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An older colleague, a woman with 30+ years of experience as a cobol developer has been escalating me every week for the last nearly 2 months. She finds different pretexts for the same issue again and again and draws me into various escalation meetings with the Project Manager and the department lead + many other colleagues. Resulting in a lllooooottt of time wasted for the team.

Being in conflict resolution meeting twice a week every week is extremely unpleasant and unhealthy for me.

At the same time being technical lead for the team I am in the right to take decisions.

She has been in the company for 30 years and it appears no one dares to stand in her way although she does not have formal role that is of significance. How can I make all this stop ?

I was considering couple of strategies:

  • Say that all this is unhealthy for me, I have high blood pressure and refuse participation. Send all my notes to the management and ask someone else to decide in which case I will align.
  • Is there an option to involve HR ? I have never done that. How does someone involve HR and what will happen then ?
  • Start working from home in order to avoid all the meetings.
  • Try to put the conflict on different base - work ethic. She has a terrible work ethic and the team knows it.
  • Try to escalate the conflict even more so that it becomes either me either her issue.

What can I do? HELP!!!!

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    Hello Pesho, I think you're attracting downvotes cause the post is emotionally charged. I know it's difficult to hold back when you're angry, I'm the same way. I think you'll get far better reception if you added examples of what these meeting revolve around; are they frivolous complaints? Is it a case of (very) bad miscommunication? We don't know, and that's harder to empathise with and advocate for. – rath Jan 25 at 12:04
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    "She finds different pretext for the same issue again" -- Can you share more about the nature of the issue? Is this repeated actions she thinks you are doing, or is it a decision that you made before and she keeps wanting to change? – Helena Jan 25 at 13:16
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    "various escalation meetings with the Project Manager" -- What is the outcome of these meetings? – Helena Jan 25 at 13:16
  • Why do you go to the meetings? "We have already dealt with that, I am not going. Please keep me updated on new issues". – Rui F Ribeiro Jan 25 at 18:47
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It seems you are suffering because of the way she forces you into these meetings, and the way the meetings go.

Maybe you can talk to the Project Manager and explain how this way of working is affecting your performance. But don't just come with a problem, come with a solution.

You see, complaining is easy, and pointing out a problem is too, but if you can with a proposal for a solution, you'll be seen as a problem solver instead.

Also, by holding the pen, you often get a bigger say in how the final solution ends up.

So, what you could do:

  • Explain the PM how this way of working is not optimal.
  • Propose a new way of working: we will have 1 "escalation meeting" per week, with an agenda before and notes taken in turns.
  • The notes will contain what the problem is, what caused it, how we propose to fix it, by when, and who is to take action.
  • The next meeting, we go over the notes of the previous meeting, and do a status update. Then you can go over to the new agenda items, in order of priority.

Every week, once a week, you now have a meeting you can prepare for. After the meeting, send the notes to all participants. If new issues arrive, add them to the agenda for the next meeting, but stop holding multiple meetings per week.

By taking control, you will feel less powerless, less frustrated and more in charge of the situation. Also, your PM and manager will consider you more mature. Who knows, this could be the start of a step up. And now you turned the problem into an opportunity.

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she does not have formal role that is of significance

Then just say, I don't have time for this and wont be attending.

Then go to your manager, or HR and explain these meetings are negatively affecting performance and moral of the team. Propose another solution that would achieve the same thing without the meetings. For example, let everyone take notes about issues they have, and have a meeting to discuss at the end of a project or once a month.

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It sounds like a very difficult situation for you.

Please avoid aggressive responses! Don't escalate the conflict. That will only make the problem worse.

Also, you are a team lead, not a manager. It is your manager's job to give the necessary instructions to make this person stop doing this.

Ask for advice

Can you privately ask your direct manager, or department lead, for advice? "Hey boss, all these repetitive escalation meetings are very unpleasant. Can you suggest anything I can do to avoid wasting so much time?" Asking for advice is a good way to get help with an issue.

Gentle confrontation

Can you have a private conversation with this person who calls these meetings? In that meeting you can use the classic formula....

  1. Name the unwanted behavior and be specific
  2. State the effect that behavior has on you personally (speak for yourself)
  3. Ask for a change
  4. Be quiet and listen

You might say something like this: "Ms. Robinson, I have something to say. Please hear me out. When you called me and others into that meeting last Wednesday, you raised the same two issues as you raised in the Monday meeting. I find that kind of thing very frustrating, and it takes time away from my work with my team. In future, can you please refrain from these repeated escalations?"

Direct request for management intervention

If you don't get anywhere with these personal approaches, directly ask your management to deal with the problem.

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She finds different pretexts for the same issue again and again and draws me into various escalation meetings with the Project Manager and the department lead + many other colleagues. Resulting in a lllooooottt of time wasted for the team.

Made her write an agenda for a meeting and bill her for the time wasted. Start with the last meeting and reply to all

This is the same issue we discussed on 01.XX.2020. In which we generated X hours. During that meeting we came to conclusions that... I don't see in the agenda anything new that would require a meeting. Please send a follow up e-mail.

And yes. Escalate it higher (to your manager and her manager) with mention of her work ethics. It seems that she use meetings as a tool to show "I'm doing something".

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