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My coworker has been with the company for perhaps 10 years longer than me, so obviously she’s higher up on the totem pole, but we’re still counterparts. She’s not my boss, we have the same job, she just gets paid more.

Yet I feel like she thinks she’s the grand visionary while I can be the workhorse to implement her ideas, which I find extremely frustrating and unfair. I’m creative and have no problem coming up with ideas, but since she puts herself in so many unnecessary meetings (where she can play visionary), which I feel could easily just be a phone call or an email, the resulting work trickles down to me since she doesn't have time to do it. She's also frequently volunteering me for tasks, which I find disrespectful, and would never do to her. She's not a bully, she's very nice about her irritating behavior.

I could be wrong, but I feel like my coworker is trying to keep control on what she views as her little kingdom. It seems like she’s afraid she’s getting old and out of the loop, nearing retirement, when I have no desire to kick her off her pedestal, I just want things to be fair. But truth be told, we work in a techie field, and I've stayed up to date as things have changed where I feel that she hasn't, so it's like she puts herself in meetings where she's comfortable playing visionary, and I do all the work she no longer knows how to do.

Any advice on what I should do? She has no plans to retire any time soon, so this could draw on for years. Please help.

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    Hmm, let's see, YES. I don't enjoy doing somebody else's job, and I'd post this question if she was my age or younger. – Annika May 8 '18 at 2:33
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    My issue has nothing to do with her age, it has to do with the fact that she volunteers me for jobs and tries to get me to do her work. I listed her age as a possible reason why. Acting like I'm attacking her over age is completely inaccurate. – Annika May 8 '18 at 2:41
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    Possible duplicate of Problems with loud, bossy colleague – gnat May 8 '18 at 6:02
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    @Annika Just remove the parts where she is older, leave in that she is longer at the company and didn't keep up with the state of the art. That should silence that specific concern mentioned above. – Wilbert May 8 '18 at 7:29
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    How does task assignment typically work at your company? Do you use an agile system like scrum or kanban or does your manager assign you tasks directly? I've been in a similar situation so I empathize with you, but I think the approach to take really depends on how your workflow is set up. – AffableAmbler May 8 '18 at 15:45
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This is a common form of Harrassment. My wife has to deal with it all the time, too. Look up Queen Bee Syndrome.

Your best bet is to draw your boss' attention to it. Chances are very high that they are completely unaware of this issue. Chances are also high that, once they are made aware, they will recall other times she has harassed female employees.

It's not uncommon for a large chunk of the business to spend all their time in meetings without actually doing any work. Keep in mind that if things change, and she starts doing real work, you might have to actually work with her, too.

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There's (understandably) an emotional side to this question as well as a practical one, but it's the practicalities you need to focus on if you're after a solution. And I'd say that's most neatly summed up by these points:

...the resulting work trickles down to me since she doesn't have time to do it. She's also frequently volunteering me for tasks, which I find disrespectful, and would never do to her.

The solution to this could be simple in theory - make sure you have enough work to fill your plate from other tasks, and then push back when she volunteers you for something:

I'm afraid my schedule is full this week as I'm doing x, y and z, so I'm going to be unable to take that on.

Likewise, you can also push back similarly if she tries to assign you tasks on the basis she didn't get a chance to finish them.

However, this is assuming that your boss understands exactly that things are as you say - that you two are entirely equal, and so she's unable to assign you tasks at her sole discretion. It could well be that your boss agrees with her, feels there's an implied hierarchy in place that he wants to keep, and in that case the only real solution is to request a 1 to 1 with your boss and explain the situation is making you unhappy (though again, avoid pointing fingers at your coworker and stick to the practicalities when explaining what's wrong.)

If neither of the above approaches work then, short of just putting up with it, your only real solution could be to look for employment elsewhere.

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(Typically) there's one person in the company responsible for setting an employee's workload and priorities: Their boss.

You've stated that this coworker is not your boss.

Unless other arrangements have been made, your workload and assignments are a discussion between you and your boss - not you and this coworker.

To answer your specific question:

Any advice on what I should do?

  1. Make sure you understand clearly (from your boss) what your responsibilities are. Before getting into a discussion about specifics, make sure you understand the bigger picture about where your work comes from and what your overall goals or priorities are.
  2. If there is no official work assignment or tracking method (ie a workorder or ticketing system), make sure you regularly check in with your boss, as appropriate, to understand the specific tasks they want you working on in a given day/week/month.
  3. If other people try to interject and plan your work for you, approach your boss and ask for feedback about how those specific changes should (or shouldn't) impact what he/she has already assigned to you. If it is appropriate, you may want to include your boss in communication with the coworker about task assignments (ie if your coworker emails you and tells you that she's volunteered you for something, forward it to your boss and ask for input, with the coworker on cc).

Of course, there may be complications. Maybe your boss isn't actively in the picture. Maybe they want you two to "just figure it out." Even if this is the case, you still have an opportunity to seek guidance. Approach these conversations with facts, objectively, and make it about overall productivity/opportunity/contribution - not just "I don't like XYZ types of work." Don't make it about your coworker's other behaviors (kingdom-building, going to meetings, etc) unless you can objectively make the conversation about impacting YOUR performance - in other words, don't go to your boss and complain about your coworker. Go to your boss and ask for help being the best employee YOU can be.

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