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My boss reassigned my colleague’s (let's call him Sam) project to me and at first he was having a difficult time letting the project go by saying: “I will complete this task and then you will take over.” Then when I was meeting with my boss, my boss got very upset that I hadn't started working on the project yet. I told him what happened, but it did not look like he believed me.

Later my boss said: gather a meeting with such and such to go over this step, and I said, OK, and you want me to invite Sam, too, correct? And my boss looked up at me and said: “uummm, do you need Sam there?” so I did not invite Sam to the project meeting. One minute before the meeting, I am leaving my desk to go to a conference room, and Sam walks up to my desk as if he just passing by “hey, what are you up to?”. The same happened again when I scheduled the second and third meetings. It was getting ridiculous. Then, when I had a question about a project, I sent the question to Sam, but he never responded and pretended I never asked the question. Also, every time I passed Sam by in a hallway, he would have this fake smile and weird tone of voice, as if he is being forced to say hello to me.

I spoke to Sam one-on-one twice about the project being given to me by my boss, and I said words such as: “You did an excellent job getting all the previous work done…and I do not know why our boss gave the project to me…I hope you are not upset about this ….” And every time Sam said: “No, I am ok with it” But then, he invited himself to my next meeting, with words: “I’m just going to keep my mouth shut.” As I walk into a conference room, I see that everyone else is there and Sam says out loud to someone else: “Hey, if you were confused about this diagram, I want you to know that I created it! This is MY diagram!”

After the meeting, we stayed off line a talked about the project a bit, and he treated me like a child criticizing my work…and telling me what to do and what not to do. Sam also said: "when my boss told ME to do it THIS WAY..."

This is such an awkward situation and I do not know what to do about it. Sam did a lot of preliminary work and I can bounce my ideas off of him, but I don’t need to. I can do this project on my own. I also don’t want my boss to think that I cannot handle this project without Sam. Do I invite Sam to the next meeting to keep him quiet? If I don’t, I feel like he talks badly about me behind my back, when a few people go to lunch, he does not invite me to join them anymore (except one time, but his face had that faked smile as if “I really don’t want you to come”). I don’t care about joining lunches with him, but this whole situation is so stressful. What do I do?

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    What does your boss say about this? – Hazel Jul 10 '15 at 12:07
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    This is very wordy and the forced gender neutrality makes this quite harsh to read. Can it be shortened and Sam assigned a single gender? – Eric Jul 10 '15 at 17:08
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Depending how good the culture in your company is it may be a good idea to schedule a meeting with your boss, Sam and yourself.

All negative stuff that happened to all of you is the product of poor communication between all of you. Time to sort this out. Do a "lessons learned" type of meeting. Try to locate the point in time when all that started, and what could be done in the future to avoid all that hassle.

This would normally be the job of your boss, but if he does not do it, you may have to assist.

  • It might be seen as putting your boss on the spot to do it like this, depending on the culture, etc. Another way to do something similar would be to simply ask your boss to make the situation clear to Sam. Or tell Sam to refer any questions about duties to your boss. Clearly a conversation between the two of them is in order, though. – Todd Wilcox Jul 10 '15 at 13:25
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    @Todd Wilcox absolutely. If they had the conversation at the beginning of the reassignment, all would be fine. Communication is key ;) – jwsc Jul 10 '15 at 13:32
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There are various possibilities why your boss would be doing this. One, he's unhappy with your colleague's work and thinks you will do a better job. Two, he thinks your colleague is over qualified, needs him on a different and more difficult project, and you finish the old one. Three, he thinks that you need to gain some specific knowledge that you would gain from this project. Four, your colleague has too many jobs to do and you need to reduce his workload. Five, many other reasons.

You should ask your boss what the reason is, so you can handle the situation appropriately. In case (one) his behaviour is understandable, in case (two) it's weird, in case (four) he should be happy but may not be. But mostly, it's your colleague's problem, not yours.

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I do not think you can allow this to continue. It will erode the camaraderie of the team. I think you should take a tough stance with Sam and tell him 1-1 that you welcome his opinions, but this is your project now and he can not insult your work in front of your peers. It is not your fault that your boss put you in this situation, you are just doing your job. In fact, it might be best that he does not attend the meetings if he can not act professionally.

When he says that your boss told him to do the project a different way, just tell him thanks, but you are doing what your boss told you to do. If he has a problem with that you should just disengage and tell him to take it up with your boss.

I like the idea of you getting together with Sam and your boss, but it would be great if you two could just work it out. I always hate playing referee as a manager. In this case your boss should have had a conversation with Sam and made it OK.

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