(MoneyWatch) Dear Evil HR Lady,
My department is hated/mocked/ignored by most of the other departments. I would say that the actions within the department (lack of quality work, not understanding needs, etc.) contribute to the ongoing and poor reputation. Senior management has done nothing.
I, however, have managed to build good relationships with other departments. The problem is that now people within the department have accused me of being difficult to work with. What should I do?
You mean other than transfer into one of the departments that likes you? Or look for a new job outside the company? Because even though job hunting is a pain in the rear end, you shouldn't feel a tremendous obligation to people who are non-performing jerks. I understand if there are reasons you can't leave. (Been there a short amount of time, need to take a leave of absence in the near future, super awesome pay, limited employment in your field in the area, or just plain don't wan to go through the hassle of finding a new job.)
First, let's talk about what's going on (if everything you've said is true). There's a department with an ineffective leader who has hired ineffective staff. But since the leader in ineffective, the slacker and/or incompetent staff settles in nicely into their roles. Sure, other departments are annoyed, but when you are insulated, you can dismiss outside criticism. I imagine phrases such as, "They don't understand how difficult our processes are. They need to chill out and wait for us to get this done." Because it's super easy to convince yourself that you are working hard and other people/departments are just unreasonable.
Enter you. A hardworking, friendly person, who has reached out to other departments. And in so doing you've shattered their self made myth that they are working diligently and their work is difficult and that other departments are too demanding. And maybe, just maybe, the department leader had successfully convinced her management that things are hard and everyone is working at a high level, but it is just really hard work. And truth be told, many times functions roll up under someone who really doesn't understand the day to day. (And that's fine, as long as they aren't dumb as rocks.)
So, you can see why people would resent you. If you can do the work, then why can't they? If you can answer other people's questions clearly, quickly and accurately, why can't they? You've ruined their world.
But, before you get too smug, keep in mind that the above was written with the idea that you are 100 percent correct in your assessment of the situation and that you are not at fault at all. This is (unfortunately) highly unlikely. You dislike working there as much as they dislike having you. This is difficult to hide. They know you think they are incompetent. You probably talk down to them. You have probably expressed your opinion that they should just buck up and do the work and that it's not that difficult.
You can probably see why this is annoying.
So, what to do?
Talk with your direct boss. Explain that you've noticed some tension between your department and others. Ask if she has any advice for how to help alleviate this. Note, you are not telling her what to do, or that she's doing it wrong. You are asking her for suggestions on what to do. People love to be asked for their ideas. If she's clueless, ask if you can head up a task force to figure out how to improve relationships with others.
Don't badmouth your colleagues. Ever. It's so easy to go to the departments that love you and talk bad about your coworkers. Problem is, this comes back to bite you in the behind. Because while people love to engage in malicious criticism of others, it lowers their opinion of you. And if they are willing to talk with you about how awful other people are, they are willing to talk with others about how awful you are.
Be nice. People underestimate the value of nice. And not only passive nice (that is, not saying anything mean), be purposely and purposefully nice. At home, make a list of all your coworkers. Write down three things you like about each one of them. Then write down one question to ask them about each of them. This question should be something about their personal life, ("Hey, Jane, how did your son's baseball game go last night?") or something positive about their work performance ("Jane, that was a great presentation you did. Can you show me how you made those graphs?").
If your direct boss is mean to you or putting the company at risk, take it to the next level. Different companies have different cultures and policies. So, it may be prudent for you to take the issues to your boss's boss or it may be better to take it to your HR department. When you do, always approach it from a "what can I do differently," angle and not a "my boss is a blooming idiot" angle.
Will this solve your all your problems? Of course not. But it will make your life a lot more pleasant. Continue working hard. Continue delivering quality work. Try not to let the problems in your department weigh you down. If it doesn't improve, look to leave.
Have a workplace dilemma? Send your questions to EvilHRLady@gmail.com.