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Tradd
4-10-12, 12:31am
I've got a work situation I'd appreciate some suggestions on...

I think some of you might remember I work on the import side of international transportation. Over the last few years, our company has gone through a lot of changes, which includes two mergers. We used to have two separate import departments - one for the transportation side, and another for the customs brokerage. But now the two departments have been merged and the transportation folks have to learn how to do customs clearances and vice versa.

We have the import manager, who is the head of our department, and a licensed customs broker, who is in charge of compliance and all customs related thing, but it works out that she's #2 under import manager. The way things have shaken out, I'm sort of an unofficial #3. People are always coming to me for all sorts of help, I go a good bit of training, and I'm a take charge, go-getter type, and both manager and #2 come to me about things they don't go to other about. Once I get my customs broker license, I bet I'm made an official "lead" amongst the peons, of which there are 10.

As a result of seven rounds of layoffs, some people leaving, and others being fired when they couldn't handle change, there are only three people who've been there longer than my 5.5 years. Two around 9-10 years, and then one at about 14 years. The 14 year veteran is the issue. I'll call her J.

J is a woman in her late 50s. Her husband is eligible to retire from his job in about 2.5 years, and it's pretty much general knowledge that J is just biding her time until her hubby retires. She's a very nice lady, loves her hubby, kids, and grandkids. J has only held two positions her in long years with my company. She has very firm ideas about what she will do, and getting her to go beyond that is a major battle. There was one new thing we were required to take over maybe 5-6 months ago. It is very simple and quick, but J was freaking out about it and refused to do it, which resulted in other people having to do it. Mind you, we've been so busy for months that training has been an issue at times. Finally, I was sick of hearing people bitch about J not doing this one small thing, so I cheerfully herded her into my cube (while clearly I was not going to take no for an answer), sat her down, did several of this thing with her watching, provided her with screen prints and exact directions on what to do, and walked her through doing it on her own computer. She was shaky at first, but now does it with no problem. My currency in the department went up exponentially as a result of this.

Fast forward to the past few weeks. J has been found nodding off at her desk in the afternoon for a few months. This happens at least several times a week. She sits right across the narrow aisle from me, so if I roll my chair back about 18" I can see her. Virtually everyone has reported the sleeping to the manager - and the #2. She's been talked to several times about it (I don't believe there is a health/medical reason for it).

We are very busy right now and it's getting even worse as we go into the spring/summer/early fall peak shipping season (back to school/Halloween/Christmas stuff). Between Easter, my being off to take the customs broker exam, and spring break-type vacations, we're all under water. Virtually all of us are working extra hours and/or taking work home (remote connection into our system). This plus covering the desks of our coworkers who are out of the office. All of us formerly transportation people are doing customs clearances, except J.I'm about 20 steps ahead of everyone else since virtually my entire workload has been converted to me handling both transportation and customs clearance on shipments. At my own initiative. I had J watch while I did one recently and she nearly flipped out on me. She was shaking in her chair the entire time. I could almost smell the fear on her. I realize she doesn't learn as quickly as I do, but she's flat out refusing to have anything to do with anything new. J also will not work any hours beyond our 8-5, even in our busiest times. She also will not work through lunch. Ever.

The #2 gal was watching me run back and forth between my desk and another one today and getting stressed out. I was way overloaded. I was finishing stuff that was half done when I was off the 30th and the 2nd for the brokers exam. I worked through lunch AND stayed an hour late. I'm off Thursday through next Monday, returning next Tuesday. #2 came over to me and asked about J. I made the novel suggestion that if J is going to keep refusing to learn the customs side, then J should take over much more of covering for those out of the office - things like answering emails, handing the transportation side of files, etc. #2 *loved* the idea and said she was going to take it to the manager, who was out of the office today. Heck, I'll take it to the manager myself tomorrow.

Since I'm essentially the one "on the floor" I'd appreciate any ideas on dealing with J. The "come to Jesus" discussions are for the manager and #2. Above my pay grade. I've been tempted to wake her up when I've seen her sleeping, but I've not done it. Perhaps I should. Just a touch on the shoulder should do it.

Everyone else in the department does their job and helps out when needed, and goes above board. J, nah. We all really like her and she's a super nice lady, but this not pulling her weight is getting very, very old.

Wrapped up with this situation are my slowly, subtly increasing responsibilities. Some of you long-timers might remember the issues I had at my previous job. It's amazing what a group of mostly decent coworkers as well as a boss (well, two, when you include both manager and #2) who recognize your gifts/skills and encourage you to go beyond what you've done (such as the brokers exam, and both coming to me for my input - which I can ALWAYS be counted on to give! :laff:- on various things, being asked to do training, keep an eye on things on the floor). I'm now unofficial IT for most of our floor. They always come to be before going to IT. I'm the office's dictionary and encyclopedia combined (people love to try and stump me, and it's rare). A year ago, I wouldn't have even thought about even being a lead of sorts. But I've really come into my own lately. I'm not too terribly fond of changes myself, but I managed to cope with being out of my apartment for three weeks, the office moving a bit before that, finishing up my theological program, and studying for the brokers exam, all pretty much in the same stretch of time. Although there might have been a bit too much chaos when I was beginning to study for the brokers exam...>:(

Any practical, reasonable suggestions or input on how to deal with J appreciated, especially if you've dealt with something similar.

Thanks!

redfox
4-10-12, 12:42am
The humane one: take her aside, tell her you're worried about her health as you've seen her falling asleep. I hope you can get into your kindest & best self to express that. Then I'd leave it.

Tradd
4-10-12, 12:48am
The humane one: take her aside, tell her you're worried about her health as you've seen her falling asleep. I hope you can get into your kindest & best self to express that. Then I'd leave it.

That was one of the possibilities I've considered. Guys would probably do something like take a picture of the sleeping person and post the picture somewhere, but public humiliation isn't an option (other than what she's exposed herself to by sleeping at her desk). It's an all-female department, if that makes a difference.

Last week, one girl was on the phone as someone else approached her from behind. It kinda looked like the person on the phone had nodded off. She was told, "I though you were pulling a J."

redfox
4-10-12, 1:59am
How very sad all around. What appalling disrespect... people becoming the butt of jokes in the workplace. Public humiliation should never be an option, in my opinion.

lhamo
4-10-12, 7:46am
I think you need to separate out two separate issues. They may not feel separate, but in my opinion, you should treat them as such:

1) J not pulling her weight/being resistant to change is an issue for her and the management to deal with, not you. If you have found effective ways to coach her on new tasks and are willing to do that for her, you might consider offering to continue to do that, but make sure that it is something management knows you are doing and supports you doing (and gives you the necessary time to do it). Other than that kind of friendly support, I would try to stay out of it. In the past rounds of layoffs people have gone because they were resistant to change. She may well be the next one on the chopping block. OR, if your efficiency annoys people (yes, it happens) YOU might be the next to go since you are the one in your group with the least seniority at this point. That's one reason why it might be in your best interests to take on the trainer role -- if they know you can train new people coming in, they will be more likely to keep you than someone who cannot adapt when it is needed.

2) Job creep. Been there, done that, still trying to find another t-shirt. Seriously though, you need to defend yourself and not let yourself get sucked into doing a bunch of stuff that is not in your job description UNLESS you really WANT to do that stuff AND you can get the new duties put INTO your job description relatively quickly. It is wonderful to be the person everyone turns to for answers, but unless you guard your time very carefully that can result in you doing all the work while everyone else sits around and says "I don't know, ask Tradd." Informational assistance is one thing, helping people learn to do tasks they are uncomfortable with is another, and doing the whole bloody thing for them because they are so darned slow/inefficient is something else entirely! And it is a pretty slipperly slope from one to another. So draw some lines in the sand, especially when you are busy, and be firm about your limits.

I know office politics can be deadly, but I think being as nice and helpful as possible while being 100% sure to live up to your job description and your individual commitments is the best strategy. Nobody likes a meany, and whatever her flaws J will probably appreciate any kindness you can show her, and others will notice, too. But you also need to be sure not to let people walk all over you and take advantage of your willingness to help. I don't get the sense that you are the doormat type, but given the responsibility creep you described above I thought it worth commenting on this point.

If you have a performance review coming up, it might be a good time to specifically discuss what the company's plans are for you should you pass the broker exam. Focus on yourself and what you can control.

lhamo

PS: Are the changes J is resistant to related to learning/using new software or updating versions of software that she is comfortable with? Because I have a similar issue when it comes to tech stuff, especially as related to things I am very proficient with already. I pretty much get apopleptic every time DH tries to update my laptop -- because whenever he tinkers with it something seems to break, or get messed up, or the old keyboard shortcuts I am used to don't work any more, or whatever. To him it appears I am an old stick in the mud who can't accept change, but there are certain points in my life/work schedule where I just don't want stuff messed with because I don't have the time/energy to get up to speed with a new system. I usualy manage to swim prettty well in a "sink or swim" situation, but I have pretty serious anxiety attacks and am stressed out for some time until I adapt to the new setup. For me this mostly seems to be tied to things tech related, but I can see how people who like routine and structure would be upset by similar changes in administrative systems, paperwork, etc.

Float On
4-10-12, 8:05am
So with all these mergers and 10 people doing the work of 15 (or whatever) were there good raises to go along with it for everyone?

If she has been doing the same ABC job for 10 years 8-5 and suddenly (without raise) she is being asked to work ABCDEF plus out of the goodness of your heart and 'give it all for the company' add some extra hours in.......well, I can understand being frustrated and scared and not wanting to learn extra jobs. And I'll go ahead (from personal experience) add in menopause and foggy brain and it's hard to learn something new and nodding off sometimes happens.

Try to be an encourager, a guide, a teacher. Go the proper channels when needed. There is nothing wrong with gently nudging her and waking her up daily and asking if she is having a medical issue because you've noticed her nodding off daily. Let the proper channels handle that issue as needed.

Please remember that everyone approaches their job differently and are at a different stage in their career journey. What may be an 'exciting career with potential' and what you want to focus totally on can be someone elses 'dreaded job' that they are just trying to make it through each day. You certainally have shown on this board how much you love your job but to be honest I'd hate to do what you do for several reasons....not everyone can be a Tradd so don't expect them to be. (and please forgive my spelling errors, menopause has stolen my spelling ability and my spellcheck disappeared on my toolbar and I couldn't run to you to be my dictionary today ;) brain fog sucks ).

Tradd
4-10-12, 9:28am
Lhamo, I'm not in danger due to seniority. Just the opposite. I'm #5 in seniority among the merged department. There are 5 people with less seniority than I do.

The changes have nothing to do with software. Several of J's big customers have gone out of business or stopped shipping with us in the last several years. So she's got plenty of room in her workload. She consistently has the lowest file count of the combined department. She even resists when the manager gives her small (1-2 shipments a month) new customers that have simple requirements. Since I sit right across the aisle from her, I hear her complaining. All the time. In her "downtime" she looks at pics of her grandkids and emails back and forth with daughters-in-law who send her new grandkid pics (she talks about "so and so sent me a new pic, let me show you")

While a lot of folks aren't necessarily happy with the changes, the manager understands that and doesn't mind us airing that some. However, J is the only one who is actively resisting and flat out refusing to learn or have anything to do with them. If she won't do the new stuff, then she should do some of the things that don't require the new stuff - but she won't do that.

There have been raises, not just many. In 2009, we all had to take a week furlough due to the economy.

razz
4-10-12, 10:06am
Tradd, this is really tough but may I suggest that you need to set some boundaries in your own mind between what you can and will do and what should be the responsibility of the two higher ups. You have to get your own head sorted out on this one first before you can talk to anyone else.
A under-performing staff is management's responsibility. A friendly coworker who is going through health changes can use some support and suggested options for seeking assistance but that is it.

If you do too much, IMHO, you will risk being seen as the one who reported 'J' as not pulling her weight/sleeping/resistant to learning while in fact you have been trying to help her. Be careful of making sure you have accepted boundaries. As a future manager you will need to know about this and demonstrate their use.

Tradd
4-10-12, 10:27am
Razz, everyone has talked to manager and #2 about the J situation. She sits at the entrance to the aisle.


Everyone sees her. It's not as if she sits in a corner.

puglogic
4-10-12, 10:58am
Since this person is not one of your direct reports, it sounds like a department meeting to redistribute responsibilities so everything gets done is in order. Clear delineation of what's in her circle of responsibility/accountability will allow evolution to take its course. If she can no longer perform her job responsibilities, management will be forced to deal with it.

Aside from that, I'd humbly suggest drawing your own circle --- this is my job, these are my responsibilities --- and staying inside it. Take a step back, out of the office politics, and look at it with fresh eyes. Though she'd probably ruffle my feathers too, J isn't your problem. If you have too much to do, or take on too much, then it's your responsibility to approach your manager and remedy it. It's all about you, your life, your balance. There are people in every organization who do not pull their weight to the satisfaction of their workmates, and they often become the focus of, "if only they would xyz....then my life would be so much better..." They become sport for the others (it seems that's happening already) it becomes this snippy little pack mentality that can be pretty toxic, contributing to the overall stress. If she weren't there and you had the same crushing workload, something else would be chosen as the Great Unfair, the reason for misery. It has happened in every major organization where I've worked.

In your shoes, I'd focus on you, and what you want your day to look like, and work with your manager to make it so. (Who the other tasks fall to isn't your problem) I'd answer questions honestly, and act with integrity.

Just another perspective.

Miss Cellane
4-10-12, 11:20am
I used to work with J's clone, except she had no kids, so she spent her time, when she wasn't sleeping at her desk, ordering things off the internet. Her department had been adding new computers and software to go along with them, and she never learned how to do any of it. She was rude, and mean and spiteful. If you asked her a question face-to-face, her answer was always "No." You had to email her to get a real answer.

Oh, and did I mention she was the manager of her department? And that as a result of her refusal to learn any of the new software, her department was permanently understaffed, because on paper they had 7 people doing the work, but in reality only 6 people were capable of doing 75% of what their department had to process?

It affected me directly, as manager of my department, because my staff couldn't do their jobs until her department had done their thing. My department was the last to work on a job and was responsible for shipping the jobs to the clients. So any missed deadlines fell on our heads, even if the real delay was in another department.

No one liked this woman. Everyone complained about her all the time. But the only thing that I could do was report, factually, to the owner of the company whenever her actions affected the work in my department.

I never mentioned the sleeping, the internet surfing, the nasty personal remarks that were directed at me. I did refute the outright lies about my work. And I did bring up issues with her department. If my department needed 10 days to complete a certain job and we didn't any part of it when we needed it, I reported to the owner. And I kept the owner updated as to the delay and what that would mean in terms of getting any of the job to the client on time.

So my advice would be to listen to the wise people who have posted before me and learn to separate yourself as much as possible from J and her actions. I know it stinks, that you are working so hard and she is goofing off, and refusing to do her work. (I've never quite figured that out--how can someone refuse a direct order from a boss and stay employed?)

But do address the work situation. Tell your supervisor you are overworked and ask if minor tasks A, B and C can be moved to another person to do. Even if those tasks usually aren't given to another person. You can use this as a way of showing that you are thinking outside the box in trying to solve the problem of too much work for the entire department. You could ask if you could give J some of your work to finish, to speed your work along.

But unless or until you are made J's supervisor, all you can do is address the issue from the point of view of your own work.

herbgeek
4-10-12, 11:22am
+1 to what the others have said.

Leave it be. Management is already aware. For all you know, there could be counseling or other things going on behind the scenes that you just aren't privy to. There could be medical issues that the company is accomodating. There have been times as a manager I've had what appeared to be "problem" employees, where I was actively working the situation behind the scenes- and for privacy and human dignity reasons did not share with the rest of the group. I've had employees taking new psychoactive medicines, and ones with PSTD and some with horrific issues in their home lives like an epileptic spouse that would injure herself frequently when she had seizures. I kept these things private. I'm sure my employees wondered why I was not doing something about the situation, because it did not appear to them that I was.

You may not know all that is going on. Compassion would be a good thing here just in case.

Simpler at Fifty
4-10-12, 11:44am
Do you know J does not have narcolepsy, is depressed or has sleep apnea? I fell asleep at my desk for a year before I was diagnosed with major depression. Many years later I was tested (second time) for sleep apnea and have that too. You know more about her than we do but there may be medical conditions that even she is not aware of.

Anne Lee
4-10-12, 2:35pm
How do you know there is no medical condition? Maybe management knows something you don't.

I think there is only so much you can do. And if the work load becomes too much without her to pull her weight, be up front and tell management that something has to give.

redfox
4-10-12, 5:56pm
FYI, I used to BE "J" at a recent job. Here's why:
1. NO support from my ED
2. No immediate and obvious job successes (starting up a fundraising effort, which takes 3 years to make a profit)
3. Incredible resistance from the org to the changes I was brought in to make.
4. Did I mention no support from the top?

I was set up for failure, however unintentionally (I don't believe the good people I worked with, even the clueless ED, hired me to fail). However, the toll on me was immense, and I basically shut down after 18 months of it.

I share this to say that no one except "J" knows what's going on in her in her mind, and why she does or doesn't do whatever. Guessing, labeling, judging, castigating, etc., are useless and disrespectful..

Perhaps, like me, "J" has tried to get support and felt unheard. Perhaps, like me, "J" feels as if she's viewed as incompetent, a sure way to shut someone down. Perhaps, like me, "J" has given up inside but keeps making the effort to show up day after day hoping for a chink in the armor.

Boundaries are good, especially when dispensed with compassion, kindness, and respect.

Tradd
4-10-12, 11:50pm
How do you know there is no medical condition? Maybe management knows something you don't.

I think there is only so much you can do. And if the work load becomes too much without her to pull her weight, be up front and tell management that something has to give.

If she told us herself there was a medical condition, we would be a lot more willing to cut her a good bit of slack. Today she was complaining bitterly and loudly about having to do a small task because the girl who was doing that for the girl on vacation, had to go home sick. Other people have asked for help on the things she knows to do - and she flat out refuses, and the next thing you know J is sleeping in her chair. Tomorrow is my last day at work until next Tuesday, and I'm not going to be surprised if she gives me a hard time when I'm briefing her on the two extremely low volume, almost nothing going on, customers she's my back up on. It's extremely difficult to be sympathetic when she's refusing to do things and the next time you walk by her cube on the way back from the copier and she's sleeping. One of the other girls today snapped back as a result of J's bitter complaining and essentially told J she has no standing at all to be complaining about her work load since she takes her full lunch everyday and always leaves on time, when the rest of us are working long hours. J didn't complain any more after that.

A simple "I've not been feeling well and the doctor is trying to figure out what's up" would be sufficient. Heck, she's very open about everything. And I do mean EVERYTHING. She's one of those people who likes to give play by play about whatever illness she or her DH have.

Tradd
4-11-12, 12:07am
FYI, I used to BE "J" at a recent job. Here's why:
1. NO support from my ED
2. No immediate and obvious job successes (starting up a fundraising effort, which takes 3 years to make a profit)
3. Incredible resistance from the org to the changes I was brought in to make.
4. Did I mention no support from the top?

I was set up for failure, however unintentionally (I don't believe the good people I worked with, even the clueless ED, hired me to fail). However, the toll on me was immense, and I basically shut down after 18 months of it.

I share this to say that no one except "J" knows what's going on in her in her mind, and why she does or doesn't do whatever. Guessing, labeling, judging, castigating, etc., are useless and disrespectful..

Perhaps, like me, "J" has tried to get support and felt unheard. Perhaps, like me, "J" feels as if she's viewed as incompetent, a sure way to shut someone down. Perhaps, like me, "J" has given up inside but keeps making the effort to show up day after day hoping for a chink in the armor.

Boundaries are good, especially when dispensed with compassion, kindness, and respect.

You seem to have missed the part where J has been with the company for about 14 years. She was fine, did her job well, well-loved by both coworkers and customers. About six months ago, when she was told our department would eventually be taking on new responsibilities, was she she started complaining - a lot. Now mind you, she's only gotten one small, simple part of the new responsibilities. She flat out refuses to be trained on the big part. And since about the beginning of the year, with her having a lighter workload than the rest of us, she has been flat out refusing to do things. We're frustrated with her AND the manager/#2. I've been trying to figure out how we could have a meeting with management withOUT J, but she has no scheduled days off at this time on the calendar until a two week vacation late in the summer. I simply don't know how we could do it with her in the office. You think I'm frustrated with her? I'm on the lower end of the frustration scale, believe it or not. There are several girls who are at the end of their ropes and seem to be close to really getting in her face.

I'm assuming from your comments that you were new at the recent job. If so, there are very few similarities, given J has been at the company for so long and then recently got her knickers in a twist about upcoming new responsibilities. Did you sleep at your desk? Did you flat out refuse to do things?

J, from the constant comments she makes about how things used to be, is pining for "the good old days" at our company, before the two mergers, way before I came on, 7-8 years ago, when things were extremely relaxed and pretty much anything went. Then came the economic downturn and that went by the wayside. If she can't cope with everything, then perhaps she should quit, but perhaps isn't financially able to. Goodness knows, she constantly talks about all the stuff she buys the grandkids, her DH's new car, etc.

lhamo
4-11-12, 1:24am
We recently did a staff development exercise at the office that focused on "difficult interactions." One important thing that came out of that for me and many others was the idea (very basic but important) that you can't really change another person and in some cases where the individual or the relationship is dysfunctional you just really need to step away, draw your boundaries, and stick to them while being as professional and kind as you can (sometimes hard in response to someone who is not either of those things). This sounds like a case where that kind of approach might be useful to adopt. YOu are not going to be able to change her, but you can change how you interact with her and try to contain the impact her negative attitude/work habits have on you.

Has she been assigned to cover for you for the three days you will be out? If so, then you need to deal with the situation as best you can. Brief her on your low volume customers and be sure it is documented so that she can't claim you didn't do it. Then let it go. If she messes something up while you are out, document that for management and recover the relationship for the client as best you can. Better yet, if you are at all willing to be available for an emergency while you are out, give your contact info to your clients and/or make sure that J knows that she can call you for help if something big goes down. Is it annoying to have to be "on call" when you are officially out of the office? yes, but sometimes professional positions require that and if you want to provide good service to your client and make sure there are no messes to clean up when you come back then this might be a good time to be a little bit flexible about the work/life boundary.

If she has NOT been assigned to be your cover, then raise your concerns with the manager about whether or not she will do an adequate job and ask if someone else can cover for you. Does this increase the workload on your other colleagues? Maybe, but if there ends up being an obvious, documented pattern of NO ONE being willing to have J cover for them, that will be harder for them to ignore or brush under the rug.

Ultimately this is a management issue and unless you have a managerial role I would be as "stick to the facts" as you can in your approach, including any comments you make to management about J (which I would limit as much as possible to things that directly affect your work and/or that they ask you for input on).

Good luck. It is hard watching people slack off while you are working extra hard, but ultimately you just have to let it go and do the best job you can and find ways to develop and grow yourself while limiting the impact they have on your work. Don't let yourself get bogged down in resentment, etc. It isn't worth it and the stewing takes up life energy that just isn't worth wasting.

lhamo

CeciliaW
4-11-12, 1:07pm
When I first read Tradd's post I thought, wouldn't it be ironic if J had been to these boards and received the advice to make solid boundaries about what she was and was not willing to do and that she was now standing her ground through the changes.

I know this is not how Tradd sees it, but I could easily see the situation from J's point of view and her feeling overwhelmed and trying to wait out her 'soul sucking job' for that last 2 years until her husband's retirment.

Just another point of view.

Lhamo gave very good advice as did many of the other posters.

Cecilia

redfox
4-11-12, 1:23pm
Cecilia, +1

JaneV2.0
4-11-12, 4:23pm
i don't blame the woman for being bitter. i recently saw a graph representing the U.S.'s impressive productivity growth alongside flat wage growth over the last decade or so. People are expected to work harder and harder for effectively less money as inflation erodes buying power. That said, she's not doing herself any favors by alienating her co-workers--unless she's angling for termination. And maybe she is.

ApatheticNoMore
4-11-12, 4:39pm
That said, she's not doing herself any favors by alienating her co-workers--unless she's angling for termination. And maybe she is

2 years until hubbies retirement - about how long you can collect unemployment these days.

Zoebird
4-11-12, 8:22pm
From reading your descriptions, she might be a very anxious person. My MIL is like that. She's funny.

She's not dumb by any stretch, but new duties and ways of doing things scare the crap out of her. She usually just flat our refuses to do the thing, or asserts that it's just not possible for her to figure it out.

She worked as a church secretary -- part time -- for over a decade. Her job was very simple, and her primary task was putting together the sunday newsletter, making sure it got to the printer. She started her job in the late 80s -- so using computers wasn't common. She would type it up on a type writer, cut and paste images in (with actual scissors and paste), and then run off the copies, and fold them accordingly.

Then, about 10 years into the gig, they got a new pastor. he decided that a new, computerized system was in order. He also wanted to change the format of the newsletter to include more religious content (a copy of that weeks verses and his sermon, for example, as well as 'study questions' and prayers for the week. He had a lot of great ideas.

MIL flipped out.

She'd never used computers before. She didn't like computers. He would email her attachments of the various things he'd prepared for the newsletter, and her job was to create the newsletter in some program (don't remember which), and then email that to the printer who would print it and fold it and deliver it on Friday.

Her duties didn't actually change. But, her methods did based on the new pastor and the new technology.

After several weeks of not understanding, having him show her, written instructions right by the desk, he sent her to a course on the topic. she deemed the course "too advanced" and said that she simply didn't learn anything of value in the course.

At the time, she was about 55?

I'm not saying that everyone 55 and over can't learn new things. But my MIL has a really hard time doing it. She still asks us how to attach documents to emails, even though the method hasn't changed in over a decade at this point.

She is a perfectionist, and she struggles with anxiety.

So her issue isn't really that she can't learn, or even that she doesn't want to -- but that she thinks she can't, and she fears. . . as in really really really fears. . . screwing up.

The tiniest mistakes are catastrophic to her. To have the courage to just "play" with the computer program until you figure it out, for example, isn't in her frame of reference, because she'll "just screw it up!" and she doesn't want to get in trouble (or be bad) for screwing it up.

So, she would have her husband come in, print off her pastor's information, type it into her normal documents, do her cutting and pasting method, and then photo copy that, and then drive that to the printers to have it delivered on friday.

because she was too afraid of screwing up, getting in trouble, to learn a new, faster way of doing things.

After two years of she and the pastor fighting over these issues, she was finally fired.

Still, i have compassion for her.

She is terrified of any change in her life, and in particular if it requires her to learn something knew. She even does this with hobbies. She took up lace-making, and took a very difficult class in 'tatting.' This is a casual, hobbyist class, ok?

She would stay up past midnight many nights trying to get her tatting just right because she didn't want to disappoint the teacher at the next class. She would freak out (literally, crying fits), when the tatting didn't look exactly like the pattern she'd been given. And one assignment, which took her about 24 hours of work (3 days), she only half finished and self flagellated like you wouldn't believe over how she'd failed to get it finished in time.

I don't know J, and I can't say that the same is true for her.

But I can see how it could be, and how other workers would find my MIL terribly annoying because her work would have to be contained to her comfort levels, or she gets very negative (complaining is how she abates her anxiety), and then of course does all kinds of crazy things like falling asleep at her desk or so on.

JaneV2.0
4-11-12, 10:39pm
Excellent illustration, Zoebird. it's not unusual for even fairly stalwart souls to freeze up some at the thought of learning some complicated new task. And, of course, the more tense you get the more difficult it is to learn and it goes on and on in choke mode.

Yard work has that effect on me. Thank heavens my livelihood doesn't depend on it.

iris lily
4-12-12, 12:30am
When I first read Tradd's post I thought, wouldn't it be ironic if J had been to these boards and received the advice to make solid boundaries about what she was and was not willing to do and that she was now standing her ground through the changes.


Except that planting your butt on work premises for 8 hours daily and taking the paycheck, but failing to work while doing so, isn't keeping "boundaries" IMHO.

Ours is all only speculation as to what this employee is really up to. Management will act, or not, but it's in their court.

Tradd
4-18-12, 12:07am
Except that planting your butt on work premises for 8 hours daily and taking the paycheck, but failing to work while doing so, isn't keeping "boundaries" IMHO.

Ours is all only speculation as to what this employee is really up to. Management will act, or not, but it's in their court.

I'm told there was one heck of a "come to Jesus" talk between my manager and J while I was gone. Multiple people were out sick, the others were working long hours (staying until 8-9 at night), and J was doing her usual thing (per coworkers). I'd bet J was told she has to pitch in more with the stuff she *does* know how to do and take some of the burden off those doing what she doesn't do. One person dinking around doing a bit of work and playing the rest of the time while the rest of the department is working their arses off? Doesn't look particularly good for that one person dinking around. J actually did a good job with my low volume customers, as well as the one new customer manager told her to back me up on. I'd hope some sense was talked into her.

I forget who asked the question, Lhamo maybe?, but we have specific people backing us on specific customers. So, coworker #1 will cover 3, coworker #2, a large one, and so forth.

I have to spend part of the remaining three afternoons this week training from scratch or providing a refresher on the *correct* way to do things on the transportation end of our system. This involves 12 people in total.

Tradd
4-18-12, 12:09am
2 years until hubbies retirement - about how long you can collect unemployment these days.

However, if you get canned for cause (refusing to do assigned work, for example), I'd suspect it's difficult to collect unemployment. Plus, you have to show you're doing some sort of a job search, don't you?

Tradd
4-18-12, 12:22am
I used to work with J's clone, except she had no kids, so she spent her time, when she wasn't sleeping at her desk, ordering things off the internet.

<snip>

But do address the work situation. Tell your supervisor you are overworked and ask if minor tasks A, B and C can be moved to another person to do. Even if those tasks usually aren't given to another person. You can use this as a way of showing that you are thinking outside the box in trying to solve the problem of too much work for the entire department. You could ask if you could give J some of your work to finish, to speed your work along.

But unless or until you are made J's supervisor, all you can do is address the issue from the point of view of your own work.

We received an email from someone at another company in our industry in our area recently. It was sent to a group email, which includes our station manager. He commented that he had to fire her in a previous job years ago because she had an online shopping addiction on the job.

I had that talk - about my workload with our manager today. I told her if she expects me to get my work done AND study for the brokers exam (she's the one who was after me for months to sit for it before I finally agreed), I cannot take on any new customers. Period. Our volume is increasing (sign the economy is a bit better), and I cannot continue to work until 6-7 every night and study. I also told her that when the new person is hired (to replace someone who left in the fall - suitable candidates have been few and far between, but they've got two candidates they're within a day or two of deciding between) and some customers are shifted around (my major customers will remain with me as I've handled them for 5.5 years and my continuing to handle them is a condition of these companies remaining our customers), a group of 2-3 small volume customers needs to come off my desk. Volume for my major customers is only increasing and they have special requirements - things with FDA, for example - that take more time as the number of shipment increases. She agreed with me and said I have first dibs on shifting customers out of my workload.

mm1970
4-18-12, 5:09am
I worked with a guy like this. HE had sleep apnea. It took a very long time for him to overcome that. He hadn't taken care of it because he didn't have insurance for a few years. And it takes months to recover from that and "catch up" on lost sleep. He fell asleep all the time in meetings.

And he just couldn't perform the duties of his job, or wasn't willing to. My group and I just absorbed most of the work. I figured that he could do the work that he was capable of doing. But the new boss soon realized how much he (wasn't) doing and told him to step up. He wasn't able to. He was fired. It was crippling us really to be paying someone a full salary who was only getting about 1/4 the work done that we needed.

Tradd
4-28-12, 9:20pm
Update:

Some things have improved with J. The complaining has stopped to a point I can't remember if I've actually heard anything of that sort from her. I've not seen her sleeping. She screwed up in a major way this week though. She had a scheduled day off, but didn't remind any of us that she was off. She also did not send out the required email to the department detailing the things on her desk that needed to be taken care of. Nor did she give anyone her password so her email could be checked while she was gone. So nothing on her desk was done. You could tell she wasn't happy when she returned to work after her day off as she was *very* quiet (this is how she gets when she is really peeved). However, if she had tried to complain to me that nothing was done in her absence, I would calmly, simply have told her that she hadn't told us what had to be done and we couldn't check her email without her password. Just the facts.

ETA: you might have read my other recent post about Facebook and current/former coworkers. The people who were fired as a result of passing sensitive business information to other former coworkers, who now work for a competitor (owned by our former owner). J is VERY close to those people. She kept going on and on that day, rather quietly, about how "it wasn't fair" they were fired. She was saying that even after we were told *why* they were fired. She's FB friends with them. I finally told her flat out to be very, very careful in her interactions with them, so she doesn't get pulled into something she didn't mean to get involved in (I said the same thing to several other people). I can't believe she thinks they shouldn't have been fired even after passing sensitive info to a competitor.

Simpler at Fifty
4-28-12, 11:09pm
J actually did a good job with my low volume customers, as well as the one new customer manager told her to back me up on.

Tradd- Please tell her she did a good job. She could probably use a pat on the back right now for something she did right. Don't cop out with an email, walk over to her and say Thanks.

redfox
4-29-12, 3:09am
Tradd- Please tell her she did a good job. She could probably use a pat on the back right now for something she did right. Don't cop out with an email, walk over to her and say Thanks.
+1

puglogic
4-29-12, 10:54am
Positive reinforcement can go a long way. Negative reinforcement might feel good to the person who's dishing it out, but with a person like your J, it will do nothing but add to her bad mental state. It sounds, honestly, like no one in your area has the courage to be honest with this person. It takes a big person to make calm, simple, non-angry statements like: "I appreciate the good job you did with my clients." "It upsets me that you didn't make arrangements to care for my account properly....what can we do differently next time you're out?" "Those people were fired because they shared sensitive company information with our competition -- it's a common and necessary policy all over the world." Instead, people take the easy route and say nothing, or nod and agree, and then scurry off to gossip about them behind their back. Being the bigger person has its own rewards, both internal and external.

ApatheticNoMore
4-29-12, 12:41pm
Praise is 1/2 of the motivation many of us have to work. Now, note I did not say half of the REASON to work. The reason to work is pretty much all money and financial security. And if I won the lottery of course I'd quit (and half the time I just want to run off and pretend I've won the lottery as is!). I certainly wouldn't be hanging around some workplace looking for praise.

But reasons as I'm using it are long term and motivation is a DAY TO DAY thing, and "or else in the long run poverty" or even "and I'll get an eventual raise someday maybe", is not all that strong a day to day motivation contrary to popular belief.

redfox
4-29-12, 1:54pm
Money motivates in the short run. A sense of belonging and purpose are long term motivators. Taking a systems view, anyone who is underperforming as a long term pattern is only part of the issues, not all of them.

Good managers understand how to think systems, and see any so-called problem as an organizational challenge. Scapegoating one individual is damaging to the system (and to the scapegoated individual), and will not solve the larger problems.

ApatheticNoMore
4-29-12, 4:01pm
Money motivates in the short run.

It's not that short run. You mean I have more than another 2 weeks of this before I get another paycheck? Unbelievable! :)

Tradd
4-30-12, 9:32pm
Positive reinforcement can go a long way. Negative reinforcement might feel good to the person who's dishing it out, but with a person like your J, it will do nothing but add to her bad mental state. It sounds, honestly, like no one in your area has the courage to be honest with this person. It takes a big person to make calm, simple, non-angry statements like: "I appreciate the good job you did with my clients." "It upsets me that you didn't make arrangements to care for my account properly....what can we do differently next time you're out?" "Those people were fired because they shared sensitive company information with our competition -- it's a common and necessary policy all over the world." Instead, people take the easy route and say nothing, or nod and agree, and then scurry off to gossip about them behind their back. Being the bigger person has its own rewards, both internal and external.

I did tell J this morning she did a good job with my accounts while I was gone. She seemed happy to hear it. But not more than 10 minutes later, I came back from the bathroom to find her nodding off in her chair. I went right over and lightly tapped her on the shoulder, telling her she had been nodding off. She thanked me for waking her. Said she nodded off due to a cold - but that doesn't explain the multiple previous times I've seen her napping. Due to what had happened over the weekend to one of our coworkers, I decided not to bring up the issue of see J asleep multiple times before.

But she's dug herself into a big hole. The husband of one of the girls in the department died over the weekend. He went to bed and was found dead by my coworker the next morning. Everyone was very saddened by the news, and there's a very subdued mood in the office. Coworker will be gone several weeks, understandably. We're all pitching in to help with this coworker's accounts. Manager was out today due to a medical issue with one of her children. But she was in constant contact via her smart phone, flipping us emails on what she needed us to help with. #2 (supervisor) was delegating some things as well. J was given several things to do by #2 (I heard the file turnover conversation). J didn't do them - either flat out refusing or just putting them to the side - I'm not sure which. Long after 5 pm, #2 called me over, asking me questions on how to do certain things in the system (this is stuff I'm in the midst of training people on). These were the files for coworker with dead partner that J didn't do, I was told. Ones that couldn't sit. So I watched over #2's shoulder as she did the files, walking her through them.

So I couldn't be accused of helping J, I notified manager via email that I'd had to wake J up today. And I told the supervisor.

Putting aside everything else that's happened with J, for her to not pitch in to help cover the workload of a new widow... <shakes head>

redfox
5-1-12, 10:01am
It's not that short run. You mean I have more than another 2 weeks of this before I get another paycheck? Unbelievable! :)

ROFL! Yeah...

profnot
5-4-12, 11:53am
OP stated "Everyone else in the department does their job and helps out when needed, and goes above board. J, nah. We all really like her and she's a super nice lady, but this not pulling her weight is getting very, very old."

J is not doing her job which creates a larger workload on everyone else. J is NOT a nice lady. J is a bottom feeder.

She is going to either change or lose her job. I would stay out of it and let her determine her own fate. I sympathize that her and everyone else's workload has increased with probably no pay increase but we are in a recession and this is a reality for millions in North America.

I agree with the poster who said J is a management problem, not yours.

You seem to be doing great, getting your broker's license, being valued by higher-ups, etc. Stay on that sensible path and best of luck to you!

ApatheticNoMore
5-4-12, 3:57pm
Perhaps it is management that aren't very nice people for not getting rid of her?

Tradd
5-5-12, 11:05pm
OP stated "Everyone else in the department does their job and helps out when needed, and goes above board. J, nah. We all really like her and she's a super nice lady, but this not pulling her weight is getting very, very old."

J is not doing her job which creates a larger workload on everyone else. J is NOT a nice lady. J is a bottom feeder.

She is going to either change or lose her job. I would stay out of it and let her determine her own fate. I sympathize that her and everyone else's workload has increased with probably no pay increase but we are in a recession and this is a reality for millions in North America.

I agree with the poster who said J is a management problem, not yours.

You seem to be doing great, getting your broker's license, being valued by higher-ups, etc. Stay on that sensible path and best of luck to you!

I found out yesterday that the open position has been filled with the new person starting in a week. Once that person is trained on our system, some of the overloaded people should get some relief. It's unsure how long the newly widowed coworker is going to be out. As the funeral was just today, I suspect at least another week. Thursday and Friday I handed J some files that belong to the newly widowed coworker, and J did them without an argument or a single complaint, which surprised me.