Less than 90 days ago, I learned our company was being acquired by a larger company and my peers and I would be laid off.” Robin, that’s how your letter last week began. You went on to explain you are over 50, with an exemplary record as an employee.

Because you didn’t want to wait around for the inevitable, you sought another job. After half a dozen interviews with one company, you accepted their offer. The job was local but most of your team would be remote. In fact, there would be only one other employee in your office.

Therein lies the problem.

The first day on the job your 24-year-old coworker refused to show you company routines or even to be civil. You thought he was having a bad day, but it got worse. Within the first week he complained about you to HR and to your boss.

At first they identified you as the problem. Eventually they seemed to understand what was going on, and a VP explained that, though this young man had been with the company four years, he considers you the in-charge
person in the office.

Your letter concluded with, “I cannot afford to be out of a job. I am upset and scared.”

So let’s examine what happened. Your office-mate thought he should be your superior. After all, he had seniority. But that’s not what his superiors had in mind.

His problem may not be that you are a woman or that you are older. In the polite language of management, he has a problem adapting to change. People hate change almost more than being fired. Resistance always follows change in the workplace.

You will have an easier time if you couch the issue, both to him and to your superiors, in the language of change.

Have a sit-down with your coworker. It’s wise to email your boss in advance and tell him or her what you are going to do, then follow it up with a second email in which you explain what happened.

Tell your coworker this has gone on long enough. It’s a new year, time for a “reset” to your relationship.

Tell him that while you don’t have to be friends, for the good of the company you must work together. Let him know that by trying to put a black mark on you, he has put a black mark on himself. He is poisoning his position and career with the company.

It’s not your fault his superiors do not consider him the senior person, but they don’t. That’s a fact of life. He needs to adapt to that.

As the new person in a remote office, you are entitled to be shown procedures and practices. As the senior person, you are entitled to respect, not to having dust blown in your direction while he cleans up.

Be professional at all times and express your continued willingness to work with him.

But don’t act from fear. Getting rid of you should not be an option for your boss because your coworker has demonstrated he does not play well with others. Remember that even if the worst happened, with your experience you should be able to land on your feet.

Nice went out the window on the first day when he tried to treat you as his underling. While we cannot give legal advice, it appears by interfering with your ability to do your job he created a hostile work environment. That is illegal. So build a presentation binder or file in which you document every way in which he tried to thwart you. It may be helpful to you later.

You are in a position where you either fight back or you roll over and leave. We suggest demonstrating that you are not the only one in the office with cojones.

~ Wayne & Tamara

Column for the week of January 11, 2016

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