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How to deal with a ladder climbing co-worker

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Eranda posted 3/16/2014 18:40 PM

At the last place I worked, my boss was Chris, a woman I got along very well with. She had a way of "teaching" me and treating me like a child, but I essentially took it because I needed the job and I wasn't as experienced as she was. But she did things like tell me how I was supposed to organize my space and whether it was "clean" enough.

Chris left the company for another job, and 7 months later called to ask me if I was interested in coming to work at this new company. I took the job, and became her equal. Same job, same responsibilities. For the last 3 years and 3 months, we've been peers, and done fine. Chris was never particularly happy in the job and always wanted a move to something else. I had no problem with that- I was more suited to the position than she was.

But a couple months ago the company hired someone new in management. Chris has firmly attached herself to this new person and is sucking up so hard you can hear the fake laughter halfway across the office. He moved her into a different position- but one she also has no real interest in. She has been contriving to get the younger and less experienced employees to do her grunt work, and so far it's worked. She had them doing silly tasks that were really her responsibility, but she didn't want to do them. She conned her way into getting one of the younger girls assigned as her "assistant".

As of Friday, I was told that I am now going to report to her! Which is annoying enough, but the other people in my position are not reporting to someone in the same way. In fact, one of the women in my position is now going to manage someone else! So all of it is totally random. My perception is that Chris just wanted someone to "manage" so she could be a boss- and they drummed up someone for her, and it's me, for no particular reason.

I've done my job- and done it well- for over three years with essentially no management at all- why do I suddenly need a manager?? The answer is- I don't. Chris just wants subordinates (because she wants more rules and structure in the business so that she can identify herself as being "above" some people), and the new guy gives her whatever she wants.

As far as I'm concerned, this is a 5 year step back for me personally. I'm going back to being Chris' report, which will result in the same type of micromanaging and being treated like a child- and being told what to do and how to do it- like I was 5 years ago. It's also an insult to someone who has handled large programs for this company, pretty much without a hitch, for years already. All of a sudden I can't be trusted to do my job without someone looking over my shoulder? And last, I feel very much like Chris has thrown me under the bus, stepped all over me, and climbed over me, in order to get that she wants (which is a management position). And I considered her a friend, so it's rather a betrayal as I see it. Chris clearly doesn't care if I am diminished in the eyes of the company as long as she gets to climb the ladder.

So far I've said nothing, and just gone about my business as usual. Done my job with a minimum of fuss like I always do. Pretty much ignored this new supposed hierarchy. And that's what I hope to continue to do.

But I don't think I can stomach being bossed around by this person in the way that she does it. I am not a child, I am an adult professional. And I won't go back to being micromanaged, or even asked to do ridiculous things just so she can feel important.

I hear that Chris asked other co-workers if I was pissed about the new arrangement. Of course she already knows I won't be happy with it, but if she was so concerned why didn't she come to me ahead of time and talk about the change, rather than having it sprung on me in a meeting? And why is she going around behind my back asking how I feel? Why not come directly to me?

For the first time in three years, I am really dreading going to work tomorrow. Partly because I dread having to keep my mouth shut, and partly because I'm afraid I won't be able to keep my mouth shut.

I hate the thought of having to look for a new job because I like my current company. But I also hate the idea of having to suck it up and let her boss me around.

Just wanted to say that. I'm so disappointed that this is the way things are going right now. I had hope to stick around at this place a while, and now I feel like my only option might be to leave.


Williesmom posted 3/16/2014 18:44 PM


That sucks. I would ask her boss or HR why this move was made. Ask them to clarify.

StrongerOne posted 3/16/2014 21:20 PM

Ignoring the new organizational structure is not going to help you at all. It will get you seen as being "difficult" and "insubordinate." Which might get you demoted, fired, etc.

You need to respond to these changes quickly and professionally. Set up a meeting with the supervisor. Take with you:

Statement of your title, length of time at the job, list of responsibilities and functions. List also the name and title of the person you reported to

Same thing for every other person in the office with the same title or at the same level. Including "Chris".

Discuss with the supervisor the latest change. Ask why you have been shifted to reporting to Chris, while others with same title and responsibilities are still reporting to ABc.

Discuss work goals and improvements you will make, with timeline.

No slamming Chris or anyone else. No fussing or defensiveness. No matter how justified. These will not help you at all.

Listen carefully to the supervisor, take notes, send a follow up email recapping the meeting and stating any action items. Be ready to hear areas for improvement...and be ready to tell the supervisor that you will think about ways to work on them and get back to her.

If you think it's totally unfair or misrepresenting you, then go to HR. But I would try to work through it with the supervisor first. HR is going to make you do that anyway, and your supervisor will not appreciate it if you go over her head, rather than taking it to her first.

That's my advice based on many decades of working. And on making some embarrassing mistakes! Hope it helps...

Eranda posted 3/17/2014 04:53 AM

I would never be rude or insubordinate, ever. I am not being defiant either, in any way. I am just going about my job like I always have.

We don't have an HR dept like other companies, there is no HR to speak of outside things like health insurance or company policies. Up until recently I reported to one of the owners of the company- and by "reporting" I mean- I was left alone to do my job, with the caveat that if I had an issue I needed help with, I could ask this owner. Otherwise I was happily on my own, and I did my job.

Many, many people at my company are unhappy with the current arrangement, and Chris' behavior and power grab, not just me. There are other people who are thinking of leaving because of it, and because of the favoritism shown by the new management guy. It has upset the equilibrium of the whole company structure, and everyone realizes that it's random and based more on what Chris has weaseled out of the new management guy for herself, than any sort of company benefit or organizational necessity.

I'll have to see where the coming weeks take me. I'm just so disappointed that a job I really like at a company I really like has been hijacked by this woman's self interest and need to boss people around.

Amazonia posted 3/17/2014 05:35 AM

I would say something to your former boss/the owner, especially if so many others are also unhappy. It's not just about you, if this many employees are unhappy and a bad management decision has been made, it will be detrimental to the company over the long term.

Cally60 posted 3/17/2014 06:23 AM

why didn't she come to me ahead of time and talk about the change, rather than having it sprung on me in a meeting? And why is she going around behind my back asking how I feel? Why not come directly to me?

Jealousy? Maybe I'm completely misjudging the woman (and for your sake, I hope that I am!) but my guess would be jealousy of you, in combination with status-obsession.

Despite appearances, I think that Chris may actually have been very put out when you - her former underling - joined the company and became her equal. The current of resentment has been running beneath the surface ever since, even though she has acted as your friend. Now she has finally managed to maneuver you back into what she sees as your rightful position - "beneath" her. She is not worried that you might be upset about the change - she really, really WANTS you to be upset about it. She's getting a kick out of hearing about your reaction from as many people as she can, as she goes from one to another faking concern, and she is also subtly letting them all know that she has won what she sees as a victory over the underling who dared to try to be her equal. Pity her, in her insecurity, and in her delusional belief that higher rank actually makes you a superior person.

[This message edited by Cally60 at 6:46 AM, March 17th (Monday)]

StrongerOne posted 3/17/2014 10:35 AM


I apologize that it came off like I was criticizing you, because that was not my intention -- I work with college students, so I'm always in this mode of: spell out every last detail, even if it seems obvious

I do think that having everything written out will serve you well. It lets everyone see that you are addressing the problem professionally, and kind of takes Chris out of it as the focus, if you see what I mean.

The advice to talk to your previous supervisor is good. I'd talk to the new supervisor first, however. Give him or her the benefit of the doubt. Then go to the old supervisor after that, if needed.

Good luck, Eranda -- let us know what happens!

ETA: Cally has hit it right on target.

[This message edited by StrongerOne at 10:36 AM, March 17th (Monday)]

Eranda posted 3/17/2014 22:05 PM

It never occurred to me that she feels that I "should" be under her... but actually that makes a lot of sense.

She is very concerned with position, and with being a manager. Almost as though she felt that without someone to boss around, she wasn't in HER rightful place.

I've really learned a lot about this person I used to think was one of my best friends. Sadly, I've learned that even good friends will diminish you in order to elevate themselves. Disappointing, to say the least.

I went about my business today, was polite and professional without kissing anyone's behind or falling into the whole boss-employee routine. Tomorrow is another day.

Amazonia posted 3/21/2014 00:15 AM

How's the rest of the week been going with this situation, Eranda?

Caretaker1 posted 3/21/2014 00:24 AM

Big picture?! You have a job you like. If she starts treating you the way you fear, feel her out. Sometimes just riding it out, you will put up with crap in the short term, but long term, she may move on and you will no longer deal with her OR she may open doors for you because you took the high road and worked through it. Like in marriage, egos can get in the way. Big picture is, you like the job, you have an income with benefits. Go in and enjoy the work, your peers, look for opportunities to improve and for your next position or to grow in your current.

[This message edited by Caretaker1 at 12:25 AM, March 21st (Friday)]

BaxtersBFF posted 3/21/2014 00:25 AM

As a health and safety type guy...I read the title of this thread and wondered if they were reaching too far to either side of the ladder, or maybe the ladder wasn't secured correctly, not extending far enough above the roof line, or maybe the co-worker was standing above the warning stickers on a ladder on a job site.

Exiting stage left...

Jrazz posted 3/21/2014 01:02 AM



end t/j

Eranda, I've been on three sides of this situation. I've been promoted before someone else who felt they were more qualified, I've seen others promoted when I felt I was the obvious choice, and I've been the HR department who had to enact a promotion that was going to ruffle feathers.

Having an extensive collection of hair nets and name tags, I can tell you that at the end of the day if you're not dealing with someone who is overtly deceptive, crazy, or abusive - you may need to suck it up. If you want to move onto greener pastures where your skills will be better valued, more power to you. I would love to see you somewhere where they treated you with the respect you deserve and don't care where you keep your pencils.

If you have to stay here, can you just play the game? A new workplace means new personalities to deal with and who knows how many more Chrisseses. I know it's going to be hard to grin and bear the new org setup, but if this is the worst of the workspace drama then maybe it is the lesser of workplace evils that might be lurking around the corner.

I say kill her with kindness while browsing the want ads.


[This message edited by Jrazz at 1:04 AM, March 21st (Friday)]

MissesJai posted 3/21/2014 10:27 AM


(((Eranda))) Corporate america bites, at times.

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