soon as I heard the vague idea that the coworker who manages the area would like to gain control of this project. I have heard for years she has been trying to expand her area so that she can be bumped up to director. Professionally, at this point, we are equals, by the way...we report to the same person. This woman is fine to work with, but she is extremely hot headed and I have heard, not easy to work for. She also has a plethora of health and personal problems that come up a lot at work. Right now I only work with her tangentially and so we have a great working relationship.

Basically over the past month or so she has taken control of the nebulous idea and is being very territorial over developing it. She has relegated me to a role to provide data and I don't know what I think about that. On one hand, I am pissed off...I would like to have an active role in a chance to develop this program (and also to do it right, but that is another story). On the other, I don't really want to transition over to this role if it means working for her. On the third hand, ok I guess I just have two hands, but anyway...there are all these issues surrounding her health and personal life. I am pretty sure our manager and other people higher up would not want her taking on more stress, and also, she may be a fairly short timer as far as my overall career is concerned...I know she would like to stay 5 more years, but I don't know if that is feasible with her health (she has had multiple stokes, smokes, etc) so involving myself in this area would possibly position myself for advancement upon her departure. On the other hand, if the powers that be chose to make this area not fall under her and gave it to me, it could also make for a very cantankerous relationship between her and me.

If you got through all that, can I give you a gold star? I basically don't know how I should broach this with our mutual boss because I don't know how I feel about it. You guys have always been so good about giving me things to think about each course of action and strategies that are much better than I would think up! Your thoughts on the whole thing?

5-19-11, 7:23pm
Go cautiously. You might want to offer insights as it progresses so that your input is seen and valued. There is a reason that she has been allowed by your manager to take over the idea at present. Let things unfold but keep in the loop.

5-19-11, 9:16pm
Might there still be a gold star if I pretty much agree with razz? 'Cause I do, and only add that it might be in your best interest to develop the program as a personal project, on your own time. Doing so will have you ready to present your ideas should this woman not be able or capable of finishing whatever it is that she is doing.

I mention this only because I created a public program for the city near me, and I have more experience than I ever wished to have with working with and training people who only want to take the glory and not be supportive of their adjunct staff. I am being as vague as you, and for the same reasons. :)

You cannot change her, or even affect her behavior, but you can protect yourself. Just saying.

5-20-11, 6:55pm
Working for someone that is hard to work for can make even the best job suck.

5-21-11, 6:25pm
I am now 55 and have learned some very valuable lessons over the years. It is truly amazing how much politics and the ability to work around and with people has to do with your eventual success. Be supportive and assertive. Do not let the lines of communication break down because of your fear of this woman. Be direct in your goals and don't let the possibility of any discussion go by with those around you and above you. If you are seeing these problems with her, then others are. It is how you handle it that will make or break you. Being introverted years ago cost me several chances to move up and be involved in important projects. I became known as the back-room person with which to extract data and figures. Not that there was anything wrong with than except that I was the more qualified person in some cases, but would not air my ideas. Hope this helps.

5-22-11, 11:49pm
Working for someone that is hard to work for can make even the best job suck.

Heartily agree with this -- been there, done that, still wearing the "I got out alive!" t-shirt with pride...

That being said, if there are clear signs that the management is aware of this woman's issues, and if there is a chance this might eventually be delegated to you by them because they realize she can't handle it, I would try to keep them aware of your interest. A lot of how it will go down really depends on management level decisions. Let them know you are interested but not willing to work for someone with poor skills.

Is a lunch with your manager to explore what she is thinking about this a possibility? I would put things on the table -- you are interested in it, but only to the extent that it would be an expansion/development of your current role. You do not wish to work under the other staff member due to her various issues (no need to enumerate them, boss knows, right?) You think you have good skills and ideas to contribute to this project, etc. Focus on outlining what you can bring to it, not on tearing the other person down.

Good luck and hope this works out for you.


5-23-11, 7:33am
Only my opinion, but I think you should make it known to your boss that you want to lead and develop this new area. However if it turns out that it stays under the coworker then you should also be seen as a team player and help out. After all, it does sound like this new effort is at least sort of in her area? Refusing to play ball isn't going to paint you in the best light either.

If nothing else, if she ends up leading the new area, and you've worked on it extensively with her, then you're in a better position to know if you want to work for her or not. You may win her over, you may find out her reputation is overblown, you may realize that there's no way on this green earth you'd ever consider working for her for a second.

5-23-11, 5:20pm
Thank you so much for the thoughts...lots of good things to think about. Lhamo, I really like your idea about lunch and just putting things out on the table, delicately of course. My manager and I have a good relationship and overall, I feel a lot of respect towards her, so just getting her general thoughts about this and letting it be known here and now that I am still interested would be a good thing. I also think that she can offer some good perspective about my career path long term and general advice since she has been there done that herself.

Funny thing though, the past week or so I have been stewing...I was really concerned that I might be pregnant! I'm not (whew! wasn't planning on it, but it would have been a joyful surprise), but this weekend when I was getting really worried and before I knew for sure, I returned to this post and thought, oh no I don't know if I would even want any of this extra responsibility if I am going to be raising a child since I am fairly content on autopilot workwise. But it did get me thinking about long term career progression vs balancing a family, if that is in the cards. I don't even know where to start on that!