One of my team members has recently become a project coordinator as my manager moved up. She has been on the project for the longest time, has a lot of experience in what we do and does it well. She didn't want to take this job.

Two weeks ago we had our first work-related fight (not bad in one and a half years' time), she has not thought something through, delegated the task to me, which I have finished in three days and then she found out what I was saying in the beginning: the solution would not work. Everyone is allowed to make mistakes, but in this situation, it turned out that I was the one who couldn't deliver what she asked for: after I have finished the task, she sent an example to me how it should have been done. It turned out that with the tool I was provided with I cannot finish the task with the required quality. The next day she woke up and found the same solution that I recommended before starting the task would work well.

Before she became the project coordinator, the team was involved in planning the projects and tasks, now she delegates tasks to me without giving background information. I have to ask her to specify at least the basics: the deadline, how many mhrs I can take at most and so on.

For one and a half years, I have received great reviews from her, by which I could improve my work in the long term. Now, in case of another task, she delegates to me without specifying her vision, is discontent at the end and changes everything as she wishes to - even if it means starting over. I feel like I cannot contribute.

I was on holiday for a week after this, but when I got back I sat down with her to talk about this. I asked her to consider to set up a general structure in project planning, to determine the basic information needed for delegation and to give me reviews like before so that I can learn from my mistakes as well. She welcomed these ideas, shared her insights as well and promised to pay attention.

Another two weeks passed and we got another project. Everyone chooses which task they wish to work on, and it seemed in the beginning, that all tasks were available to start working on them. After three days it turned out that she didn't read through the whole project specification and some of the tasks were not yet available because they needed to be approved first. I was working on these tasks for three days.

I told her that as we will not be able to track the changes after the approval (it does not depend on us), the work has to be started again because we will have to check every page again. She answered that it is not an issue that she has not read the project specification as anything can change anytime (on the customer side). I said I cannot take responsibility for my work on these tasks because I have used the mhrs dedicated to the tasks and it would take that much time again to check every page again. She said she would take responsibility for this.

She emailed the customer and after a few days it turned out that the approval was not a problem in this case and the text wouldn't change, so we shouldn't have to restart with these tasks.

In another quarrel the next day, I referred to her saying "it is not an issue that she has not read the project specification as anything can change anytime" and she told me in front of the whole team that she has never said that. She also added that she said she was sorry before, which never happened. I'm having trouble understanding why this kind of communication can even be present.

Needless to say, I feel uncomfortable working with her. I cannot trust that she gives me the information needed for my work, I don't know if any of my work will be used in the project, and she ditches responsibility for what she says and does.

For my part, I sat down and talked to her as assertively as I could after the first quarrel, and did not expect that she does not change anything in her attitude and in addition, that she would make the whole team think that I was lying about what she said. I don't feel comfortable saying anything about this situation at this point because I am afraid that I'm not taken seriously. She is a people pleaser and everyone likes her. Until now, the general mood was great on the team but I feel like everyone gets along as long as it is about cat gifs but communication freezes when we should work together.

My solution would be to ask her to delegate and give me reviews only in writing and that we don't speak in person about work. This way, she would have to take responsibility what she writes down. On one hand, I feel I am not in the place to ask this from my superior. On the other hand, I cannot accept task delegation from her if I'm not sure that we want the same: getting the job done in the best possible quality, as a team. A lot of people at my company think that the customer is an enemy who sends us impossible requests - it is hard for me to understand, I have another perspective, but this view is popular in my team as well. It is true that on the customer side, they're the ones sending the requests, and we will do what they want as they want it, and the specification can change sometimes. I am open to this. What I am not open to is having someone responsible for me who is unstable and cannot handle information, thus making the delegation not to be trusted.

What do you think I should do? I would be very grateful for your insight.

  • 2
    Can you shorten the pretext and clarify the question: What do you want to achieve? – Daniel Nov 16 '17 at 12:52
  • Usual practical approach is to do the writing yourself and send this in an e-mail after the meeting. This is what I understood, please correct if I got anything wrong... – Daniel Nov 16 '17 at 13:20
  • If it's degenerated to the point where you explicitly want to never speak to your project lead about your work, it's time to find a different project team or employer. There's no fixing that, and certainly no one or company is going to accommodate such a dysfunctional arrangement over personal communication issues. – PoloHoleSet Nov 16 '17 at 16:14

This reads as a bit of a ramble, but in short, I read the problem as this - you're doing tasks that potentially end up as worthless because they haven't been well defined, they change, or they haven't been agreed on with the customer.

This, I agree isn't great for morale - but at the end of the day, you're paid to do the tasks that you're told to do, worthless or not. If it's worthless then that can be frustrating, but at the end of the day it's your employer's time rather than yours that's being wasted here.

Yes, your employer probably won't be happy if they find out that a large portion of your time is spent on wasted work, so you should absolutely cover your actions via a paper trail - make sure you're logging when you start on any task, asking via email if you think there's anything missing, and suggesting potentially better approaches using written communication as well. That way if the situation ever comes to head, then you can cover yourself by showing you were only completing tasks to which you were assigned, using the information you had at the time.

However, note that this is very different to what you suggest:

My solution would be to ask her to delegate and give me reviews only in writing and that we don't speak in person about work. This way, she would have to take responsibility what she writes down.

You should absolutely speak in person about it - it's natural, and the best way of achieving something. Just follow up with a quick email confirmation after you've spoken if you deem it necessary so you have a record of the conversation should anyone ask.

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My solution would be to ask her to delegate and give me reviews only in writing and that we don't speak in person about work

Ensuring that everything regarding the delegation of tasks and what should (or should not) be done is in writing is a good idea and cover's both you and your project coordinator from any misunderstandings or anything of that sort.

Suggesting that you no longer speak about in person at all isn't - really discussions should be had and then e-mail or similar should be used to document what was discussed and agreed. Not talking about work is unprofessional and will only result in a further deterioration of your working relationship. And frankly it's pretty childish.

You state that previously you had a decent working relationship and that things have only gone sour since she took the coordinator role, given what you say about how she didn't want the job in the first place I suspect she is not cut out for the job and/or is really unhappy in it and I would suggest that this is the reason for her behavior and for the two of you clashing and that the working relationship is currently salvageable, escalating into playground pettiness however will likely kill off any chance of that.

So be a grown up and talk to her one-and-one about the issues and see if you can come to an agreement about how things are going to work going forwards, including things like documenting decisions and requests. As I say this is something that is of benefit to both parties and you should frame it as such.

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