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For context: I work in a retail environment as a merchandiser with someone who is not so much a supervisor as a counterpart who works in buying. She purchases, I merchandise. We both have different supervisors. We recently began this working relationship, but I've worked with her before and had the same problem I am having now.

The problem is: If she has concerns about the way something is being done, she does not come state these concerns with me so that I can address them. Without expressing any concerns to me, she goes to either her supervisor or mine to complain. Each time this happens, it comes to my attention when my supervisor comes and asks me for clarification on whatever the complaint was. It has happened on perhaps a dozen occasions since we started working together again recently (and many more if you include our past working relationships).

I've asked her directly on three occasions to come directly to me if she has concerns regarding my work, but she does not. Additionally, she told my supervisor something untrue in her most recent complaint (that she told me not to change the way a particular item was merchandised, when in fact she did not).

I have contacted my manager regarding this and asked for a sit-down between the three of us where he can observe my request to her to come directly to me with her concerns regarding my work. If she continues to complain to either my or her supervisor without discussing these concerns with me, does this constitute personal harassment?

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    This post is a somewhat of a stream of consciousness which is rather... confusing. It would make it much easier for others to understand if you could spend a few minutes copy editing it to try and make it a bit easier for other people to understand. If nothing else, please add some paragraphs. – Philip Kendall Oct 18 '18 at 18:32
  • How often does this complaining happen? Is it all completely off-base, or just that one example? At first it sounds like she might just not like that kind of confrontation but the part about untrue statements makes me wonder...It could be harassment, but you better start documenting everything if you want recourse. – SiXandSeven8ths Oct 18 '18 at 19:33
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No.

Lying about your performance could certainly be considered workplace harassment, but just going "over your head" to make requests to your supervisor would never be considered personal harassment, no matter how many times you asked her to stop.

In many situations, and depending on company culture, going to peers in cross-functional departments is less acceptable than going through management channels. Part of the managers job is to facilitate communication between teams and make sure no misunderstandings exist.

While you would prefer to be more direct, it sounds like this person would rather things be more "official" and follow a chain of command. There isn't enough information in your post to know why this is, but it's not inherently a bad thing. The bad thing is her giving incorrect information about what she asked of you. We have no way to know if this is true, or a misunderstanding on either side. The sit-down you've already arranged is the logical next step. Present the discussion as a way to find a method of communication that everyone agrees on. Make sure to clear up this specific issue, but don't put blame on any side. If you're worried that she will continue to misrepresent things in the future, agree to have all requests put in writing.

Copying David Thornley's comment above:

If nothing else, when you get a verbal answer, write it up in an email and send it to her as your understanding of the conversation. That would have resolved the case of whether you were told to change the merchandising.

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She sounds like the one that likes to cover her back by disconnecting her issues from these, caused by other people without direct confrontation, that is what supervisor are for.

You can't do anything about the way she does it,

Any move on your part would be coming as confrontational.

The only thing you can do in this situation, is to have everything that can touch her in any way on the record. This will straighten this line of communication.

On the personal side note, you can give her same treatment and illuminate problems caused by her to your / her supervisor.

I wouldn't go as far to say "look for the issues" but in case you stumble upon one don't hesitate to act on it.

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Forget the sit down, that will only antagonize her and she won't comply.

However:

  • Your supervisor needs to stop listening to her. When she comes to them, they have to tell her to talk to you. If they won’t do that, you have the wrong supervisor and should look for a new job.
  • Possibly more difficult to arrange is that her supervisor needs to tell her to stop going to your supervisor and to go directly to you. Don’t let her supervisor see this as sorting out employee squabbling. Explain it (or, better yet, have your supervisor explain it) in ways that benefit the company. E.g. that clear communications benefit the company, whereas miscommunication loses money.

To be honest, I think that it would be better if your communications were written, rather than oral. Can you communicate by email? If so, suggest that to your supervisor. In my industry, most, if not all, inter-departmental communication is written, sometimes on templated forms (for anything substantial) and sometimes by email.

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    If nothing else, when you get a verbal answer, write it up in an email and send it to her as your understanding of the conversation. That would have resolved the case of whether you were told to change the merchandising. – David Thornley Oct 19 '18 at 16:05

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