Dealing with toxic coworkers

This post may come off as spicy but I promise to be tasteful with this one.
Quick disclaimer: This post isn’t to tarnish anyone’s image or to just complain rampantly regarding my past experiences. Point of this post is to enlighten and perhaps empower while also shedding a light to those that do exhibit these behaviors to their peers or subordinates.

I’m half Dominican and Puerto Rican and in the Hispanic cultures we tend to use the term/name, “Fulano/Fulana” when vaguely describing someone or discussing someone without dropping names. Yes, I did reveal a chisme fact haha. For all intents and purposes, I will be using that term when listing the behaviors I experienced.

Job #1 – Public Sector
Behavior – Insecurity

Some of you readers personally know this story as I dealt with this one for 3 years and actually vented from time to time as it took a toll on me. I had moved up within the organization and Fulano became a direct peer and an unofficial lead for me on our team. Over time, Fulano started to feel threatened as I had grasped all the knowledge of the job rather quickly and became extremely efficient at the job while still juggling other responsibilities that were supplemental to my core responsibilities. This lead to him behaving in certain ways at times.

If someone had a request that dealt with us and I answered it vs. him delegating it to me despite me looping him in or telling him prior to making any decisions, it lead to a 1:1 conversation. If I answered questions regarding our work when directly asked, this too lead to a 1:1 conversation and sometimes heated discussion. If him and I were assigned projects, he would delegate some but would keep the bulk. This I didn’t have a problem with but our team did take notice of it. He then would complain about the workload but then others would say, “There’s Manny, he’s here for a reason and you can load balance your work with him so you’re not feeling overworked anymore.” Despite everything, he too was always a great friend, colleague, and mentor but this did put a strain on our friendship and work relationship. I felt like I was a threat when I never intended to make him feel insecure or threatened. Quite on the contrary, I always spoke highly of him, defended him, kept him in the loop, would tell him everything, and more.

The solution? Well first learning the source: Fulano felt inadequate with me around as he was experiencing a bad case of “Rust Out”. He saw me achieve my CCNA in less than a year and started working on my CCNP then started taking it out on me. I had to have many talks with him and I learned to just get out of his way and not make any waves. This solution was a double-edged sword as it did affect me. I felt gridlocked in my position while also cautiously walking on eggshells. I would keep everything to myself for a very long time for the sake of our synergy not deteriorating because I was the newest member on the team. Our leader at the time interfered many times especially the one day I was fed up and couldn’t take it anymore. I began having conversations with our leader and our team to verify whether I was coming off as he claimed I was: “Trying to take over everything and take his job away”. I began to stop speaking in our meetings unless our leader spoke to me directly or if I had a speaking part on any particular project I was assigned to. The true solution was eventually leaving my job as leaving to other team for the other division didn’t make sense anymore. It wasn’t the only reason why I left but it was a big incentive.

My recommendation to others: Professionally and calmly stand your ground against this coworker. Have serious yet productive conversations not only with them but with your direct leadership. Try to come to a resolution as peacefully as possible. If none of those work, then for your peace and sanity I STRONGLY URGE YOU make it a point to move to another team or company altogether. We spend at minimum 8hrs a day in our jobs, by no means those 8hrs should be made miserable by others. I’ll be honest, yes we CAN ignore the person but that doesn’t solve anything if they’re very adamant about their insecurities with themselves towards you and your work performance.

Job #2 – Geek Squad/Best Buy
Behavior – Sabotage

I had many seniors when I became a Geek Squad Agent. They all took a hand in training me aside from our DCI (Deputy of Counter Intelligence) and our Geek Squad Manager. Enter Agent Fulano who went from helpful senior to Agent Saboteur. His ambition was to move up by any means possible to one day become a DCI and then Geek Squad Manager, perhaps even beyond. One of the things I admired about this man but also partially a downfall. Interview after interview he would never get selected for the role which lead to him leaving to another company. In his absence, I became a well-trained and senior Geek Squad Agent and even officially moved to the back, Advanced Repair Agent. Typically in retail and in other jobs, the longer you build up your seniority, the more likely you are to obtain first pick at better shifts. Which lead to me being the opening Agent with the other Best Buy openers of our location. My shifts were 6am-2pm every 5 days then two days off unless holidays rolled around or I asked to switch or another agent wanted to swap due to obligation.

Agent Fulano started visiting the precinct as he remained friends with others including myself outside of the job. He then would mention for him to come back and I got excited as I always wanted him to return. I loved working with him before and constantly told him to come back if his career still lined up with moving up. Our Geek Squad Manager at the time was another Emmanuel like myself who’s nickname was also Manny. He had mentioned to me that he wanted recommendations for more people and I immediately asked him to interview Agent Fulano at which he said, “Manny, if he applies and passes that screening test, I will absolutely give him a shot!”

Fast forward, Agent Fulano came back and we were happily reunited along with other now veteran agents. Our joyful reunion was short lived. Over time, he began to complain about dealing with the new guy around the block shenanigans and wanted his tenure back. He wanted the better shifts he once had, as he was working mids (11am-7pm) or closing shifts. He also wanted to manage the queue his own way (our queue of units checked in for repair). This came with issues as he would at times become combative of how I worked on units, my repair speed/efficiency, and boasting to our superiors when using me in a comparison. I by no means was an agent that lacked but he was a faster closer and I was bit more behind due to my attention to detail and being thorough. He began to try to shed this light on me that I was inferior so he would gain favor. One day, I had called out and he lashed out in the most bizarre way. He started telling our DCI, Geek Squad Manager, and our GM (General Manager) plus countless other employees that I called out and was lying about my reason. He took a Facebook post and weaponized it against me which was me watching Sons of Anarchy after putting my Godson to sleep. The truth in fact was that night something I had eaten didn’t sit well which lead to me calling out very early in the morning. I even missed an all store meeting that day. The next day I was better and came to the precinct and everyone including our GM met with me in private to tell me about his erratic behavior. I ended up getting written up over it as it was still considered an unexcused absence which was fair. But, that led to me becoming absolutely furious with him.

My solution: I cut down our friendship and stopped crossing paths with him at work. This lead to me ignoring him to only communicate with him briefly when it pertained to work. Our DCI wanted us to bury the hatchet and become close again but I laid the boundary down that we are simply co-workers and will behave as such. I asked for his support along with our Geek Squad Manager, Junior as I wouldn’t cause any disruptions and continue providing the same output for my performance.

This solution echoes a common phrase we tend to hear or read: “Not everyone you work with is your friend.”
I strongly believe great friendships can bloom from the workplace but this story is a word of caution as some colleagues may try to use you for their own gain should it deem fitting.

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