I am in a quandary and would like your opinion on what I should do.
This afternoon I went to my boss to arrange two sets of vacation days, one week in the late spring/summer and 2 days next week. Basically my boss told me that I would need to ask my coworker who doesn’t ever ask me for help, whether or not I can go on vacation because my coworker may want my help. This same coworker never goes on vacation because “her schedule doesn’t allow for it” (and doesn’t like to vacation, but wants to claim that she can’t go because she is busy) is now in control of whether or not I get to go on vacation. This would not have been a horrible problem if following this conversation my boss had not segued into a lecture about how this coworker doesn’t feel like I’m willing to help and that is why she doesn’t ask. (Said in such a disgusted tone that is meant to illicit shame.)
Now let me tell you that this coworker likes to stretch every project into the Trail of Tears and cannot hand off a project without explaining in extreme detail how it is to be done (including where I should collate papers- not how, or in what order- but what specific location I should stand in while putting together some instruction manuals for a meeting). Now consider me, with the grout bleaching, obsessive fish keeping, use of Excel to organize cookie recipe ingredients, if I say you are an over-obsessive control freak, you are a CRAZY over-obsessive control freak. Furthermore my boss told me that the coworker is making too much in overtime and we can’t afford it, so I have to help.
I objected that I am not unwilling to help, but rather am never asked. My boss then gave me an example where coworker asked me to help and I said “no”. Of course coworker didn’t mention to our boss how it actually happened. (On a Thursday she seemed stressed and I asked her if she needed help, as I had plenty of time, and she said she would “let me know”. I hear nothing until the following Thursday when she approaches me and says she would like my help now. I explained to her that I was busy prepping for the 200 person seminar I was facilitating the next morning (my boss can’t get things done until the last minute, so I am stuck doing things last minute as a consequence), which coworker herself was also attending and that after the 200 person seminar I had promised to help someone else in another department with a project, so I couldn’t help. She said that was fine and she would hire a temp to do it. That is not really the same as asking for help and being told “no”.)
So, I explain to my boss that I don’t think that coworker wants my help because she always wants to do everything herself and that her not asking me for help and assuming I don’t want to or am unwilling to help is crazy.
So my boss gets mad and tells me that she will not get in the middle of a feud between myself and coworker (a feud I had no idea existed until 3 this afternoon), and that shouldn’t I admit that we are both a little wrong.
My answer was “no”. I am not a little wrong. It is not part of my job to chase people around asking for projects. It is the onus of the person who needs help to ask for it. Nobody wants extra work, but I am not the sort of person who refuses to help because it will suck. I am paid to be here 8 hours a day and none of my work is cherries and chocolate so, what do I care. I tried to tell my boss that I cannot control my coworker’s perceptions and that any time I am having a slow period I always make a point to make sure that none of the 3 people I work with need help before I start working on backlogged paperwork, or my pet projects.
I have since received three emails that clearly showed that since 3, my boss thinks that I am somehow magically transformed into a good for nothing ne’r do well. I am upset that my friend sold me down river either because she needs to control every aspect of everything, or for the massive amounts of overtime money. I’m upset that my boss would believe that I refused work. And honestly, we’re having layoffs and I need everyone to know that I work really hard, and that the work I do is important and gets done.
So what do you think I should do:
1. Go to coworker (who BTW I actually hang out with outside of work) and tell her that our boss said that she doesn’t feel like she can ask for help and figure out if she really said that I was too busy to help rather than unwilling to help. Then get the three of us together and talk about this.
2. Meet again with my boss and try harder to explain my situation and how I feel unsupported and how there is no feud, but even if there was, taking the position that I am the bad guy is not ok.
3. Some other option you suggest.
Update: My boss came to me this morning and apologized for not reacting properly yesterday. Having gone home and thought about it she realized that was not possibly true. Today she met with coworker, then I met with coworker and it seems as though there was some sort of misunderstanding. So I am willing to let the whole thing go. And all is well. (Which is good, as I was about to adopt a scorched earth policy at the office, which sounds like it would be a lot of additional work.)