Occasional Odd Outputs

Dealing with an insecure coworker...

You know, not long ago I would have thought it utterly likely that this would have been a rant. But no.


This is the second year at my school that I have been dealing with what I now recognize as a very insecure coworker. This person was surplussed at their last postion, and was put into a very unique teaching situation with our school, which teaches via an online learning management system. So two strikes there-- pushed out of their last position, and then put into a new one that has them teaching in a totally unfamiliar style of environment.

Now, because of similarity in teaching areas of expertise, this person automatically gravitated towards me from the beginning. There is also the fact that I had a year more of experience with the medium, and am the type of person who does a lot of independent problem-solving (and thereby picks up the use of technological tools quite well in the process).

I have no problem with the idea of mentoring someone-- temporarily!-- which is the whole point. When you mentor someone, your goal is to become obsolete; for the mentee to eventually gain their own feet and proceed on their own.

This has not been happening. My coworker seems oblivious to their demands on my time, the effect of their nonsense messaging, and despite seeming very earnest and writing down endless notes to themselves in a coil notebook, does not retain any lessons... Other issues include constantly talking up a storm in meetings and discussions and offering up an endless stream of ideas that they think should be pursued, but never being the one to pursue them; making comments that indirectly indicate a lack of appreciation like "I hope I helped you too" and "I think we both learned something" when the interaction has been totally one-way.

So you can see why I thought this would have been a total rant not long ago. :) This person certainly has left me with loads of cannon-fodder.

But I made a good decision a few weeks back and:

  1. Put strict limits on the time spent with this person, though I still did give them regular, scheduled time.
  2. Talked to my supervisors/administrators about what was going on, why, and how I was planning to handle it so that they would support me if this person complained about my changes. I also asked if they thought this was appropriate and if they had any suggestions for me. (They did and they did.) :)

The simple version of the plan was that I was no longer going to be a tech reference for this person, and that there was going to be a specific tech team contact for this colleague to tap into. When they asked me a tech question, I would refuse to answer and refer them to their contact.

So the upshot is that I was able to uphold the value of my time in my job, get a coworker/monkey off my back, and still be able to interact with them without them or me being angry, as they were still able to get the help they need.

As for the constant stream of talk and ideas without producing anything concrete themselves, I have learned that with every suggestion my colleague gives me, I ask them to do work for it.

The Wally Reflector

Now, I am not a Wally, as I work hard to make my online courses better and better, and I produce concrete items on a constant and continuing basis. But I have found that the "reflector" technique is very useful for dealing with a person who thinks they are a great contributor to the workplace by singing(blathering out) a constant stream of brainstorm ideas(farts), strewing them like little gold(brown) nuggets at the feet of their ought-to-be-welcoming(but actually annoyed) colleagues.

For example, my suggestion that "since I am already working on redoing the current unit exams, you should go ahead and work on providing second versions of those exams, as having two versions is a good idea", was met with extreme shock and an outpouring of how very, very busy they were, but that they would add it to their to-do list for the new year.


I will ask in the new year if they have started working on this. I am certain the answer will be no.

Funny thing-- if they were not the type to run at the mouth with all these great ideas and suggestions for other people, they would not bother me at all. I wonder if they will figure it out that I will be starting to hold them responsible for the suggestions they make. I suspect it will take a while for the lesson to "take".

But with good ol' Wally's reflector method, I find that I am no longer bothered anyway.

MMMmmmMMM! *grin*

Another article I found (after the fact) that underscored I had been doing the right thing is here:

How to Cope with the Insecurities of a Co-worker

I have taken back my time and thus am enjoying my workplace more again, and it feels good!

PS - if there is a less annoying way of speaking of someone in a generic (non-gender) manner than using the plurals "they", "their" and "them" all the time, I would love to know!

1 comment

Comment from: RSmith [Visitor] Email
RSmithI so needed to read this article. It's great to know that there's more than one difficult insecure coworkers like you describe. Thanks so much for the tips. I'm feeling like there's hope at the end of this dark tunnel.
07/15/08 @ 20:21