Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Ask Natalie: Co-worker taking credit for your work?

DEAR NATALIE: I have been working remotely due to Covid for the past year or so. While I find that I am actually working more since working from home, the pace of my job has been less stressful and overall I feel positive about my situation. But, I have a co-worker that is not pulling her weight at all, and in fact, has taken credit for some of my projects and work. Since we aren’t in an office and no one is really able to see what everyone is doing as easily or readily, I find her jumping on emails and duplicating people’s work. When you tell her you already have it under control, she asks to see what you are doing. She has done this to me a few times until I caught on. Then, she shares the work with our boss and puts us both on it like she had a hand in it or something. I was furious that she did this to me the first time. Recently, I had been working hard on this project and she asked to “cross check it with what she was doing.” Then, before I knew it, she sent my work — which wasn’t completed — with her work and acted like we had been working on it together. My boss gave us feedback which I wouldn’t have needed had I been able to complete my project. Now, I feel like my boss thinks I’m incompetent or something. I don’t want to throw this person under the bus, but she is really undermining me in the office and I am worried that she is going to get credit for work she didn’t do. Do I talk to her about it? I am the worst at confrontation. Thinking about this makes me so anxious, but losing my job also makes me anxious. Any thoughts on how to handle this? — WORKED OVER

DEAR WORKED OVER: It’s good that you realized this sooner than later with her. It sounds as though working from home hasn’t worked out as well for her as it has for you. Regardless of her situation, taking credit for other people’s work is really disgusting. If I were in your shoes, I would have called her out on this the first time. However, knowing that you are not confrontational, you can handle this one of two ways: You can deal with her directly via email and warn her that if she pulls any of that nonsense again, you will go to your boss and lay it out for them. If the idea of that makes you feel nauseous, I would instead contact your boss directly and let them know what is going on. Don’t speak about whether or not you have heard she’s done this with others. Only speak to your experience with. Tell your boss that you wanted to discuss the last project with her and just be honest about what happened. Say it wasn’t the first time and you just wanted her to be aware of this. You have every right to defend your work and your reputation at your job. These are tough times and the idea of losing your job because of someone else’s sneakiness is unacceptable. Stand your ground, own your work and don’t let anyone make you feel afraid to speak up.

DEAR NATALIE: My 23-year-old son is still living at home with me and my husband. We have three kids — 19, 23 and 25 — and it seems like a revolving door when it comes to who’s living at home. Someone is always moving back in with us. Well, now my son (the 23-year-old) wants us to take in his girlfriend for three months — who is from South America — to see if they are compatible enough to get married. I am completely against this. He can do what he wants outside my home, but if he lives here in my home, he has to follow my rules. I don’t think he should be considering marriage yet, and I don’t think she is ready for that, either. We haven’t been speaking, which has created a lot of tension in the home. What do I do? Am I being too stern with him? — UPSET MOM

DEAR UPSET MOM: If your son is old enough to be contemplating marriage, he is old enough to get an apartment with his girlfriend. I sense the fatigue in your letter of having your children wearing out their welcome in your home. Every family is different. Some parents love the idea of their kids never leaving the nest. Others? They give them the boot even if they aren’t ready to fly. Sounds like you are vacillating in between and need to reclaim your home. Have an honest conversation with your son about expectations. If you were to allow his girlfriend to move in, is there a hard deadline? Do they need to be out in three months? Six months? Giving them expectations and boundaries may help everyone feel better and help you feel more in control. If having her move in is completely out of the question, then your son needs to decide if he is ready to move out and move in with her. If he is serious about marrying her, then they should start looking for their own place together. If he just wants to shack up and let mommy and daddy pay the rent, then he may need a reality check. Whatever you decide to do, bring everyone to the table and make this decision as a family so that you don’t burn any bridges or have any regrets down the road.  

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