The Worst Coworker Ever – Parts 5 and 6

I spend most of my time on this blog trying to give tips and tricks on how to improve as a technical writer. But at times, we simply need examples of what not to do. Today, we conclude the story of the worst technical writing coworker I’ve ever dealt with. Out of respect for those involved, names have been changed. Out of respect for you, everything else is told exactly as it occurred. The six-part series ends here.

Miss the last installment? Read parts 3 and 4 here. Or, start from the beginning.

Part 5: Personal Quirks

So what did Mark do all day? One important thing to know about Mark is that he did not believe in cell phones. This meant he took all of his personal calls on his desk phone. Loudly.  Everyone across the office could hear him. His laugh echoed through the walls and his voice carried, even with his mouth half full of popcorn.

At least a half-dozen times a day, his phone would ring, and he would embark on an hour-long conversation with some personal acquaintance. The topics ranged from weekend plans to sex, and all sorts of inappropriate in between. For two weeks straight, he called Amazon customer service complaining about getting locked out of his music account. One time, we overheard the story of a girl who felt so harassed by Mark, she had her boyfriend call and threaten to get lawyers involved. If we ever missed a piece of the story, we knew we would catch up the next time his phone rang and he retold the tale.

As time went on, Mark used his desk phone for his job search. His personal recruiter would call and they would discuss opportunities. He would have phone interviews with potential employers. He would call his friends afterwards to tell them all about it. Nothing was a secret in Mark’s world.

Part 6: The Glossary

At some point, our supervisor called over myself and Mark to discuss a new assignment. The office was in need of a glossary to help define some easily confusable terms and acronyms (10 to 15 max, he said). There wasn’t any precedent, so the work was ours to do from the ground up. Immediately, Mark suggested I take the lead. Seeing that Mark was trying to pawn off the work, our supervisor assigned the glossary to Mark exclusively. I was directed to leave Mark to his own devices.

Mark spent his time trying to locate an existing glossary. He asked everyone in the office. He called the parent office. He searched the internet. Multiple times, he was told one did not exist, but he kept asking. Eventually, he mass emailed the whole office asking them for their input. The email was vague and incoherent. Few responded.

I should note that at this point, Mark got a job offer. He told enough people that the whole office knew. But he was on the fence about it, and ended up turning the position down. All from his desk phone.

That Friday, we had a meeting with our supervisor. He asked Mark where he was with the glossary. Mark went off about how he couldn’t find the glossary anywhere. Our supervisor explained once more how one did not exist, hence the assignment. Then, this exchange took place:

S: “Did you reach out to any of the managers? Did you set up individual meetings to interview them like I suggested?”

M: “I sent them an email, but none of them responded.”

S: “Did you follow up with them?”

M: “They’re adults. They should respond to their email. It’s not my responsibility to nag them to get their job done.”

S: “You are responsible for this glossary and getting their responses.”

M: “And if I don’t?”

There it was. Mark stared down our supervisor and dared him to say he would be fired. All for being told that he was responsible for the assignment including interviewing subject matter experts and following up on requests. The meeting ended, just like that. When he got back to his desk, Mark called the job offer that he turned down, but the position was gone. So he called a few of his friends to complain about it.

In the weeks that followed, Mark pawned the glossary off on anyone who offered to help him. What he ended up with was a spreadsheet of no less than 600 terms. Very few of them fit the original assignment. Most of them did not have a definition.

Not long after that, Mark found another position. As his final act, he promised to send me a write up he recently finished. When I got it, it was a forwarded email from another employee saying: “Mark, here’s the write up you asked me to do. Let me know if you have any questions.”

About the Author
Greta Boller is a technical writer located in the Washington, D.C. area. For more information, please visit .

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6 thoughts on “The Worst Coworker Ever – Parts 5 and 6

  1. paul613 February 24, 2016 / 11:20 AM

    There’s a scene in “Two Weeks’ Notice” (2002) where Sandra Bullock shouts at Hugh Grant, “You are the worst person in the world!” and Grant replies, “Don’t be ridiculous: Do you KNOW every person in the world?”

    The joke is funny, of course, because Bullock wasn’t speaking literally; she was using hyperbole; and Grant, like a husband who’s been accused of “never” helping out around the house, responds dead-face literally.

    No offense to Hugh, but Mark may literally be the worst coworker in the world. In Parts 1 through 4, we saw the depths of his incompetence and laziness. In Parts 5 and 6, we see that these traits are just two parts of the total package of clueless sociopathy. I can’t imagine how Mark managed to induce anyone to serve as his references for the new job.

    Your ending was funny and fitting.

    And from now on, when I watch the dysfunctional coworkers of The Office, I’ll remind myself, “It could be worse; at least they’re not Mark.”

    Like

    • gretaboller February 24, 2016 / 11:41 AM

      I have to admit, I struggled when writing this series. There are many more stories about Mark I couldn’t include simply because I was not in the business of writing a novel. I’m happy to hear that the small sampling I shared was enough to tell the story.

      As for his new position, Lord knows how he managed to get it. Apparently, it’s in the cyber security field. Strangely enough, Mark didn’t have any cyber experience coming into this position. And her sure didn’t gain any during his short tenure outlined in this series. The smart money is on a resume writer, but only Mark knows for sure. If karma exists, it’s something that will catch up to him eventually.

      Thanks for your positive feedback, Paul. Here’s hoping you, and everyone else for that matter, never have to deal with a Mark at their jobs.

      Like

  2. Larry Kunz February 24, 2016 / 12:52 PM

    Cyber security. Great. I don’t think I’ll sleep very well tonight.

    My main takeaway from this story echoes my comment on installment 3-4: why didn’t management manage this? It’s terrible that this guy was allowed to be so disruptive and then walk out with his head held high, rather than turning over his ID badge and being escorted from the premises.

    Even when Mark failed to do a simple, straightforward assignment, the manager either lacked the courage or didn’t think he had enough grounds to dismiss him. When Mark asked “and if I don’t?” the very next thing should’ve been the aforementioned escort from the premises.

    Greta, I appreciate your telling us this story. I enjoyed reading it, as you said I would. But it’s almost a case study on how not to manage a problem employee. I’m afraid that your management team has let you down.

    Like

    • gretaboller February 24, 2016 / 1:04 PM

      Thanks, Larry, for sharing your final thoughts. I’m glad you enjoyed the series.

      I agree that fault for this situation can be placed on management as much as Mark. It started with hiring an obviously unqualified employee. It ended with allowing him to get away without consequence.

      After the confrontation, I let my supervisor know that Mark had received a job offer he had turned down. His response? “Too bad, huh?” Whether it was lack of courage or power, his response to the situation was less than effective and, I’ll admit, disappointing.

      Hopefully wherever Mark ended up, he has strong, effective management monitoring him. Maybe somewhere along the line, he’ll find the motivation to learn, grow, and be effective in his position.

      Like

  3. Roger Gelwicks February 24, 2016 / 1:09 PM

    Thanks for sharing these vignettes. How people like Mark manage to stay employed, let alone get job offers, is a mystery to me.

    The overall theme I sense with Mark is that he didn’t want to actually work. It’s laziness, pure and simple, with sociopath tendencies on top of it all (how exactly does one “not believe in” cell phones?).

    I’ve worked with someone before who thought “working” meant “outsourcing all of his work for other people to do for him.” I could go on and on about that guy, and I thought he was the worst co-worker ever. But I gotta say… I think your experience with Mark was way worse. So… congrats?

    Like

    • gretaboller February 24, 2016 / 1:18 PM

      Thanks, Roger. Working with a “Mark” is definitely an experience. Perhaps you want to turn your experience into a series of your own? It’s definitely something I would read. But I digress…

      It’s true, Mark was not a fan of doing any work. I never understood the cell phone thing. He also didn’t believe in paying for internet. His Amazon problems? Apparently, Mark would go to the library to download his music onto a flash drive. Then, move the music from the flash drive to his personal computer at home. After using 10 different devices, Amazon locks the account due to the limitation of music usage rights. Amazon would try to explain that it prevents people from giving away their password and sharing music with the world, and even with buying music, you have limited rights. We heard that argument for 2 weeks. Mark didn’t understand why Amazon was accusing him of being a dishonest person. Why couldn’t they just unlock his account? How was he supposed to know which computers at the library he used? He bought the music, so he should be able to do what he wanted with it! Many of us were face-palming that week.

      Like

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