Author Topic: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker  (Read 34595 times)

frugalnacho

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #50 on: September 25, 2019, 08:24:58 AM »
I think you are really grasping at straws with the whole OSHA 30 thing..

I have an OSHA 30 certification, meaning I completed a compliant OSHA 30 qualified training course. My wife has taken an OSHA 10 course. The woman that did the training class for my wifeís OSHA 10 course was certified to teach the course.

Yes, probably just semantics which is why I asked for the documentation.  I assume both you and your wife could provide documentation of your training if asked to provide proof, and wouldn't simply hand wave it away saying your employer doesn't allow you to take it with you.  10 and 30 hour outreach training programs always come with a card to document your training (I have one).  Literally all I have in regards to her previous training are her vague statements about being OSHA certified.

former player

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #51 on: September 25, 2019, 09:46:57 AM »
So where having qualifications matters for legal reasons you treat her as unqualified until it is proved otherwise, and in the meantime you move on to something that matters.

Tester

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #52 on: September 25, 2019, 09:48:02 AM »
Regarding training.
What happens if she trains people then something bad happens and the investigation shows she was not certified to perform the training?

Edit: the previous post says it all.
If it is a legal requirement to have your people trained by someone qualified for the training it is your responsibility to raise the issue of her qualification with your manager. In written.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2019, 09:50:20 AM by Tester »

MyAlterEgoIsTaller

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #53 on: September 25, 2019, 01:49:19 PM »
If it is a legal requirement to have your people trained by someone qualified for the training it is your responsibility to raise the issue of her qualification with your manager. In written.

Maybe.  It's not clear if the OP has the responsibility to verify this sort of thing, or whether he's just taken it upon himself to be the credential police.  I was on the other side of something like this recently where a self-appointed-inspector coworker demanded to see copies of degrees, licenses, and certifications that I and a few other coworkers list on our resumes, because "you can't be too careful" and "trust but verify".  For the record: my resume is 100% accurate. But this person is in a roughly equal position to me in tenure and role, with no apparent need for this information (and my degrees are framed, wrapped in tape and bubbles, in a box somwhere in my parents' attic... maybe...) so I responded that I assumed HR had verified things to their satisfaction when I was hired, and that she could feel free to check states' licensing databases and call universities. Granted there are no centralized verification sources for some credentials - but unless there's a law, or company policy, or policy of the entity issuing the credential that says the certificate must be displayed or produced for anyone upon request, I don't feel any obligation to fetch documentation for demanding coworkers. Eventually other coworkers complained to HR and our whole department got a memo documenting that she has no authority related to personnel records. The OP should confirm whether he's really the one who needs to be verifying this.  If he pushes it, and it turns out she really did get an OSHA card that her former employer held onto, or that this current employer verified it when she was hired, or that she just happens to remember where she filed it, then he might be the one who gets the reputation for being a troublesome know-it-all.

frugalnacho

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #54 on: September 25, 2019, 02:30:53 PM »
If it is a legal requirement to have your people trained by someone qualified for the training it is your responsibility to raise the issue of her qualification with your manager. In written.

Maybe.  It's not clear if the OP has the responsibility to verify this sort of thing, or whether he's just taken it upon himself to be the credential police.  I was on the other side of something like this recently where a self-appointed-inspector coworker demanded to see copies of degrees, licenses, and certifications that I and a few other coworkers list on our resumes, because "you can't be too careful" and "trust but verify".  For the record: my resume is 100% accurate. But this person is in a roughly equal position to me in tenure and role, with no apparent need for this information (and my degrees are framed, wrapped in tape and bubbles, in a box somwhere in my parents' attic... maybe...) so I responded that I assumed HR had verified things to their satisfaction when I was hired, and that she could feel free to check states' licensing databases and call universities. Granted there are no centralized verification sources for some credentials - but unless there's a law, or company policy, or policy of the entity issuing the credential that says the certificate must be displayed or produced for anyone upon request, I don't feel any obligation to fetch documentation for demanding coworkers. Eventually other coworkers complained to HR and our whole department got a memo documenting that she has no authority related to personnel records. The OP should confirm whether he's really the one who needs to be verifying this.  If he pushes it, and it turns out she really did get an OSHA card that her former employer held onto, or that this current employer verified it when she was hired, or that she just happens to remember where she filed it, then he might be the one who gets the reputation for being a troublesome know-it-all.

I don't think it's a legal requirement for someone to have training by certified and qualified individuals (there are some specific things like RCRA training which is, but I'm talking about more general OSHA training which we don't have a requirement for), so as far as I know there is no requirement for me to actually document her "OSHA certification".  I am the EHS manager though, so all of safety falls under my responsibility.  Not specifically my responsibility to verify people's outside credentials (other than those legally required like the aforementioned RCRA training), but I feel it's part of my due diligence if some is actively trying to implement safety procedures that I inquire about their qualifications.  I know I said I asked her for documentation, but it wasn't so much a demand for documentation as just an inquiry as to exactly _what_ her qualifications were.  I mean what is it actually that makes you "OSHA certified"? Is it a 10 or 30 hour outreach program? CHMM? Hazwoper? Specifically what type of training did you actually receive?   I never really got an answer other than it was conducted at her former employer, and she wasn't able to bring any of the certs with her.  It was followed by an explanation that that is how it works everywhere, no employer allows you to take any type of certification with you when you leave, which directly contradicts all of my experience. 







Tester

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #55 on: September 25, 2019, 02:47:25 PM »
If it is a legal requirement to have your people trained by someone qualified for the training it is your responsibility to raise the issue of her qualification with your manager. In written.

Maybe.  It's not clear if the OP has the responsibility to verify this sort of thing, or whether he's just taken it upon himself to be the credential police.  I was on the other side of something like this recently where a self-appointed-inspector coworker demanded to see copies of degrees, licenses, and certifications that I and a few other coworkers list on our resumes, because "you can't be too careful" and "trust but verify".  For the record: my resume is 100% accurate. But this person is in a roughly equal position to me in tenure and role, with no apparent need for this information (and my degrees are framed, wrapped in tape and bubbles, in a box somwhere in my parents' attic... maybe...) so I responded that I assumed HR had verified things to their satisfaction when I was hired, and that she could feel free to check states' licensing databases and call universities. Granted there are no centralized verification sources for some credentials - but unless there's a law, or company policy, or policy of the entity issuing the credential that says the certificate must be displayed or produced for anyone upon request, I don't feel any obligation to fetch documentation for demanding coworkers. Eventually other coworkers complained to HR and our whole department got a memo documenting that she has no authority related to personnel records. The OP should confirm whether he's really the one who needs to be verifying this.  If he pushes it, and it turns out she really did get an OSHA card that her former employer held onto, or that this current employer verified it when she was hired, or that she just happens to remember where she filed it, then he might be the one who gets the reputation for being a troublesome know-it-all.

I did not say he should demand the certification, I said to raise the issue with his manager.
Abd also, if the requirements are that the training has to be performed by someone qualified to do it.
Also, even if the OP is not responsible to verify this, if it affects the safety of the workers and he knows it he needs to raise the issue with his manager.

Now, after seeing that the OP is responsible for the safety of the facility I am sure he does not want to be in the position where any training can lead to accidents.
The OP will be responsible for any training which taught people wrong things.
So in this role I would say the OP is totally in his right to demand to see the certificates. He could still choose to first raise the issue with his manager, in written.

In writing :-).
I think I  wanted to say in written form :-).
« Last Edit: September 26, 2019, 08:43:58 AM by Tester »

gooki

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #56 on: September 26, 2019, 04:10:50 AM »
in writing.

Tester

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #57 on: September 26, 2019, 08:44:33 AM »
in writing.

Modified, thank you :-).

Padonak

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #58 on: September 26, 2019, 09:02:03 AM »
Don't let her take credit for your work. Treat her like mushrooms. Feed her shit and keep her in the dark.

frugalnacho

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #59 on: September 30, 2019, 12:51:26 PM »
Just some updates to the saga.

She started a weekly "safety newsletter".  One of the first pieces of information was about "safety data sheet (formerly known as material safety data sheet)".  Maybe she google what I said and is revising herself, or maybe she just copied and pasted safety tidbits from various sources and didn't notice the information contradicted what she said in her training. 

She noticed some dust near a furnace and put in a ticket to upper management for dangerous soot contamination.  Freaked out when she went around the lab and found "soot" on all the table and counter surfaces.  I said that maintenance has been notified to clean the ducts of the furnace and it will get resolved.  She reiterated to me just how deadly and dangerous it is and recommended I wear a respirator in my office.  She then went and got some chlorox wipes to demonstrate my office has soot contamination.  I told her it's dust.  I've been in this office over 3 months and haven't dusted, so it's not surprising to find dust on my desk and everything in my office.  It's just god damn dust.  It's September, the furnace hasn't even been run since before either of us started working at this facility.

One of our portable eyewash stations got activated.  Judging by the amount of water missing from the container, and the amount of water on the ground, I would estimate it was run for 5, maybe 10 seconds at the most.  I asked people in the department and no one knows who activated it.  The station is still at the 100% fill line.  She claimed it was probably run for much longer, and water on the floor was just from when the drain hose was disconnected and once it was hooked up it was recycling the water back into the eyewash.  I had to explain how a portable gravity-fed eye washing station works, and explain that it's not "sucking up and recycling" the water in the waste bin below - all the water that is used either goes into the waste bin, or in this case the drain hose was knocked off so it just spilled onto the floor.  She argued with me on that point and said you probably just can't tell and the water is "stuck" in the clear moveable portion with the level indicator.  So I had to explain how water self levels as well.  I tried not to be condescending, but who the fuck doesn't understand intuitively how water and gravity work?! The unit is still 100% full, and no employee is injured, or at least no employee is reporting an injury and no one else saw anything.  She claims we still need a record that the eyewash was activated.  I'm not aware of any regulation requiring me to keep a record of when eye wash stations get activated unless it coincides with an actual incident, which doesn't apply to this situation.

Doing my weekly inspections I noticed there is a whole pile of "biohazard" bags in the garbage.  I didn't open them, but they appear to have open empty paint cans, rags, and other general non-biohazard and non-hazardous waste from our paint department.  I have no doubt this was her doing, and no doubt they are being misused, and are going to create a problem at the next garbage pick up when the garbage contractor tells us he can't collect a whole dumpster of biohazard waste. 

I don't need any advice, I'm just venting because she is frustrating me.

herbgeek

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #60 on: October 01, 2019, 01:08:01 PM »
There's at least one know it all in this story.  There may be two.  ;)

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #61 on: October 01, 2019, 01:35:46 PM »
I think your attitude is actually making both your jobs harder. You seem to me to have placed yourself in competition with her to some extent. I have no doubt that she's annoying, but it's not really your business or your concern. You're both new hires, so if I were you I would concentrate on your own areas, and LET IT GO. I strongly suspect that she's winning at the impressing others game, simply by not getting wound up about you. Maybe you need to think hard about that.

SKL-HOU

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #62 on: October 01, 2019, 02:04:29 PM »
I donít know if she is a know-it-all but you certainly are one. You sound so obsessed with what she is doing all the time. Are you bothered that she takes the initiative or that she is well liked? Instead of always looking for her mistakes why donít you take some initiative yourself? You seem to be always one step behind her.

MonkeyJenga

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #63 on: October 01, 2019, 02:14:24 PM »
I don't get why you care so much. I mean, I get why she could be frustrating, but it's not harming anyone if she writes a pointless incident report. If the soot is dust, presumably nothing will be done, and that's for upper management to realize, maybe after consulting you? Although you could've certainly told her to back off from cleaning your office. Kind of funny if that was a burn on your lack of dusting. :P

If the garbage contractor has an issue, it'll get dealt with by somebody else. Unless you are the person in charge of garbage disposal?

You're even annoyed that she got something right in the newsletter! Must be exhausting.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2019, 02:16:11 PM by MonkeyJenga »

frugalnacho

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #64 on: October 01, 2019, 06:29:09 PM »
Maybe I haven't been clear but all this stuff falls under my responsibility so she is bringing problems to my door step that is why I care.  I don't have time to be dealing with non issues like an eyewash station that is full and perfectly functional all because she doesn't even understand how the eyewash station works.  Or dealing with a dusty furnace. 

If they find things marked as hazardous waste or biological waste that the disposal company won't take they are going to come to me and say "frugalnacho, why is there bio waste bags in our garbage?", Which is a completely unnecessary headache for me because we don't even generate bio waste.  If a regulator from the state of Michigan comes in and notices the same thing they are going to come to me for an explanation.  If there are emergency posters with inaccurate information they are going to come to me.  If there is any type of environmental or safety issue they are going to come to me. 

She's not writing an incident report, she's insisting I write one, and she's insisting I write one because she erroneously believes it's required.  She can go write all the incident reports she likes,. IDGAF what she does except when she's creating more work for me.  And of course frustrating me.  Even when it's not creating too much work for me her personality is just insufferable.   

Just today one of the emergency contacts changed their cell phone so we need to redo the emergency posters and I got an earful about how she's not doing it because she doesn't have time and it's simply too expensive.  10 God damn pieces of paper to be printed is too expensive! What the fuck are you even talking about?! This is the same person that printed and laminated 7 copies of the 3 page poster with 10 spelling errors and dangerous firefighting instructions without having anyone proof read or look over the poster, and suddenly redoing 10 single pages for a legitimate reason like an incorrect phone number and it's too expensive for the company.  I didn't even say she had to do it, I just said it needed to be done. 

frugalnacho

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #65 on: October 01, 2019, 06:31:54 PM »
I'm not annoyed she got something right in the newsletter.  I just thought it was amusing that she made the original comments, then followed up with that.

frugalnacho

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #66 on: October 01, 2019, 06:37:05 PM »
I donít know if she is a know-it-all but you certainly are one. You sound so obsessed with what she is doing all the time. Are you bothered that she takes the initiative or that she is well liked? Instead of always looking for her mistakes why donít you take some initiative yourself? You seem to be always one step behind her.

Because it all directly involves me.  I'm not looking for mistakes, she's shoving them down my throat.  I think it's great that she takes initiative and is motivated, I just wish she was more competent and didn't constantly overstep her bounds. 

MonkeyJenga

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #67 on: October 01, 2019, 06:59:22 PM »
Ah, ok. I was overly dismissive of its impact on you.  What is the current process for getting biohazard bags? Were they supplied by the company?

For the report, what would happen if you said you would write a report if she showed you the regulation and then ended the conversation? She is a volunteer and you have final say right?

I I know you said you weren't looking for advice but it sounds like firm boundaries and job duties are needed to prevent further aggravation. Or at least minimize it.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2019, 07:01:13 PM by MonkeyJenga »

herbgeek

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #68 on: October 02, 2019, 04:35:20 AM »
Quote
Even when it's not creating too much work for me her personality is just insufferable.   

Hmmm, you also say she is widely liked, and by implication you are not.


Roadrunner53

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #69 on: October 02, 2019, 05:12:41 AM »
First of all, if this work falls under your responsibility, why is this woman stepping into your job function? Is it possible that she has been given this responsibility as well and no one told you? You should speak with your supervisor and find out what is her role in all of this. Has anyone appointed her responsibility in this area? If not, then your supervisor should step in and tell her she is overstepping boundaries and not spending time on her own work.

If you want to unload this part of your job, you could suggest that since Miss Know It All seems SO interested in this area, you would gladly appreciate if she took over this responsibility 100% so you could focus more on your real area of expertise.  Praise her to your supervisor and tell him/her that it is fantastic that she is gung ho wanting to make the company safe and she is so familiar with the rules.

I worked with a guy who was a project manager who I believe was a cop wanna be in real life but due to a disability could not go into that field. The company had to comply with the State to put into effect safety things at our company. We had some chemicals and we had a water treatment plant and other things that required certain rules and record keeping. We had the eye wash stations and the shower heads in the ceiling in case someone's clothes caught on fire. This guy was supposed to spend maybe 10% of his time on safety stuff but he made it a full time job. He barely did what he was originally hired for. He loved being a safety cop in our building. He was doing this job single-handedly and no one really knew what he was doing all day long. Maybe this is what Miss Know It All is trying to do. Get a job where she can do her own thing, be the expert, and no one knows what she is doing. She would have free reign on what she does every day. 

Let her take over that part and free yourself!

« Last Edit: October 02, 2019, 05:51:17 AM by Roadrunner53 »

Laura33

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #70 on: October 02, 2019, 07:01:07 AM »
OK, so I want to start by saying that I feel your pain, and that I work in the same area and so get that errors matter.  Even errors of the overprotective kind -- you don't want reports saying action is necessary when it's not, because that creates the impression that you should have done something and were negligent by not doing so.*

But the reality is that you have this coworker, until management figures out she's a doofus, and you need to figure out how to be the good guy here, or else it's just going to be a he-said, she-said, which is when the person who is liked more is kept and the one who is liked less is let go. 

So I'm going to be pretty direct here:  you are a big part of the problem.  You clearly know this stuff better than she does -- I have zero doubt that you're better at your job than she is and the company really needs you.  But the way you engage with her is counterproductive, off-putting, and -- as you've seen -- undercutting your own reputation.  So the first thing is to please understand that your job isn't to be the person with the right answers -- it's to be effective in developing and implementing an EHS program.  And that means figuring out how to change your communication style to bring out her strengths, not force her to double-down and defend her mistakes.  You need to realize that any situation that ends in an "I'm right and you're wrong" is a failure -- your failure, even if you're substantively right.

No manager ever gets people who are 100% right all the time.  If she was as good at the job as you are, she'd have gotten your job instead of hers.  So don't jump on her for being wrong -- figure out how to work with her strengths and help her learn the rest.

I'm going to digress into a little story here, because I think it is instructive.  There is a particular male-female communication pattern that I have seen, particularly with detail-oriented men, and it is very destructive.  I have a guy who works for me who was negotiating a big settlement.  He was making a lot of progress on the issues -- and he still almost got us fired (as in, I had to fly across the country at the drop of a hat to both insert myself into the negotiations and salvage the client).  Why?  Because our client was female.  And she would express her concerns, and he would understand that there was no way we'd get what she wanted, and so he'd basically tell her she was wrong, blow off her points, and move on to the next bit.  He was so focused on the details of the settlement language that he was unable to step back and see the big picture:  that there was a business reason why she proposed what she did, and maybe there was another way to get there even if her proposed language was a nonstarter (that's what I figured out on my visit).  But what was driving her nuts was the impression he left that he thought she was stupid, and even moreso that he was not hearing her -- that she was talking to a brick wall. 

And I had the exact same experience with him:  I called him up to talk to him about the case and to tell him the client was upset, and I'd say the client wasn't happy, and he'd say well of course they were happy, look at the progress we'd made.  I had literally just gotten off the phone with the client who said she was about to get other counsel, and he's insisting that I am wrong about what my client just directly told me.  I had to basically yell at him and quote what the client had just said to get him to understand that there was an issue.  At that point, I would have fired him if I could have, I was so frustrated!  Even though he was actually doing a good job on the substance.

How does that relate to you?  Because you can be right and still be wrong.  When you jump in to correct every little error, you are asserting your dominance/power, and it is belittling to the person you are talking to.  That is true whether it is male or female, but women get this a lot, and so generally every woman who has a backbone is going to bristle and double down in response.  This is counterproductive, even when you are 100% right on the substance.

What you need to do is come up with a generic response that makes her feel heard, that validates her concerns, and that then redirects her in the appropriate direction.  In other words, look for something that she's doing right, build on that, and then set it up so she figures out the right answer -- in private, on her own, so it can then be her idea.  So for ex, how's this for the shower issue:

Her:  We should do a temporary shower.

You:  [think:  boy that's stupid, we need permanent ones - but recognize attempt to be helpful, even if it's misguided.  Then say]:  You know, that might be a really good temporary solution.  I think the regulations require permanent showers so someone can get there within a few seconds, but that is probably going to take time and money to get installed.  So while we're looking into that, can you see what our options might be for a temporary shower?

Her:  No, a temporary one is all we need, we should just do that and save all the money.

You:  [think:  grrrrrrrrrr.  Say:]  Hmm, that's not my impression -- I thought I remembered that the regulations require something you can get to within a few seconds, and I don't think setting up a temporary shower will meet those requirements.  But can you look into that?  I'd sure like to save the money if OSHA will be happy with it.

[repeat "can you confirm that?" and "again, I'd love to if we can do it, so can you confirm that for me?" or "look, Management is going to make me demonstrate that this will bring us into compliance, so can you pull together the documentation to get that through?" as many times as necessary]

Note that you are validating her attempts to be helpful and her creative thinking, and then redirecting her to do the work to justify it.  The only extra "cost" to you is biting your tongue and stamping down your frustration.  You don't need to lecture her about how a pump works, or the laws of physics, or anything else, because boy is that condescending.  All you need to do is show some sort of interest in her attempts to be helpful, note that you have a question about whether that's feasible, and then put the burden on her to investigate and figure out if it will work.

And when you do need to correct her, there are ways to do it without saying "you're wrong."  Like the MSDS/MDSS/SDS bit -- it's reasonable to want employees not to be confused, but you can accomplish that goal by saying "you might also hear them referred to as 'SDS,' because OSHA keeps changing the terminology."  Telling them that the "real" term is "SDS" and that "MSDS" is wrong and outdated is unnecessary to avoid confusion, isn't it?  The only reason to add that in is to emphasize that you are right and she is wrong.  And that publicly undermines her and makes you look petty to everyone in the room, because it tells everyone that you need to be right above all else, even if it means throwing your coworkers under the bus.

I think the other part you're missing is the triage bit.  If you guys have such a crappy program, you've got a ton of work to do to get into compliance.  So don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  So what if you let her move forward with a temporary shower -- isn't that better than no shower at all?  If you get an OSHA inspection, would you rather say "well, we've been investigating and designing permanent showers and that'll be another year before we get them installed," or would you rather say "well, we figured out it will take a full year to get permanent showers designed and installed, so we've put that contract out, but in the interim we've brought in a temporary shower to provide what protection we can"?

In short, she is clearly trying -- she's busy, she's interested in the area, she is trying to help you out, and she is trying to build a name and reputation in the company.  Same as you are.  If you find ways to encourage her efforts -- even when she's wrong in some way -- you can turn her into an ally and serve as a really valuable mentor.  Yes, it takes a little more care in your conversations, a little more effort on your part.  But how much time are you wasting now explaining the laws of physics and being frustrated and angry with her?  She is what she is, she knows what she knows.  So rather than wish she was someone else, figure out how to make the best of what she has to offer, and give her the opportunity to flesh out her own knowledge. 

Final anecdote:  when I was a baby lawyer, I did an assignment for the guy who hired me -- one of the two smartest people I've ever met in my life, a guy who has been doing this stuff since I was in elementary school, a guy who knew more in his little finger than I'd ever hope to know, etc.  I gave him an answer, he passed it along to the client.  The next day, I discovered I was wrong -- no question, 100% wrong, I had missed an exception to the exception.  I told him.  We called the client together, and he told the client that he had gotten it wrong, that he had missed the exception, and then explained how we'd fix the problem.  I was flabbergasted -- I totally deserved to be hung out to dry with the client, but not only did he avoid blaming me, he threw himself under the bus. 

I have now worked for him for over 20 years, and I don't even return headhunters' calls.  Because he was loyal to me -- he understood that I had made an honest mistake, he did not expect me to know everything, and he gave me a chance to fix it while still protecting my reputation and client relationships.  And there's no way in hell I'd give that up for any amount of money.  That one action bought years of loyalty and dedication.  He gave me a chance to be imperfect and didn't hold it against me, because he recognized the other good qualities I brought to the job.  OTOH, the job I had where my boss micromanaged me, second-guessed everything I said, and treated me like I was incompetent?  I got the hell out of there as soon as I could.

So:  which guy do you want to be?

*I actually worked on a criminal case where a very well-intentioned employee wrote a bunch of letters saying that the company needed to do X, and was the government's star witness at trial.  And the company was convicted -- even though when EPA developed the rule, they expressly said you do NOT need to do X.  The employee didn't know any better, no one took the time to explain anything to her, and she was extremely persuasive on the stand.  And that's all it took.

Kl285528

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #71 on: October 02, 2019, 07:26:04 AM »
I feel your pain, frugalnacho. Thought of this thread when I ran across this t-shirt....

https://6dollarshirts.com/no-youre-right-lets-do-it-the-dumbest-way-possible-because-its-easier-for-you


MyAlterEgoIsTaller

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #72 on: October 02, 2019, 08:15:54 AM »
Frugalnacho are you sure you don't have some observant, amused coworker who's messing with you?  Because if I worked there and I'd noticed these two newbies aggressively trying to out-safety each other, I'd probably be tripping the eyewash station and conspicuously mis-bagging paint cans, just to stir up new episodes starring the two of you.

Roadrunner53

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #73 on: October 02, 2019, 08:16:20 AM »
Laura 33, you are amazing! What a great piece you wrote!

However, one thing. What if OP tries all you have suggested and this woman is still not willing to be a team player. I worked on teams for many years and we usually had very dedicated members that were willing to go the extra mile to help one another. But there were times when we had rogue members looking to shine above the rest of us and threw us under the bus. Most times those people fail and get recognized by upper management for what they are or are not and are eventually fired. They are a thorn until that eventually happens. As they say, give them enough rope and they will hang themselves.

Laura33

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #74 on: October 02, 2019, 08:48:59 AM »
Laura 33, you are amazing! What a great piece you wrote!

However, one thing. What if OP tries all you have suggested and this woman is still not willing to be a team player. I worked on teams for many years and we usually had very dedicated members that were willing to go the extra mile to help one another. But there were times when we had rogue members looking to shine above the rest of us and threw us under the bus. Most times those people fail and get recognized by upper management for what they are or are not and are eventually fired. They are a thorn until that eventually happens. As they say, give them enough rope and they will hang themselves.

Oh, ITA -- there are assholes everywhere, and sometimes a situation is not recoverable.  But I find it more productive to start by assuming good intent and trainability first, and to focus initially on trying to improve the situation/performance. 

And then if/when that fails, document document document.  ;-)

Roadrunner53

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #75 on: October 02, 2019, 09:26:21 AM »
Laura 33, you are very wise and I agree with everything you have said.

Especially when the train is ready to go off the rails...document, document, document!

Original poster should consider what you wrote.

Tester

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #76 on: October 02, 2019, 09:59:07 AM »
As I already said, you don't argue more than once.
And you don't argue, you are doing your job and you are concerned about the right things being done.
After presenting your opinions you document them.
By the way, until now you should have had a conversation with your manager about this situation. How did it.go?
If you did not have it make sure you do. Based on facts do umented with your manager over time.
You can't go in and say: for the last 3 months this was happening. Your manager needs to know after the second/third problem.
Edit: I see several things she is doing are affecting your responsibilities and some seem dangerous (wrong firefighting instructions). If that is correct you are open for really big trouble if anything wrong happens.
So, how did the e-mail exchange with your manager go?
If no action, how did your e-mail exchange with your manager's manager go?
« Last Edit: October 02, 2019, 10:04:38 AM by Tester »

frugalnacho

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #77 on: October 07, 2019, 07:35:02 AM »
OK, so I want to start by saying that I feel your pain, and that I work in the same area and so get that errors matter.  Even errors of the overprotective kind -- you don't want reports saying action is necessary when it's not, because that creates the impression that you should have done something and were negligent by not doing so.*

But the reality is that you have this coworker, until management figures out she's a doofus, and you need to figure out how to be the good guy here, or else it's just going to be a he-said, she-said, which is when the person who is liked more is kept and the one who is liked less is let go. 

So I'm going to be pretty direct here:  you are a big part of the problem.  You clearly know this stuff better than she does -- I have zero doubt that you're better at your job than she is and the company really needs you.  But the way you engage with her is counterproductive, off-putting, and -- as you've seen -- undercutting your own reputation.  So the first thing is to please understand that your job isn't to be the person with the right answers -- it's to be effective in developing and implementing an EHS program.  And that means figuring out how to change your communication style to bring out her strengths, not force her to double-down and defend her mistakes.  You need to realize that any situation that ends in an "I'm right and you're wrong" is a failure -- your failure, even if you're substantively right.

No manager ever gets people who are 100% right all the time.  If she was as good at the job as you are, she'd have gotten your job instead of hers.  So don't jump on her for being wrong -- figure out how to work with her strengths and help her learn the rest.

I'm going to digress into a little story here, because I think it is instructive.  There is a particular male-female communication pattern that I have seen, particularly with detail-oriented men, and it is very destructive.  I have a guy who works for me who was negotiating a big settlement.  He was making a lot of progress on the issues -- and he still almost got us fired (as in, I had to fly across the country at the drop of a hat to both insert myself into the negotiations and salvage the client).  Why?  Because our client was female.  And she would express her concerns, and he would understand that there was no way we'd get what she wanted, and so he'd basically tell her she was wrong, blow off her points, and move on to the next bit.  He was so focused on the details of the settlement language that he was unable to step back and see the big picture:  that there was a business reason why she proposed what she did, and maybe there was another way to get there even if her proposed language was a nonstarter (that's what I figured out on my visit).  But what was driving her nuts was the impression he left that he thought she was stupid, and even moreso that he was not hearing her -- that she was talking to a brick wall. 

And I had the exact same experience with him:  I called him up to talk to him about the case and to tell him the client was upset, and I'd say the client wasn't happy, and he'd say well of course they were happy, look at the progress we'd made.  I had literally just gotten off the phone with the client who said she was about to get other counsel, and he's insisting that I am wrong about what my client just directly told me.  I had to basically yell at him and quote what the client had just said to get him to understand that there was an issue.  At that point, I would have fired him if I could have, I was so frustrated!  Even though he was actually doing a good job on the substance.

How does that relate to you?  Because you can be right and still be wrong.  When you jump in to correct every little error, you are asserting your dominance/power, and it is belittling to the person you are talking to.  That is true whether it is male or female, but women get this a lot, and so generally every woman who has a backbone is going to bristle and double down in response.  This is counterproductive, even when you are 100% right on the substance.

What you need to do is come up with a generic response that makes her feel heard, that validates her concerns, and that then redirects her in the appropriate direction.  In other words, look for something that she's doing right, build on that, and then set it up so she figures out the right answer -- in private, on her own, so it can then be her idea.  So for ex, how's this for the shower issue:

Her:  We should do a temporary shower.

You:  [think:  boy that's stupid, we need permanent ones - but recognize attempt to be helpful, even if it's misguided.  Then say]:  You know, that might be a really good temporary solution.  I think the regulations require permanent showers so someone can get there within a few seconds, but that is probably going to take time and money to get installed.  So while we're looking into that, can you see what our options might be for a temporary shower?

Her:  No, a temporary one is all we need, we should just do that and save all the money.

You:  [think:  grrrrrrrrrr.  Say:]  Hmm, that's not my impression -- I thought I remembered that the regulations require something you can get to within a few seconds, and I don't think setting up a temporary shower will meet those requirements.  But can you look into that?  I'd sure like to save the money if OSHA will be happy with it.

[repeat "can you confirm that?" and "again, I'd love to if we can do it, so can you confirm that for me?" or "look, Management is going to make me demonstrate that this will bring us into compliance, so can you pull together the documentation to get that through?" as many times as necessary]

Note that you are validating her attempts to be helpful and her creative thinking, and then redirecting her to do the work to justify it.  The only extra "cost" to you is biting your tongue and stamping down your frustration.  You don't need to lecture her about how a pump works, or the laws of physics, or anything else, because boy is that condescending.  All you need to do is show some sort of interest in her attempts to be helpful, note that you have a question about whether that's feasible, and then put the burden on her to investigate and figure out if it will work.

And when you do need to correct her, there are ways to do it without saying "you're wrong."  Like the MSDS/MDSS/SDS bit -- it's reasonable to want employees not to be confused, but you can accomplish that goal by saying "you might also hear them referred to as 'SDS,' because OSHA keeps changing the terminology."  Telling them that the "real" term is "SDS" and that "MSDS" is wrong and outdated is unnecessary to avoid confusion, isn't it?  The only reason to add that in is to emphasize that you are right and she is wrong.  And that publicly undermines her and makes you look petty to everyone in the room, because it tells everyone that you need to be right above all else, even if it means throwing your coworkers under the bus.

I think the other part you're missing is the triage bit.  If you guys have such a crappy program, you've got a ton of work to do to get into compliance.  So don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  So what if you let her move forward with a temporary shower -- isn't that better than no shower at all?  If you get an OSHA inspection, would you rather say "well, we've been investigating and designing permanent showers and that'll be another year before we get them installed," or would you rather say "well, we figured out it will take a full year to get permanent showers designed and installed, so we've put that contract out, but in the interim we've brought in a temporary shower to provide what protection we can"?

In short, she is clearly trying -- she's busy, she's interested in the area, she is trying to help you out, and she is trying to build a name and reputation in the company.  Same as you are.  If you find ways to encourage her efforts -- even when she's wrong in some way -- you can turn her into an ally and serve as a really valuable mentor.  Yes, it takes a little more care in your conversations, a little more effort on your part.  But how much time are you wasting now explaining the laws of physics and being frustrated and angry with her?  She is what she is, she knows what she knows.  So rather than wish she was someone else, figure out how to make the best of what she has to offer, and give her the opportunity to flesh out her own knowledge. 

Final anecdote:  when I was a baby lawyer, I did an assignment for the guy who hired me -- one of the two smartest people I've ever met in my life, a guy who has been doing this stuff since I was in elementary school, a guy who knew more in his little finger than I'd ever hope to know, etc.  I gave him an answer, he passed it along to the client.  The next day, I discovered I was wrong -- no question, 100% wrong, I had missed an exception to the exception.  I told him.  We called the client together, and he told the client that he had gotten it wrong, that he had missed the exception, and then explained how we'd fix the problem.  I was flabbergasted -- I totally deserved to be hung out to dry with the client, but not only did he avoid blaming me, he threw himself under the bus. 

I have now worked for him for over 20 years, and I don't even return headhunters' calls.  Because he was loyal to me -- he understood that I had made an honest mistake, he did not expect me to know everything, and he gave me a chance to fix it while still protecting my reputation and client relationships.  And there's no way in hell I'd give that up for any amount of money.  That one action bought years of loyalty and dedication.  He gave me a chance to be imperfect and didn't hold it against me, because he recognized the other good qualities I brought to the job.  OTOH, the job I had where my boss micromanaged me, second-guessed everything I said, and treated me like I was incompetent?  I got the hell out of there as soon as I could.

So:  which guy do you want to be?

*I actually worked on a criminal case where a very well-intentioned employee wrote a bunch of letters saying that the company needed to do X, and was the government's star witness at trial.  And the company was convicted -- even though when EPA developed the rule, they expressly said you do NOT need to do X.  The employee didn't know any better, no one took the time to explain anything to her, and she was extremely persuasive on the stand.  And that's all it took.

This is good advice.  Thank you for taking the time to respond.

frugalnacho

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #78 on: October 07, 2019, 07:57:35 AM »
Quote
Even when it's not creating too much work for me her personality is just insufferable.   

Hmmm, you also say she is widely liked, and by implication you are not.

I wouldn't say I am not liked.  I am much more reserved and quiet, where as she is more boisterous and friendly.

Frugalnacho are you sure you don't have some observant, amused coworker who's messing with you?  Because if I worked there and I'd noticed these two newbies aggressively trying to out-safety each other, I'd probably be tripping the eyewash station and conspicuously mis-bagging paint cans, just to stir up new episodes starring the two of you.

Yes pretty sure.  Our conflicts are not really public.  There have been a few disagreements over some things, but not nearly as bad as the thread implies.  This thread is a lot of venting and ranting from me.  No one even knows about the biohazard bags.  I saw it, and I vented in this thread.  I'm just going to leave it and deal with other stuff until it becomes a problem.  I have a sneaking suspicion it's not going to be nearly as easy as saying "we don't produce any biohazardous waste, therefore we shouldn't be using biohazard bags".  Absolute best case scenario I can envision is I will get some pushback "well, actually we do generate biowaste, and we need to use these bags for some bullshit reason, blah blah" and I get frustrated with her, and then she will check into it on her own and phase them out when she realizes I am right and we shouldn't be using biohazard waste bags for that stuff. 

I'd rather just sit back and let it unfold naturally.  Either no one says anything and our non-biohazard waste will go to the landfill in biohazard bags and no one will care and I can focus on the rest of my job. Or they will notice and ask me and I'll just say I don't know anything about it and that we should ask around to employees to get to the bottom of it.  As of now I actually don't know anything other than I saw a bunch of bags and they appear to just have normal trash.  I don't know who is actually responsible.  I have my suspicions, and if I was a betting man I would put money on her, but I don't actually know for sure.

Ah, ok. I was overly dismissive of its impact on you.  What is the current process for getting biohazard bags? Were they supplied by the company?

For the report, what would happen if you said you would write a report if she showed you the regulation and then ended the conversation? She is a volunteer and you have final say right?

I I know you said you weren't looking for advice but it sounds like firm boundaries and job duties are needed to prevent further aggravation. Or at least minimize it.

No process for biobags, i'm not even sure where they came from.  It sounds so simple to just say "show me the regulation" and end it, but she has a way of twisting things and steering the conversation in unexpected ways that always catch me off guard.  She's pretty adept at bullshitting.

First of all, if this work falls under your responsibility, why is this woman stepping into your job function? Is it possible that she has been given this responsibility as well and no one told you? You should speak with your supervisor and find out what is her role in all of this. Has anyone appointed her responsibility in this area? If not, then your supervisor should step in and tell her she is overstepping boundaries and not spending time on her own work.

If you want to unload this part of your job, you could suggest that since Miss Know It All seems SO interested in this area, you would gladly appreciate if she took over this responsibility 100% so you could focus more on your real area of expertise.  Praise her to your supervisor and tell him/her that it is fantastic that she is gung ho wanting to make the company safe and she is so familiar with the rules.

I worked with a guy who was a project manager who I believe was a cop wanna be in real life but due to a disability could not go into that field. The company had to comply with the State to put into effect safety things at our company. We had some chemicals and we had a water treatment plant and other things that required certain rules and record keeping. We had the eye wash stations and the shower heads in the ceiling in case someone's clothes caught on fire. This guy was supposed to spend maybe 10% of his time on safety stuff but he made it a full time job. He barely did what he was originally hired for. He loved being a safety cop in our building. He was doing this job single-handedly and no one really knew what he was doing all day long. Maybe this is what Miss Know It All is trying to do. Get a job where she can do her own thing, be the expert, and no one knows what she is doing. She would have free reign on what she does every day. 

Let her take over that part and free yourself!

There are no written job responsibilities for anyone.  No one has come to me and said specifically what my responsibilities are either.  I know a good portion of what my responsibilities are just from my job title, and the fact that no one else has that responsibility.  Like fire extinguishers.  No one had a handle on the fire extinguishers, despite this place having a building burn down last year.  So I took it upon myself to map out the facility, find and identify all the fire extinguishers, make sure we had enough in the correct locations, develop and SOP to perform the monthly internal inspections.  At this point all the extinguishers are tagged and in working order, and I have a list of all 52 of them and a map as well.  It's about a 1.5-2 hour job to walk the entire plant and check/initial all the extinguishers.  Now that I've done all the leg work, keeping up with the monthly inspections is super easy.  You just gotta walk around the facility and perform this short SOP on all 52 extinguishers.  I've tried to pass this task off to her, but she didn't seem interested in taking it, and I don't know that I have the authority to delegate it to her.  Identifying and mapping all extinguishers? Too complicated for her, and not a fun task, so she didn't have time.  Now that it's a simple, but necessary, task to complete, I feel like she feels it's below her.

MonkeyJenga

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #79 on: October 07, 2019, 08:39:17 PM »
Ah, ok. I was overly dismissive of its impact on you.  What is the current process for getting biohazard bags? Were they supplied by the company?

For the report, what would happen if you said you would write a report if she showed you the regulation and then ended the conversation? She is a volunteer and you have final say right?

I I know you said you weren't looking for advice but it sounds like firm boundaries and job duties are needed to prevent further aggravation. Or at least minimize it.

No process for biobags, i'm not even sure where they came from.  It sounds so simple to just say "show me the regulation" and end it, but she has a way of twisting things and steering the conversation in unexpected ways that always catch me off guard.  She's pretty adept at bullshitting.

Being able to diplomatically end unwanted conversations is a useful skill to develop. It seems that she is triggering your need to be right, and for the other person to understand why you're right. You are contributing to the conversation as much as she is.

Quote
There are no written job responsibilities for anyone.  No one has come to me and said specifically what my responsibilities are either.

Oh good lord, this company needs to get its ish together. This is a problem that requires a conversation with management. What are your responsibilities, and what are her duties in regards to your domain? I.e, what can you assign to her, as opposed to ask of her?

former player

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #80 on: October 08, 2019, 01:55:55 AM »

Quote
There are no written job responsibilities for anyone.  No one has come to me and said specifically what my responsibilities are either.

Oh good lord, this company needs to get its ish together. This is a problem that requires a conversation with management. What are your responsibilities, and what are her duties in regards to your domain? I.e, what can you assign to her, as opposed to ask of her?
Dear dog.

You definitely need to talk to management.  I'd set up a meeting with your boss (it can be only 10 minutes) along the following lines -

1.  I've been here [a month] now, this is a great place to work.
2.  There's a lot of good things happening here and some others that need work [this is you telling the boss he's got a lot right but also needs you]
3.  Here's a short list of my main achievements so far [this is you bigging up your reputation and consolidating your worth to the company]
4.  Here are the priorities I'm proposing to work on in the next [six months] [this is you creating your own job description/written responsibilities]
4.  As I start putting in place various inspection routines I think it would contribute to the company's safety resilience to involve other members of staff in some aspects of this work.  For instance, I've created an inspection routine for the factory's fire extinguishers, and having a wider pool of employees knowing where they are and how to check them contributes to our resilience in ensuring that company fire safety is kept current.  Do I have authority for instance to ask [irritating colleague] to take a role in carrying out these checks? [this is you sneaking in an express power to give orders to irritating colleague]
5.  Thank your for your time, it's been helpful.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2019, 05:06:10 AM by former player »

Roadrunner53

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #81 on: October 08, 2019, 04:09:13 AM »
LIKE what former player has said! Good way to establish rolls and assign tasks without being pushy.

I would have all this written down in a work journal that you bring to the meeting to insure you don't miss any points. If the boss is responsive (or not), you could send boss an inter office memo on the talking points, things that were agreed upon and next steps.

In the next steps it might be prudent if boss agrees you can assign work to irritating colleague, that all three of you meet so boss breaks the news to her then hands over the reins to you so you can instruct irritating colleague in her new duties. This way she will understand that it is coming from THE BOSS and you are not trying to overstep authority. If you approach her and start assigning duties, she can reject them because you are both equals and from her point of view, she doesn't have to answer to you. But if boss is involved, she has been formally informed this is part of her job duties.

norajean

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #82 on: October 08, 2019, 05:12:31 AM »
I suspect she either wants (maybe applied for) your job or for some reason wants you out.  I would watch your back and play nicely with her if you really want to keep the job.  She knows how to push all your buttons and has lots of internal support.  If you don't quickly adapt your skills to deal with her without freaking out, it may not end happily.

Linea_Norway

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #83 on: October 08, 2019, 05:21:56 AM »
If she is not after your job, or if you could use more people with knowledge in your field without being threatened yourself, would it be an idea to let her get the proper training and certification?

frugaldrummer

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #84 on: October 08, 2019, 06:22:25 AM »
Wow - listening to people on this thread defending this incompetent and clearly pathological woman is eye opening.

Now - on the one hand, really smart people like yourself can be a little "Aspie" and sometimes a little too blunt in pursuit of the facts. You do want to try avoiding embarrassing her in public.

On the other hand - there's something wrong with her. Like conned her way into a job she's unqualified for wrong. Like Peter Principle advanced beyond her level of incompetence wrong. Or maybe even malignant narcissist POTUS wrong.

Whatever it is, she's dangerous. Not because she makes mistakes but because she can't admit them and isn't willing to learn.

What is the job she was hired to do? If it's unrelated to plant safety and that is your main job description, then leave her out of it and find somebody else who's trainable to help you. If you think she's a danger in her primary role, talk to your superiors. In fact, talk to your superiors anyway - they deserve to know they hired a bullshit artist. (If a degree is required for her job, you might also check to see if she lied about that on her resume).

merula

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #85 on: October 08, 2019, 08:59:55 AM »
First off, I want to commend your commitment to safety. I work in insurance. I can tell you from first-hand experience, there are not nearly enough people who are truly safety-conscious. This is critical, life-or-death stuff and I really don't understand the messages of "it's not a big deal, let it go". MSDS/SDS: this can make a difference if your SDS book is labelled SDS but someone is like "this is a material, so I need the MSDS, can't find it, oh well".

What Laura33 said is true, but I think the gendered aspect might be a bit of a red herring. What you've described fits into some standard tropes, but I've been in your position, as a woman who has a tendency to underestimate the impact of feelings. Most people are more swayed by how you make them feel than what the facts are.

Here are some phrases I've used to smooth over tough conversations and minimize defensiveness:
"Can you help me understand [thing you are wrong about]?"
"Oh, interesting! I like [the one thing you got right]. What's your plan for addressing [thing you obviously didn't even consider]?"
"Can I ask a really stupid question? [Question that gets to the heart of whatever they're missing]."

The key to all of these is humility. You are expressly acknowledging that you might be wrong, which helps people not become defensive as much as insisting you're right does. It doesn't matter if you know you are right or not, that can come later. You're saying that you're willing to hear their side.

APowers

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #86 on: October 10, 2019, 10:55:19 AM »
OK, so I want to start by saying that I feel your pain, and that I work in the same area and so get that errors matter.  Even errors of the overprotective kind -- you don't want reports saying action is necessary when it's not, because that creates the impression that you should have done something and were negligent by not doing so.*

But the reality is that you have this coworker, until management figures out she's a doofus, and you need to figure out how to be the good guy here, or else it's just going to be a he-said, she-said, which is when the person who is liked more is kept and the one who is liked less is let go. 

So I'm going to be pretty direct here:  you are a big part of the problem.  You clearly know this stuff better than she does -- I have zero doubt that you're better at your job than she is and the company really needs you.  But the way you engage with her is counterproductive, off-putting, and -- as you've seen -- undercutting your own reputation.  So the first thing is to please understand that your job isn't to be the person with the right answers -- it's to be effective in developing and implementing an EHS program.  And that means figuring out how to change your communication style to bring out her strengths, not force her to double-down and defend her mistakes.  You need to realize that any situation that ends in an "I'm right and you're wrong" is a failure -- your failure, even if you're substantively right.

No manager ever gets people who are 100% right all the time.  If she was as good at the job as you are, she'd have gotten your job instead of hers.  So don't jump on her for being wrong -- figure out how to work with her strengths and help her learn the rest.

I'm going to digress into a little story here, because I think it is instructive.  There is a particular male-female communication pattern that I have seen, particularly with detail-oriented men, and it is very destructive.  I have a guy who works for me who was negotiating a big settlement.  He was making a lot of progress on the issues -- and he still almost got us fired (as in, I had to fly across the country at the drop of a hat to both insert myself into the negotiations and salvage the client).  Why?  Because our client was female.  And she would express her concerns, and he would understand that there was no way we'd get what she wanted, and so he'd basically tell her she was wrong, blow off her points, and move on to the next bit.  He was so focused on the details of the settlement language that he was unable to step back and see the big picture:  that there was a business reason why she proposed what she did, and maybe there was another way to get there even if her proposed language was a nonstarter (that's what I figured out on my visit).  But what was driving her nuts was the impression he left that he thought she was stupid, and even more so that he was not hearing her -- that she was talking to a brick wall. 

And I had the exact same experience with him:  I called him up to talk to him about the case and to tell him the client was upset, and I'd say the client wasn't happy, and he'd say well of course they were happy, look at the progress we'd made.  I had literally just gotten off the phone with the client who said she was about to get other counsel, and he's insisting that I am wrong about what my client just directly told me.  I had to basically yell at him and quote what the client had just said to get him to understand that there was an issue.  At that point, I would have fired him if I could have, I was so frustrated!  Even though he was actually doing a good job on the substance.

How does that relate to you?  Because you can be right and still be wrong.  When you jump in to correct every little error, you are asserting your dominance/power, and it is belittling to the person you are talking to.  That is true whether it is male or female, but women get this a lot, and so generally every woman who has a backbone is going to bristle and double down in response.  This is counterproductive, even when you are 100% right on the substance.

What you need to do is come up with a generic response that makes her feel heard, that validates her concerns, and that then redirects her in the appropriate direction.  In other words, look for something that she's doing right, build on that, and then set it up so she figures out the right answer -- in private, on her own, so it can then be her idea.  So for ex, how's this for the shower issue:

Her:  We should do a temporary shower.

You:  [think:  boy that's stupid, we need permanent ones - but recognize attempt to be helpful, even if it's misguided.  Then say]:  You know, that might be a really good temporary solution.  I think the regulations require permanent showers so someone can get there within a few seconds, but that is probably going to take time and money to get installed.  So while we're looking into that, can you see what our options might be for a temporary shower?

Her:  No, a temporary one is all we need, we should just do that and save all the money.

You:  [think:  grrrrrrrrrr.  Say:]  Hmm, that's not my impression -- I thought I remembered that the regulations require something you can get to within a few seconds, and I don't think setting up a temporary shower will meet those requirements.  But can you look into that?  I'd sure like to save the money if OSHA will be happy with it.

[repeat "can you confirm that?" and "again, I'd love to if we can do it, so can you confirm that for me?" or "look, Management is going to make me demonstrate that this will bring us into compliance, so can you pull together the documentation to get that through?" as many times as necessary]

Note that you are validating her attempts to be helpful and her creative thinking, and then redirecting her to do the work to justify it.  The only extra "cost" to you is biting your tongue and stamping down your frustration.  You don't need to lecture her about how a pump works, or the laws of physics, or anything else, because boy is that condescending.  All you need to do is show some sort of interest in her attempts to be helpful, note that you have a question about whether that's feasible, and then put the burden on her to investigate and figure out if it will work.

And when you do need to correct her, there are ways to do it without saying "you're wrong."  Like the MSDS/MDSS/SDS bit -- it's reasonable to want employees not to be confused, but you can accomplish that goal by saying "you might also hear them referred to as 'SDS,' because OSHA keeps changing the terminology."  Telling them that the "real" term is "SDS" and that "MSDS" is wrong and outdated is unnecessary to avoid confusion, isn't it?  The only reason to add that in is to emphasize that you are right and she is wrong.  And that publicly undermines her and makes you look petty to everyone in the room, because it tells everyone that you need to be right above all else, even if it means throwing your coworkers under the bus.

I think the other part you're missing is the triage bit.  If you guys have such a crappy program, you've got a ton of work to do to get into compliance.  So don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  So what if you let her move forward with a temporary shower -- isn't that better than no shower at all?  If you get an OSHA inspection, would you rather say "well, we've been investigating and designing permanent showers and that'll be another year before we get them installed," or would you rather say "well, we figured out it will take a full year to get permanent showers designed and installed, so we've put that contract out, but in the interim we've brought in a temporary shower to provide what protection we can"?

In short, she is clearly trying -- she's busy, she's interested in the area, she is trying to help you out, and she is trying to build a name and reputation in the company.  Same as you are.  If you find ways to encourage her efforts -- even when she's wrong in some way -- you can turn her into an ally and serve as a really valuable mentor.  Yes, it takes a little more care in your conversations, a little more effort on your part.  But how much time are you wasting now explaining the laws of physics and being frustrated and angry with her?  She is what she is, she knows what she knows.  So rather than wish she was someone else, figure out how to make the best of what she has to offer, and give her the opportunity to flesh out her own knowledge. 

Final anecdote:  when I was a baby lawyer, I did an assignment for the guy who hired me -- one of the two smartest people I've ever met in my life, a guy who has been doing this stuff since I was in elementary school, a guy who knew more in his little finger than I'd ever hope to know, etc.  I gave him an answer, he passed it along to the client.  The next day, I discovered I was wrong -- no question, 100% wrong, I had missed an exception to the exception.  I told him.  We called the client together, and he told the client that he had gotten it wrong, that he had missed the exception, and then explained how we'd fix the problem.  I was flabbergasted -- I totally deserved to be hung out to dry with the client, but not only did he avoid blaming me, he threw himself under the bus. 

I have now worked for him for over 20 years, and I don't even return headhunters' calls.  Because he was loyal to me -- he understood that I had made an honest mistake, he did not expect me to know everything, and he gave me a chance to fix it while still protecting my reputation and client relationships.  And there's no way in hell I'd give that up for any amount of money.  That one action bought years of loyalty and dedication.  He gave me a chance to be imperfect and didn't hold it against me, because he recognized the other good qualities I brought to the job.  OTOH, the job I had where my boss micromanaged me, second-guessed everything I said, and treated me like I was incompetent?  I got the hell out of there as soon as I could.

So:  which guy do you want to be?

*I actually worked on a criminal case where a very well-intentioned employee wrote a bunch of letters saying that the company needed to do X, and was the government's star witness at trial.  And the company was convicted -- even though when EPA developed the rule, they expressly said you do NOT need to do X.  The employee didn't know any better, no one took the time to explain anything to her, and she was extremely persuasive on the stand.  And that's all it took.

I'm feeling personally attacked rn, lol!.

I relate a lot to FrugalNacho here. Your advice is great, but requires a good bit of soft skills to execute in any effective manner (skills that I find myself lacking, and am unsure how to gain/improve). Additionally, another barrier I find is a difference in perspective; I don't know if I can really explain this, but let me try:

Quote
When you jump in to correct every little error, you are asserting your dominance/power, and it is belittling to the person you are talking to.

Perspective 1: Most important is the facts. I'm happy to let someone else do all the talking and get the credit, so long as they're being factually correct. It doesn't diminish me as a person when I learn something new, so for me to jump in with a factual correction doesn't diminish anyone else-- now everyone is better off, more accurate in their understanding of the matter at hand.

Perspective 2: More important is the social hierarchy. You're only allowed to teach me something in an "official" or in public if you socially outrank me; or, conversely, if you correct me in public, the importance of that is not the correction, but the fact that it makes you look "above" me. Every interaction is more important with regard to how it places me socially than the informational content of the words spoken.

Quote
You don't need to lecture her about how a pump works, or the laws of physics, or anything else, because boy is that condescending.

Perspective 1: Understanding physics make me much better at my job. If she doesn't understand physics, then by improving her understanding of hydrodynamics/gravity/leverage/etc. here, it will directly improve her job performance everywhere, which is good for everyone. No-one loses here.

Perspective 2: Who does he think he is, my 4th grade science teacher? Not his place to try and school me, I'm not an idiot! What a condescending jerk! -- Again, it's a perspective which regards social authority as the most important takeaway from an interaction.

-----------------------

When #1 interacts with #2, there's a huge opportunity for miscommunication, because the priorities are so different. Obviously, it's more of a spectrum and less of a sharp dichotomy, but the priorities in communication are so different at the two ends.

A bit like "ask culture" vs. "guess culture".

Laura33

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #87 on: October 10, 2019, 11:35:41 AM »
I'm feeling personally attacked rn, lol!.

LOL.  :-)

So here's the thing:  I am somewhat socially clueless.  I am very direct, and I often didn't realize when my attitude was triggering a negative reaction -- or I could tell there was a problem, but not why.  Honestly, I had a bit of Sheldon in me -- where all that matters is what's right, and that if I say what's true/right/accurate, it will be self-evidently right, and so people will see the wisdom and do what I want, and what's the problem? 

Except that, funny, that didn't really work for me in the real world!  So I had to approach interpersonal relationships and social cues in a way that made sense for how my mind works -- in other words, like a logic puzzle:  I had to assume people are reacting in a way that seems logical to them, and then try to reverse-engineer the concerns and world-view that might lead to the response I was getting.  I was also lucky to find a job where people felt free to say, dude, you realize that your impatience is making everyone around you feel stupid?  Because you are acting like what you say is so obvious that any idiot would know it already?  [Well, umm, yeah -- isn't it?]  It took a lot of effort and trial and error to get to where I am now -- which still has a long way to go, btw.

I actually empathize with frugalnacho here, because I was almost always the smartest person in the room.  I know that sounds conceited and egotistical, but it's just the straight-up truth.  But the problem is that your IQ and $5 will get you a latte at Starbucks, you know?  People didn't hire me to parade around with my awesome SAT scores; they hired me to get the stupid job done.  Which means working with other people, persuading them to do what they need to, communicating in a way that makes them want to do the right thing, and all that mushy stuff.  And when you're smarter than everyone, you can't expect everyone around you to communicate on your level; I mean, really, if you think about it, the further out you are on the skinny end of the bell curve, the more you are surrounded by people who are not as smart as you.  And so to do your job effectively, you have to figure out a way to reach people where they are, without making them feel stupid in the process.  [I learned this, btw, when I went to work for one of two people I've met who was clearly smarter than me -- yet he was also the best mentor at the entire company and had infinite patience, even though literally everyone was stupider than him]  But you also have to come to understand [and actually believe] that a person's value to the job is not measured solely by innate smarts or specialized knowledge; that there are many different roles to fill that call for many different skill sets, and that even those people who annoy the crap out of you often have something valuable to offer, and it's your job to bring that out of them.  Basically, you need a little less hubris, a willingness to concede that you're not always right, an openness to evaluating your own contribution to the problems, and the flexibility to try something different.

So that's why I answered: to try to pass along some of the lessons that I learned the hard way.  It really is about seeing your "job" as not limited to "implement X," but also including "plays well with others," and devoting as much effort to the latter as the former. 

BlueHouse

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #88 on: October 10, 2019, 12:23:13 PM »
@frugalnacho , get yourself some more FU money.  I work with some know-it-alls too and it's amazing how much less I care about it after looking at my FU balance. 

I do think your venting is warranted and I know you're really frustrated.  Now ask yourself this:  Do you feel as if you're being a little bit gaslighted?  Do you want someone else to recognize this and commiserate?  Because I found myself getting most upset about that stuff and I just wanted someone else to acknowledge that no, I wasn't crazy, and yes, I did provide the correct answer [to whatever]   But like I said above, once I had more FU money, I realized that I just wanted someone else to say "yes, I know that was your idea", and then it was no longer important to me. 

Keep in mind that while she's doing this to you now, she'll eventually do it to others and then those people will come forward to you and say they saw some if it when it was aimed at you, but now that it's aimed at them, they'll want to vent to you.  So if you can survive the first few months, you'll win the war of likeability later.   

Also, bonus points if you can find another issue for her to share her expertise on and if you can foist her onto someone else. 

Zamboni

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #89 on: October 10, 2019, 03:42:21 PM »
I love this board. That is all.

APowers

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #90 on: October 10, 2019, 08:15:28 PM »
I'm feeling personally attacked rn, lol!.

LOL.  :-)

So here's the thing:  I am somewhat socially clueless.  I am very direct, and I often didn't realize when my attitude was triggering a negative reaction -- or I could tell there was a problem, but not why.  Honestly, I had a bit of Sheldon in me -- where all that matters is what's right, and that if I say what's true/right/accurate, it will be self-evidently right, and so people will see the wisdom and do what I want, and what's the problem? 

Except that, funny, that didn't really work for me in the real world!  So I had to approach interpersonal relationships and social cues in a way that made sense for how my mind works -- in other words, like a logic puzzle:  I had to assume people are reacting in a way that seems logical to them, and then try to reverse-engineer the concerns and world-view that might lead to the response I was getting.  I was also lucky to find a job where people felt free to say, dude, you realize that your impatience is making everyone around you feel stupid?  Because you are acting like what you say is so obvious that any idiot would know it already?  [Well, umm, yeah -- isn't it?]  It took a lot of effort and trial and error to get to where I am now -- which still has a long way to go, btw.

I actually empathize with frugalnacho here, because I was almost always the smartest person in the room.  I know that sounds conceited and egotistical, but it's just the straight-up truth.  But the problem is that your IQ and $5 will get you a latte at Starbucks, you know?  People didn't hire me to parade around with my awesome SAT scores; they hired me to get the stupid job done.  Which means working with other people, persuading them to do what they need to, communicating in a way that makes them want to do the right thing, and all that mushy stuff.  And when you're smarter than everyone, you can't expect everyone around you to communicate on your level; I mean, really, if you think about it, the further out you are on the skinny end of the bell curve, the more you are surrounded by people who are not as smart as you.  And so to do your job effectively, you have to figure out a way to reach people where they are, without making them feel stupid in the process.  [I learned this, btw, when I went to work for one of two people I've met who was clearly smarter than me -- yet he was also the best mentor at the entire company and had infinite patience, even though literally everyone was stupider than him]  But you also have to come to understand [and actually believe] that a person's value to the job is not measured solely by innate smarts or specialized knowledge; that there are many different roles to fill that call for many different skill sets, and that even those people who annoy the crap out of you often have something valuable to offer, and it's your job to bring that out of them.  Basically, you need a little less hubris, a willingness to concede that you're not always right, an openness to evaluating your own contribution to the problems, and the flexibility to try something different.

So that's why I answered: to try to pass along some of the lessons that I learned the hard way.  It really is about seeing your "job" as not limited to "implement X," but also including "plays well with others," and devoting as much effort to the latter as the former.

And I really appreciate your answers! I really do, and I am reading and re-reading to extract as much action-potential as possible. Please don't interpret my response as though I disagree with you!

LaineyAZ

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #91 on: October 10, 2019, 08:46:19 PM »
Despite the many valid comments on communication styles, improving management skills, etc. I am siding with OP's frustration on this. 

I'm now retired from MegaCorp but my 20+ year career involved working directly within the legal and risk management departments.  Company safety may be no big deal, right up until it is.  If a serious accident happens then OP and Inept Co-worker have to answer to internal risk management.  If the inevitable lawsuit is then filed against the company, they'll also then be deposed by a plaintiff's counsel during which every action - or inaction - of theirs will be scrutinized, including and starting with their educational backgrounds.  I could definitely see a skilled plaintiff's attorney grilling OP why he did not report Inept Co-worker's apparent lack of necessary knowledge and skills.

So, do all of her work issues impact him directly?  IMO, the answer is Hell yes.  How delicate he has to be to get her to be a team player is, to me, the least of his problems.  As the point person in the company for safety it will be his butt on the hot seat.  Senior management needs to get her in line fast, or show her the door.

Tester

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #92 on: October 10, 2019, 10:04:24 PM »
There is no need for skill in the attorney, it is just common sense.
I already said, OP has to communicate with his manager about the issues.
The communication should be about his concern fir the safety of the company and his responsibility, not about the personality of the coworker.
The facts are about how the actions of the coworker put the company at risk and about the actions OP took to prevent that.
OP is looking for advice/support from his manager to be allowed to do the job.

Roadrunner53

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #93 on: October 11, 2019, 04:27:29 AM »
OP should be concerned with the responsibilities his safety program and how he will be implicated if there is an accident. If someone should get hurt, you know the investigators are going to look for cause. If one little itty bitty thing is out of date or out of order the finger will be pointed at OP as the person in charge of that job. The company will not want to assume responsibility and will throw OP under the bus. Lawsuits are ugly and OP could be the sacrificial lamb and let go due to his digressions and to save face for the company.

OP needs to have something in writing in regard to these job duties and who will work along with him and their duties documented. Most companies have a safety team and each individual assumes a task to be responsible for. We used to have clipboards and things had to be checked and then signed off on the clipboard by the person who did the safety check, the time and the date.

It's all fun and games till someone gets hurt.

frugalnacho

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #94 on: October 14, 2019, 11:32:41 AM »
She called a safety meeting with me and our manager on Friday to discuss some of the safety concerns and also had a big sign she wanted to install that would require the use of extensive PPE in areas it's really not required.  The sign would make it mandatory to have goggles, respirators, aprons, gloves, and sleeves to work in the area.  Our boss was basically like "wtf? We can't do this.  We can't afford to make everyone wear all this PPE all shift, it will put us out of business.  Plus we already have engineering controls in this room.  We have a fume suppressant in the tanks, and also a scrubber system.  I don't think all this PPE is necessary".

I knew where she was going with this meeting so I had the old personal exposure monitoring data that was done years ago ready and printed out.  I gave a short spiel about the regulations being updated in 2006, which is when the monitoring for this pollutant was measured and was found to be under the action level (half the limit) so we know the engineering solutions are working effectively and workers are not being exposed to this pollutant and all that PPE is unnecessary.  She got flustered and moved on to more topics.

After the meeting I stayed and spoke with my boss.  He agrees she's off the rails and no one knows how to rein her in.  He sounded like he wanted to fire her, but was afraid it's going to be perceived as firing her for being outspoken about safety, and not about being an unqualified lunatic, and also that she may file reports to OSHA if she got fired.  So I think other people are starting to realize just how much of an idiot she is.  He also asked me wtf "Eeee puh" was because she kept saying it and he didn't know what it was.  So I explained that meant the EPA and she calls in eee puh for some reason.  Then he said "oh, I never heard anyone call it that" to which I replied "Yeah me either until her".  We both had a good laugh.

After I got back to my office she wanted to talk about exposure monitoring that was done because she thinks I was confused about the limit and had it incorrect.  I assured her that no I don't have it incorrect, and it's also specifically listed in the report, along with a written explanation comparing the test result against the limit.  Then she started rattling off several different limits and I had to explain the difference between OSHA (legally enforceable) and NIOSH (recommended but not legally enforceable until OSHA adopts it) exposure limits.  I tried not to be condescending, but it was definitely a needed explanation, as there is one enforceable limit for this.  This back and forth continued for a few minutes until I realized she doesn't understand the difference between milligrams and micrograms and that was causing some confusion.  Who doesn't know what the fuck a microgram is? I didn't call too much attention to it and humiliate her, I just kind of walked away and started ignoring her instead.  I was convinced before, but now I'm quite certain she doesn't have any type of science background (despite claims that she's worked as a microbiologist and a "marine chemist" [I know marine chemist is a real thing, but no fucking way she is or was ever a legit marine chemist]).  I also have no doubt she is going to list all sorts of technical things from this job on her resume (oh yea I worked with wet chemistry, we did titrations, we had an AA unit, etc) even though she doesn't understand anything and doesn't directly do any of those jobs.  It will probably sound impressive on a resume though, as long as the person interviewing you doesn't know a ton about those things and doesn't field test your knowledge. 

Fuck, seriously, who doesn't know the difference between milligrams and micrograms?! This is blowing my mind. I get that some people with non technical backgrounds may not know, especially in the USA where metric isn't used much for everyday life, but how are you going to be claiming to be an expert in this stuff and trying to unilaterally make new company policies when you don't understand it?  This wasn't a simple "oops I misread or misremembered the units" kind of thing, she was genuinely confused and didn't seem to know the difference, or even know what a microgram was. 
« Last Edit: October 14, 2019, 11:34:51 AM by frugalnacho »

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #95 on: October 14, 2019, 12:41:50 PM »
Right.  Time to start documenting all her layers of ignorance.  eg -

"[date] X proposed imposing PPE to recommended not enforceable limits at meeting with manager: became clear in meeting between us afterwards that X did not understand the difference between enforceable action limits (as per 2006 regs) and recommended exposure limits"

This means also calling her out on these issues at the time so that she can't deny that it happened.

If you can gather enough of this, you can give it to your manager for him to use to fire her.  Also, I would start to wonder at this point how accurate was her CV to get the job in the first place, and were the claims in it ever fully checked?  If she lied on her CV that's an easy dismissal case.  Is that something your manager can get HR to do?  It means following up in detail on any claimed qualifications and references.

markbike528CBX

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #96 on: October 14, 2019, 01:25:11 PM »
Those of us who do know it all are aggravated by those who (obviously do not).  :-)

I was once (1 time) told that I was " the smartest person in the room" to which I replied "If I'm the smartest person in the room, we are all in a world of hurt". We still won the contract.

That being said, I just had a conversation with a former coworker who stated that I was visibly impatient when we were out in the field. I was the subject matter expert (by definition), the only one on shift, also responsible for overseeing lab analysis and calculating/distilling results, and for weighing, dispensing chemicals. Each of the workstation for these functions was separated by several hundred feet, and often several floors, often with non-functioning elevators, sometimes in different plant zones.  Yep, I got impatient sometimes, sorry.

It sounds like the OP (frugalnacho, for those like me who forgets during multipage threads) has developed some rapport on this issue with the immediate boss. 
Micrograms/meter cubed (Ķg/m3) versus milligrams/meter cubed (mg/m3 ) IS a big difference, sometimes between a minor issue or Immediately Dangerous to Life and Heath(IDLH) and should be thoroughly understood by those who make rules and put up signs. 
That being said, for non-safety, non-engineering personnel, it is not that critical.

On a slightly different topic, does anyone know how to insert the HTML code into the reply box so things like µ don't show up instead of the desired micro or greek mu?

Gronnie

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #97 on: October 14, 2019, 02:09:10 PM »
Time to start sending summary emails to her of any conversations you have (as well as possibly keeping your own, maybe less flattering notes) so that you have a good paper trail of all your conversations that she can't deny.

Laura33

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #98 on: October 14, 2019, 02:12:05 PM »
JFC, Frugalnacho, that is ridiculous.  An impressive amount of doubling down when demonstrated to be wrong.  Glad your immediate boss has your back.  Unfortunately, he is probably right that she will run to file complaints if she is fired (or threaten to do so to avoid being fired).  And given what you've said about the issues you stepped into, it also sounds like the company can't afford to have that happen.

Best thing you can do for you and the company now is to document, document, document.  Maybe start a journal that covers the work you are doing every day and lists the basis for it?  That way, if/when you have the next issue with her, you can write down that she asked for X, you determined that was not necessary because ABC, she objected because of DEF, you informed her that that was incorrect because GHI, etc. etc.  Doesn't have to be the full blow-by-blow, but if this does come to litigation involving the company and/or you, having contemporaneous documentation of what the issue actually was and why the decision was made* can be the difference between winning and going to jail.

*In this case, you didn't do it because it was not required, because she misunderstood the required exposure levels and didn't know about the past work that had been done to document exposures -- NOT because your manager thought it would cost too much (which I guarantee is how she will portray it in any complaint).

RetiredAt63

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Re: Dealing with a know-it-all coworker
« Reply #99 on: October 14, 2019, 02:18:10 PM »
I'm also feeling sorry for Frugal Nacho here.  At least FN's boss understands the science and the regulations.  I was always fussing at our building admin to be sure our HVAC and fume hoods were working correctly, because xylene and formaldehyde are not good for you.  It took a few years before we got good compliance.  The time the waste alcohol bottle (histology lab) exploded because the AC wasn't working properly may have helped.