Why won't my boss fire my terrible coworker?

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(MoneyWatch) Dear Evil HR Lady,

I started working on a project with one woman, we'll call her Heidi, over a year ago. I was the first person she started managing (she had been kept at an entry level position for three years and then promoted twice in 6 months). She was managing me and things went badly. I was doing my best, but she was setting unrealistic expectations and sending very abusive emails (all caps, lots of !!!!!, 'you never do anything right', etc.). She complained to my real manager, we talked, but because she'd been there longer, they believed her stories. I wanted to quit, but luckily, I was able to transfer to a different department. Since then, I've loved my job, the other people I work with like my work, and I've been promoted. She's the only person to have such a problem with me.

Then they hired someone new to work for Heidi. Things went the same way. She complained, he complained about her, and he switched projects. This also happened with another new hire who then was let go. I talked with our Managing Director at dinner one night and it came out that Heidi has been taking management classes for months. Now one other newer coworker (working here for almost two years) has been assigned to work with Heidi. Things are following the same pattern. She's shared some of the stories and emails and they're still abusive and Heidi is setting her up to fail. Then Heidi complained to the manager and the manager talked to the newer person and says she needs to cover herself and try really hard to fix things. This person says she's miserable and isn't enjoying her job any more.

Heidi is really fake and always panders to anyone above her, but I can't believe management isn't resolving this serious issue. Heidi hasn't worked well with anyone she's managed, she constantly complains about the person she's managing, and four out of five people have stopped working on her projects because of all these issues. Heidi has had these issues for more than a year (including formal negative reviews) and yet she's still working with the company and has been promoted again. What do we do in this situation? How can we make management realize that these management classes aren't working and that Heidi needs to be given an ultimatum of change or get fired? She makes people miserable and is not an asset to the company

There is actually a really easy answer to your question, "What do we do?" You probably don't want to hear it, though. Most people don't like it, but they don't call me the Evil HR Lady for nothing. Ready? Nothing. You do nothing.

Whew! You don't have to worry about it because Heidi is not your problem. She's not your manager. She's not your employee. So, you do nothing. You come to work and you do your job and you can provide a listening ear for her latest victim, but other than that, ignore her.

As I said, no one really wants to hear this, because many of us have a tremendous desire to fix things. And in situations like this the problem is just glaring at you and screaming "Fix me!" yet, no one is fixing anything, and you're so frustrated you could scream. But, repeat after me, "Heidi is not my problem. Heidi is not my problem." Perhaps some yoga or something would be helpful.

Since we've established that Heidi is not your problem, (honest!) let's talk about why her bad behavior is seemingly ignored. First of all, if she's enrolled in management classes, it's not being ignored. If her boss has authorized the expense for her to receive this training, it means he recognizes there is a problem and he's got a plan to fix it. Heidi may need more than a class or two and she may never be a good manager. Some people just aren't.

But, managing isn't Heidi's only job. It sounds like she doesn't have hire/fire authority over the people she supervises and she only has one person at a time. That means that managing people is a very small portion of her responsibilities. You are probably unaware of how well she performs in her other responsibilities, especially since you work in a different department. Her boss may well keep her around because she does an excellent job at everything BUT managing people. And he may be trying to develop her because he sees potential.

And yes, there is a possibility that she's managed to simply pull the wool of her manager's eyes and he's completely clueless. But, then there would be no management class. It is true that some people are very, very good at presenting one face to managers and another face to their employees. But, if she does have this talent, what you do is the same thing: Nothing.

They see her miserable employees. They allow people to transfer out. Her manager may just be a super awful manager himself and have no idea how to coach her and even less of an idea of how to fire someone. But, that's his responsibility. Not yours.

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