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Recently I have noticed that the relationship I had built with a co-worker seemed to be eroding. One of the possible reasons might be my manager giving false negative feedback to him on my account. Some context can be found in this post.

My goal is to strengthen a good working relationship with him.

Background: He was the manager of my partner team. One of his team members was assigned to my project and “report” to me in this project. Our regular interactions involve weekly group meetings with all parter teams and managers and ad-hoc work assignment/brainstorm meetings.

We have been working together for three quarters. In the first two quarters we had built rapport. Discussions were open and productive, and we both gave each other high performance ratings and positive feedback in our official performance review reports. Outside of work, we also had a few very enjoyable chats at our company lunch where we about similar workout hobbies and books. Knowing a little bit how he sees the world and himself in it, I have a lot of respect for him as a person.

Problem:

Starting this quarter, my manager had been sharing with me “constructive feedback” that she claimed this coworker had privately given her. In the beginning, it definitely planted some seeds of mistrust and resentment in me, as I didn’t feel it was fair to only see one side of the story.

But I started to realize it might be her abusive tactics to sabotage the working relationship between me and him. My reasons are that 1) there was no private feedback from him in previous quarters. ; 2) she has demonstrated consistent behaviors of making false comments. It’s likely that she was lying about this too. 3) I’m not sure about her intent, but it’s possible she witnessed our rapport and somehow was not happy about it.

It’s also likely she was doing the the same to him behind my back, giving negative feedback to him made on my account.

Other symptoms:

He used to back me up in meetings, but recently his comments were almost always against mine. Sometime my suggestions and questions were just dismissed.

Our recent work communication has not been as effective as before. It seems that he was not opening up with me about his true opinions.

My question:

How do I respectfully check with him if he had received some negative feedback made on my account? How do I ask if he had given feedback about me to my manager?

I think the best way to build trust is open communication. However, I do not feel comfortable revealing the weird dynamic with my manager. It might stir up a lot of emotions in me and I might be perceived as having personal problems with my manager instead of being objective. However, without that important context, I’m not sure if I’d come across as genuine.

  • Hi there :) we like questions to be narrowed to only one issue. It'd be nice if you could consider editing your post and narrow it to only one question and maybe post a new one for the second one. – avazula Sep 23 '18 at 14:44
  • @avazula thanks for the suggestion. I have split the questions. – Storm Sep 23 '18 at 15:25
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Your problem is that while you suspect your manager of causing strife between you and your coworker, you have no proof of that, and if you raise that possibility with him and it turns out not to be the case (ie he has some other reason for changing his behaviour towards you) then you may inadvertently appear to be the person going behind someone else's back. For that reason, I would advise you to approach your coworker (I'll refer to him as Bob), but limit the discussion to his changed behaviour, and ask him what changed and how you can work with him to improve things. One possible example of how that might go:

Hi Bob - can we chat for a minute? I was wondering if you could help me understand something. In yesterday's meeting you were quite dismissive of my suggestions, and we haven't been able to chat like we used to. This just doesn't seem like you, and it feels to me like something has changed in our friendship, and I really want to see if we can fix it. Can you help me understand the problem?

If Bob offers up that he is upset with you because of something X told him you reported about him, you now have the opportunity to clear that up and tell him that you would not say things behind his back, and ask him to speak to you if anyone gossips about you in the future. This clears things up without you saying anything to Bob that you don't know for sure is true.

Of course, Bob may have other reasons for his behaviour, and this approach gives him an opportunity to discuss those reasons with you and maybe provide a way forward.

Unfortunately there is always the possiblity that Bob decides not to work with you, in which case you can try a few other approaches, but as long as you keep things professional on your end, you can rest in the knowledge that you have tried to maintain a good working / friendship relationship with Bob and have left the door open to him.

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I have been working in a company for 11 years now, and I can tell you that those feelings are misplaced. Indeed, you are having too many ideas without any proper feedback to state those arguments.

People have the tendency to over complicate things. You are not getting reciprocated feedback so your cues are out of bounds.

I will quote to you something my manager used to repeat for me: If you assume, you make an ass of u and me (ass-u-me).

Given that these feelings you are having are not substantiated in any way, once you open the discussion, the idea will spread around that you have rampant notions of delusion. That is not true of course, but you have made your daily interaction to be accustomed to feedback. However, you have not realized that some people you have not been socially trained to pickup their physical cues. Therefore, you are at a disarray because it is confusing to you.

Do not pay too much attention to what your mind is picking up in terms of behavioral pickup. You have a job, do it and get it right. They ask you to do jump, you say how high. They tell you to do things differently, just do it. Learn to improve in order to coexist. Later on, you will matter. We have a saying back home, tie the donkey where its owner wants it.

Another one: Leave your dough to the baker, even if he ate half of them. One day, you will become that baker.

There are times where your feedback is needed, don't allow this confusion now to rob you away from being an authority on anything later on. Raise yourself above being a social recluse.

Why do people change their behaviors sometimes? Why didn't you expect they have other things in their lives that are causing them this swing in behavior? They have their own personal lives too. That is expected, they are human beings, they have their metabolism, their social needs and they expect as well social cues which some may learn to overlook them or not. The higher up the person, the more trained they are to proper interaction, normally. :D

There are other factors but I will not go over them here. They do not relate to you directly, hence not crucial to your ability to work and have a successful life at the workplace.

So to answer your question, don't ask anything which is not related to the job at hand. Nothing personal if you are not confident enough. Negative feedback of you is always welcome. Don't fret about it. Try to work around your problems and please remember these golden rules:

  1. No problem lasts forever.
  2. Tomorrow is always a brighter day.
  3. Time heals all wounds.
  4. If all fails, there is nothing that whiskey can't solve.

I wish you the best of luck forward.

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