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I have a colleague "Bob," who has a tendency to claim coworkers as colluders in the - frequently wrong - work which Bob is responsible for. This is a small business in the United States.

Here are some examples to clarify the behavior

  • Bob attempts to refill the water cooler, but dumps about a gallon of water on the floor. A colleague helps Bob clean it up. When the owner of the business arrives, Bob explains that "we" spilled water.
  • Bob asks me to help them out with a problem regarding our product. I go to Bob's desk, and before Bob can finish explaining the problem, a senior specialist arrives to help Bob with the same issue. Bob exclaims how glad they are the specialist has arrived because "we" cannot figure this out.
  • Bob sends an email to some other members of the business explaining that "OP and I decided _____" when I have not been consulted on the contents of the email.
  • Bob was questioned about an issue with part of the product they are directly responsible for during a meeting with a client. Bob responds that "Other Colleague and he did ______," when Other Colleague does not have anything to do with this particular part.

My main concern is that my Image is being tarnished when Bob includes me on his failings.

I've told Bob that I don't apreciate being a "we" when I had little involvement with the problem at hand, and it failed to change the behavior. I have moved on to distancing myself from Bob as much as possible, and calling him out when he does mistakenly include me among members of the business only. Obviously, I don't want to do this in front of a client.

I'm worried this approach may portray me as somebody not willing to take reponsibility. I feel that talking to my manager about it is a bit of a "nuclear option," but I'm open to suggestions.

Similar to this question but I'm not taking over for Bob; I can't set up a plan and outline issues I'm facing with Bob's shoddy work. This question and a handfull of others deal with getting his work done. That isn't my problem at all; Bob's work is less than critical.

How can I avoid becoming a member of Bob's self inflicted problems?

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    Talking to your manager is nowhere close to the "nuclear option" when you have a professional problem with a coworker. CC'ing your manager when calling Bob out is even less of a nuclear option. – Dukeling Nov 29 '17 at 19:52
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    Have you just tried avoiding him? Like actively not going near him or engaging with him? Seems like if you stop involving yourself in his business he would have no reason to include you in his shortcomings. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 29 '17 at 20:14
  • I would be willing to guess that Bob does not think that people value his opinion. He may keep adding other people on to his decisions because he feels that by having someone else included it makes his opinion sound more valid to everyone else. – David K Nov 29 '17 at 21:00
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    Closely related: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/12081/… – DJClayworth Nov 29 '17 at 21:34
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Quite simply, call him out on his BS. Do so consistently, and furthermore, inform your boss that this is his normal behavior.

I would also avoid interacting with him if at all possible. If he screws something up and asks for help, let someone else hold his hand. Make yourself unavailable to the greatest extent possible:

  • I'm a little busy, but I can help you in an hour or so.
  • I apologize, I'm in the middle of something, maybe [Insert Name Here] can help you?
  • Here's a link to some documentation that I've found useful in the past!

As to how I would handle some of those scenarios:

Bob asks me to help them out with a problem regarding our product. I go to Bob's desk, and before Bob can finish explaining the problem, a senior specialist arrives to help Bob with the same issue. Bob exclaims how glad they are the specialist has arrived because "we" cannot figure this out.

"True, I didn't get a chance to help because you weren't quite done explaining the situation, but I leave you in [Senior Specialist]'s capable hands. I'm sure you don't need me holding your hand any further."

Bob sends an email to some other members of the business explaining that "OP and I decided _____" when I have not been consulted on the contents of the email.

Reply immediately: "Hello, Thank you for the update. I'd like to clarify that while I remember this being mentioned to me tangentially, I was not aware that a course of action had been decided on, and I was most certainly not consulted on one. Thanks!"

Bob was questioned about an issue with part of the product they are directly responsible for during a meeting with a client. Bob responds that "Other Colleague and he did ______," when Other Colleague does not have anything to do with this particular part.

Immediately challenge him: "There must be some kind of misunderstanding, Bob. You're the technical lead on this particular feature, while [Other Person] is working on feature X"

Once he sees that you won't stand for his crap, he will quit trying to implicate you in his mistakes. At best, he would be inviting more attention to the situation, at worst, he would be immediately proven a liar.

Furthermore, meet privately with your boss, and initiate a conversation about Bob's behavior (best to do this after he pulls one of these stunts). Be sincere, polite, and professional, but don't hesitate to defend yourself.

I do have to warn you that your relationship with Bob will likely take a turn for the worse, however I don't think you should be overly concerned about that (indeed, you don't appear to be).

  • I would +1 except for the first line. Calling the OP out is not going to do anything except look like you are trying to throw him under the bus to save yourself. Everything else is awesome on this. Your suggestions are not really calling out, so much as correcting him. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 29 '17 at 20:17
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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings - in that case we seem to be disagreeing on terminology, because every example I give is what I consider calling people out on their BS. – AndreiROM Nov 29 '17 at 20:24
  • The problem is the term calling him out is very broad and covers both the professional corrections you have included here that are proper, and overtly bad mouthing and pointing out failures of the OP. Your answer would be greatly improved, and lose nothing if you eliminate that first line. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 29 '17 at 20:26
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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings - I disagree, and so does the dictionary. Bad mouthing people is exactly that. Some of what you describe as calling out can also simply be classified as gossip, IMO. Calling someone out is defined as drawing critical attention to someone’s unacceptable actions or behavior, which is exactly what I'm advising. – AndreiROM Nov 29 '17 at 20:36
  • Yes tell the boss since you've brought this up directly to no avail. Because of Bob's mistake working with, and cover-up attempts in front of, a client, Bob should be restricted from working with customers for a period of time until he proves himself able. If Bob continues then onto or under he goes. Sandbagging others affects their promotions, even their job; it's a big deal. – Rob Nov 29 '17 at 22:53
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Besides going to your manager, you are doing the best thing you can do -- calling out Bob when not in front of a client when he includes you in a "we" scenario you had no part in. Keep re-enforcing that you don't want to be included in scenario's like that.

If you finally get fed up, go to your manager before punching Bob or telling him off in front of a client.

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