Four months ago, I started a new job and joined a project with a co-worker who has been employed here for many years. We were both brought on as experts, but he has subdomain expertise that I do not and I have subdomain expertise that he does not.
This co-worker has to sign off on all my work and I have to sign off on all his work.
When it's time to sign off on his work, I give him suggestions but sign off anyway. I would only reject it if I saw a major problem, which has yet to occur. He has not once taken any single one of my suggestions.
When it's time to sign off on my work, he rejects it 100% of the time.
When it is part of a subdomain where he has greater expertise, I assume that he knows best. However, his feedback is sometimes very vague, simply stating that my work is wrong, and I should throw the entire thing out and start over. When I ask what changes would improve the work, he often does not respond, or he says "I don't feel like explaining" and he appears to me to be angry with me. This has resulted in me re-doing my work, guessing at what he wants and re-submitting, sometimes several times, until he finally tells me that it's still wrong but he will sign off because he is tired of it.
When it is part of a subdomain where I have greater expertise, he requires changes that would cause problems. My employer pays me a high salary for my expertise specifically because my expertise enables me to see these kinds of problems, so I believe I would be betraying my employer if I complied with his requirements. I try to discuss it with him so we can get on the same page. I sit and listen to him talk for a long time. Then when I state my case he interrupts me and tells me that I am wrong before he has let me say anything. He seems to assume what I was going to say, which is often something ridiculous, and then argues against what he thought I would say - sometimes with anger and sometimes laughing at the ridiculousness. My work gets stuck in arguments for days or weeks. Eventually he either finally signs off in anger, or I reach out to an expert assigned to a different project to review my work, something I am not supposed to do.
The tension started on Day 1, when I asked him a question about something I needed to get started, but he did not answer and it seemed to anger him that I asked. I hoped that with time, patience and discussion we could resolve this. But it has now reached a point where I am exhausted and anxious, and I am walking on eggshells around him out of fear of angering him.
I told my boss that I am unable to complete my work in a reasonable time-frame, that I have not been able to solve this problem myself, so I need her help with finding a solution. Her response was that if I'm so stuck that I can't deliver work, then I can ask my co-worker for help. I told her that the problem is more complicated than that, so we have scheduled a meeting to talk about it.
This question is specifically about how to explain the reason for my low productivity to my boss, but without pointing fingers or placing blame.
I need to communicate to my boss that
- My productivity is obstructed because my work is not getting signed off.
- My productivity is slowed because a great deal of my time is spent in discussions that do not end up achieving anything.
- My productivity is slowed because this takes so much of my energy and focus that I lack the energy and focus for my actual work.
- That any suggestions she makes to talk it out with him will be difficult for me to implement effectively at this point, because I have been trying to do that for 4 months and I am now exhausted and I feel anxious around him.
- But I take responsibility for the feelings I have.
- Placing blame.
Side note: I am an established expert in a highly in-demand field, so I am not worried about losing my job. I am motivated by a sense of responsibility and a desire to be professional.
Additional note: I confess I have also signed off on his work when I did not feel comfortable doing so. I needed more information first, but when I asked him questions, he appeared to me to become angry and he told me to just sign off. I did not have the courage or energy to fight it, which I understand is my own mistake.