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Dealing with Manager saying you're too sensitive

Situation:

Manager has flipped on an earlier decision and now wants my G/F to share the unit coordinator role of the teaching unit.  The other teacher is known to be difficult to work with.  No other teaching unit is setup this way.    The exact email phrases my G/F sent to the  manager are:

"There's no rush when you know what you are supposed to be doing"

"You failed to record our session" (which was proven untrue)

I would like to ignore the managers frame of being too sensitive.  And focus back on the colleague's bad behaviour but I'm struggling for words (and to make it shorter and more in-direct).  No point fighting with your boss.   Can you help me improve this:

Hi T

I agree, we all have to be extra resilient in the current environment.

As you shared with me no other unit is setup with Co-cordinators.  So it is an unusual situation which is going to require strong collaboration.

I don't think the attached  emails sets the right tone.  You've always given me such good advice as a beginning teacher.  So I'd love to have a chat with you about we could have a safe collaborative environment for better teaming and teaching.

Just wanted to clarify the first interaction so that I can understand the situation better.
Did your girlfriend send the first statement and the manager replied the second statement?

Girlfriend: "There's no rush when you know what you are supposed to be doing"

Manager: "You failed to record our session" (which was proven untrue)

I'm not sure about how power-sensitive the manager is.
This statement

As you shared with me no other unit is setup with Co-cordinators.

may feel to the manager like it's restricting her authority of setting up the teaching environment.

I was thinking if you have recorded emails of interactions with the other teacher showing that she is difficult to work with.
Then, one could forward these emails and summarise them within the email context.
And subtly put the blame on the other teacher framing her as the one not wanting to work.

Hi T,

To be honest, I would really love to go as you suggest and collaborate with (the other teacher's name).

At the same time, (the other teacher's name) has shown strict preferences in

  • teaching and structuring the curriculum in a certain way (more in the email below)
  • not taking up the following parts of the teaching

As such, there may be potential friction in sharing the coordinator role.

Do you have time for a chat?

(forwarded emails)

What do you think?

Again, I'm not too sure about the whole context.
It also sounds quite challenging to navigate.

Transitioned has reacted to this post.
Transitioned

Hi Matthew

No the other teacher made those statements in emails to my G/F.  Basically covert attacks.  My G/F did forward those emails to the manager.  That's when the manager came back with the 'too sensitive' power move.

Maybe better:

Mgr question was do you think you might be too sensitive.  So keeping it light (and it is a 100% female workgroup)

 

Hi T

I am a bit ticklish but that is all.  This co-cordinator setup is a bit different from the other units.

So it will need more give and take than usual.   Hope that happens.

 

Thank you Matthew for the input.   I went with my second version.  For the forum to make this into an actionable case study for others  here's the analysis:

I was following Lucio's default policy of keeping emails light and clean and short.

I made the joke about sensitive = ticklish to reject the managers slur in light non-confrontational way.   I then called out that the manager had created a setup that was 'special' in a bad way which would need collaboration with a non-collaborative colleague but I kept it very short.  I agree Matthew with your point that this might make the manager feel boxed in but I wanted it on the record in case the crazy colleague goes psycho next year and it ends up in front of HR.

BTW normally any teaching unit changes are emailed to the whole team.  This one was only emailed to G/F and Ms S.  So the manager was being shifty.   My G/F is making sure  verbally in person that all the teachers know the manager changed her mind.  The teachers all talk about who's doing what next year so this can be casually dropped into conversation.

I changed 'hope' to:  I will work hard to make it happen.   Leaves that positive "I'm onboard with your decision boss" vibe.

This manager is a typical modern 'bad' boss.  She doesn't solve problems just tries to push them back on her staff and overworks the good workers to cover for the lazy workers because she won't pull them into line.  And spends most of her time managing up - of course.

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood

Hey Kevin,

Yeah, sounds like a difficult work environment -in large part thanks to the difficult colleague, left unsolved by the manager-.

A few random ideas:

  • When the manager changed course, go talk to her: say you'd prefer being the only coordinator. Say that "there is always so much clarity when only one person is in charge" (the positive way of saying that sharing the lead with that other person will make a political mess). Risky move, but might be worth it
  • "I am a bit ticklish" = change to "not sure about that to be honest". "a bit ticklish" partially accepts the frame. Better to fully reject it. Then you can re=empower the manager with something "BUT, I'm fully committed to make this work and take any suggestion you might have".
  • Forwarding emails is risky: Part of the issue might be that the manager only saw the forwarded emails, didn't see or experience the daily annoyance. So it's very possible she doesn't have the full picture
  • First mover trap (the complainer is the complaint): when you're the first one to bring up an issue, the feeling is that you are the issue. It's better to only bring and issue up the chain when the manager already knows your colleague is the issue (and of course, you can help spread that knowledge)
Transitioned has reacted to this post.
Transitioned
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks Lucio - great advice.

Unfortunately already sent.   At least we partially rejected the bad frame.  My g/f  doesn't cope with conflict and wanted to just let it go to start with.  I pointed out to her that a unrefuted slur becomes the truth.  The email also had the objective of getting on the record that the manager had set up the teaching unit in a way that was likely to cause problems.

I love your first two points. "not to sure about that to be honest" and the reject and re-impower is getting added to my default responses list.  As we say in martial arts - you are as you train.

On the last 2 points as usual it comes down to context.  Everyone including the manager knows this person is difficult.  So the long strategy is build up evidence of this colleague's bad behaviour in case psycho girl blows up and it all ends up in front of HR.  In that context forwarding the emails was to get it on the record.  Kind of preparing a fall-back position.

The thinking was HR will always ask you first - what have you done to resolve this through your manager?

Obviously HR will always support the manager.  Is it best to not even think about (too defensive mindset) ?

Lucio Buffalmano and Matthew Whitewood have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoMatthew Whitewood

Thank you Kevin for sharing more context.

On the last 2 points as usual it comes down to context.  Everyone including the manager knows this person is difficult.  So the long strategy is build up evidence of this colleague's bad behaviour in case psycho girl blows up and it all ends up in front of HR.  In that context forwarding the emails was to get it on the record.  Kind of preparing a fall-back position.

Maybe your GF has a good track record so your manager thought that she can help to handle this challenging person.

The manager could be afraid that she leaves the psycho girl on her own with her own unit and messes things up.
And a mess-up would hurt the manager's reputation to the higher-ups.

I guessed this from your paragraph about the manager:

This manager is a typical modern 'bad' boss.  She doesn't solve problems just tries to push them back on her staff and overworks the good workers to cover for the lazy workers because she won't pull them into line.  And spends most of her time managing up - of course.

Maybe the paradoxical strategy would be to convince the manager that the psycho girl is actually capable of running her own teaching unit.

Then, let the psycho girl hang herself with the management of her own teaching unit given her bad work ethic and reputation.

Then, you avoid being the complainer because she effectively digs her own grave.

What About the Bigger Landscape?

I had these bad bosses before.
Bad bosses let bad employees continue with bad behaviour.

I'm not sure how big the company is or the political landscape.
Does your GF have connections or relationships outside the department?
Maybe this requires some manoeuvring in the bigger office landscape.

Thank you  Matthew

I m always impressed by your ability to marry strategy and tactics.  Thinkers who can do will always command a premium.

The colleague has been running that unit for years.  Not a good teacher but meticulous with admin and covering her arse.

My g/f has been smart with the two up.  Always gets in 15 minutes before the big boss and chats to her quite often providing little bits of information on how the herd is travelling.

It's government nobody gets fired no matter how crappy and promotions don't come with much of a pay rise.  So I'm advising my girlfriend to treat this as training for when she does come up against some evil person and the stakes are higher.

And it's provided us with some nice little case studies here on typical work power dynamics.  I think that's one of the problems with being a win-lose player sooner or later you run into a quicker gunfighter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Matthew Whitewood
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