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SevenofNine  
#1 Posted : Sunday, February 08, 2009 4:42:33 AM(UTC)
SevenofNine

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For all of you that work in the federal government and/or as a contractor I have a situation that I need some advice:

What are the rights of the government contractor? I am currently working on a contract where the COTR is just about the most abusive, cruel, nasty, out of control person I have ever known in my life. In my time as a contractor, she has screamed at me, insulted me, treated me like I was less than invisible and not worthy of her breathe, let alone communication. I have asked her questions, and she has written the lead on the contract and ignored me completely.

This woman is notorious. I have had federal workers tell me confidentially that this women is a problem. In fact, when I was hired by my company they did warn me about her, but someone explain a "difficult client" and actually seeing that difficult translates into "abuse" and "hostile work environment" is quite another thing. She's a branch chief, and everyone under her HATES her. I personally think the woman is bipolar because on one instance she is nice and sweet as pie, and then on another instance she is absolutely insanely rude, cruel and nasty. There's no way you will know which one of these people you will meet.

What makes it worse is that I believe there's not much my company will do except try to transfer me somewhere else, which is in the process. But for everyone that works on this contract and with her, life is a complete nightmare. There's not much my company will say because the bottom line is they don't want to lose the contract because that's their bread and butter and their money. The thing is she knows it, so she's abusive, nasty, screams, says things that in any other work enviroment would be grounds for firing, but in our case we have to take it.

Do contractor's have any rights? And if so, what are they? I haven't been in this situation before, so I am curious about it.
maxketter  
#2 Posted : Sunday, February 08, 2009 9:10:16 AM(UTC)
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She is typical of a lot of supervisors in the gov't. Remember she was promoted based on her attendance not on her performance so you'll encounter a lot of these in your travels.
Just turn the other cheek since your company won't be supportive of a EEO complaint
sonicschnooze  
#3 Posted : Sunday, February 08, 2009 9:27:39 AM(UTC)
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I agree. You're unlikely to get anywhere with this one. Even if you appealed to the Contracting Officer who appointed your COTR all you would be doing is stepping on toes and unfortunately you'd just insure more of the less likable parts of her personality.
nodog  
#4 Posted : Sunday, February 08, 2009 9:35:10 AM(UTC)
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First let's take a look at this. She is a COTR. That tells me she is highly trained and likely level headed. I've seen many cases of contractors throwing a hissy fit because the COTR doesn't go along with what they want. Contractors are always trying to get more, rather it's more growth work, more jobs for their companies, more work and many want to be paid multiple times for jobs they are already paid to do. I can see where a COTR would get fed up with contractors. Fortunately there are COTR's like her that is looking out for the government (IE the taxpayer) and not in it to be liked or to set themselves up for a job when they leave government service.
Now let's take a look at this:
quote:
She is typical of a lot of supervisors in the govt. Remember she was promoted based on her attendance not on her performance so you'll encounter a lot of these in your travels.
Just turn the other cheek since your company won't be supportive of a EEO complaint

Consider the source of this statement and know that some people could not qualify to get into government service and hold a grudge about it ever since. It's a shame that they have no CS experience or knowledge, yet they hang out on a board meant for Federal Workers.
FutureITguy  
#5 Posted : Sunday, February 08, 2009 9:37:22 AM(UTC)
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Interesting issue. I don't know the answer, but I would think that your employer is ultimately responsible for your work environment and what happens in it, even if it's a customer site. So, if I were in your shoes, I would make a complaint through my company's regular procedure, exactly as if your own boss or co-worker was the perpetrator. It would be up to your company to investigate the complaint and correct the situation. How they do that is their problem - they could take you off that contract, or go to the COTR's boss and ask that she be dealt with.
maxketter  
#6 Posted : Sunday, February 08, 2009 9:44:52 AM(UTC)
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Dear Dog read the posting rules, your the typical CS a GED education trying to appear better than you are
treblig  
#7 Posted : Sunday, February 08, 2009 9:50:34 AM(UTC)
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Those who can not distinguish between "your" and "you're" are in no position to attack someone else's education level!!Gil in Tex
SevenofNine  
#8 Posted : Sunday, February 08, 2009 10:40:34 AM(UTC)
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Nodog, I want to specifically address your statements. This much I do know because other federeal employees, these are people that work under her have told me the same exact thing, they are miserable. Her behavior is abusive and out of line. A federal employee has already told me that she had to go to the Union about her. People in HR have told me she is notorious for her out of control behavior. It's not that she is so educated and looking out for the taxpayer's money, it's not that I, as a contractor or any other contractor is asking for this or that. We go above and beyond to keep this lady happy, her behavior, as I mentioned is more of a mental illness, then checks and balances.

My understanding is that she was just promoted to Branch Chief a little over a year ago. The man that promoted her, who was a Director, left. Why did he leave? Constant abuse from this woman. Several complaints have been filed, a lot of people know about her, her fits of rage, her irrational over the top responses to situations. Her staff avoids interacting with her as much as possible. Whenever she is away from work, they actually smile, laugh, and I have seen a few hug each other. The reason we talk so candidly is because even though one is a contractor and the other is the federal employee, we suffer together.

So, to answer the question, there isn't much a contractor can do in a situation like this? I was just curious. Thank you.
treblig  
#9 Posted : Sunday, February 08, 2009 9:15:26 PM(UTC)
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Short of having your boss or company president approach the ACO (Administrative Contracting Officer), there is little you can do. Although contract representatives are trained to be polite and professional at all times with contractors. Contract representatives should go to any lengths to be civil and even-handed. Any e-mails or "witnessed" outbursed may help. If this person is doing as you say she should NOT be monitoring contracts because it goes against FAR (Federal Aquisition Regulation) requirements/regulations.
Any COTAR, ACO, PCO or contract representative can tell you the FAR requirements when it comes to interactions with contractors...it's no secret. You'll find the FAR online. Gil in Tex
Katydid_MD  
#10 Posted : Sunday, February 08, 2009 9:37:25 PM(UTC)
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When I had COTR training, there was almost zero content about effective management and professional interpersonal relationships. It seemed to me that 95% of the course was about avoiding conflict of interest or even appearance of conflict of interest: no being friends with contractors, no going out to lunch with contractors, no accepting gifts worth more than a total of $25.00 per year (a mug, a Christmas card, and a tiny bag of valentine candy).

We were even warned against borrowing tools from neighbors, if they just happened to be government contractors! It made me worry for a while, since I'm actually MARRIED to a government contractor. (Luckily not in my agency, so it seems that was OK.)

That said, I have had one boss and one co-worker who could be the out-of-control person in question. Everyone knew about the problem, but nobody did anything. When the person was my boss, there seemed no alternative but to get a new job, which I did. When it was the co-worker, I did my best to stay professional and minimize interactions with that person, but it added an unpleasant element of stress to the job. I eventually moved on from that position, too.

Sorry I don't have a better answer. It's sad that the government can't be more effective at getting rid of these "bad apples."
treblig  
#11 Posted : Sunday, February 08, 2009 10:34:06 PM(UTC)
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You're right Katydid, the purpose of the training is to make government officials understand that they are not to show any FAVOR/DISFAVOR toward the contractor!! Well, anyone can see that by demeaning, insulting or berating...you are in essense "SHOWING DISFAVOR", you are in fact showing dissatisfaction or dislike toward the contractor. In other words you're creating a hostile work invironment which is the same as "Disfavor".
I was a contract representative (at many levels), we were always told to treat the contractor(s) with respect and professionalism. If we had a problem with an "individual" you never confronted that individual, you simply discussed the problem with the individual's supervisor or site manager (no need to get ugly). If an individual (contractor) has a problem with a government employee, the contractor is obligated to use the same chain of command. No contractor should be subjected to any kind of abuse from any government worker because the contractors DO NOT WORK for any government worker!!! The contractor works for the government (Uncle Sam). The contract is signed by the contractor with the "government" NOT with an individual.
Although one COTAR course may or may not make this explicite, it is the way business is normally carried on. Government personnel respect the contractor and the contractor respects the government personnel. There are things that can be done BUT one always needs to weigh the possible outcomes.
Document!!! Do not aggravate the problem. Keep witnesses nearby at all times. The IG is always available also.
If the offending CS says or does anything unprofessional the contractor should immediately either call their supervisor OR ask the CS to take-up the problem with their (contractor's) supervisor.Gil in Tex
treblig  
#12 Posted : Sunday, February 08, 2009 10:51:07 PM(UTC)
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"Do contractor's have any rights? And if so, what are they? I haven't been in this situation before, so I am curious about it."


Yes contractors do have rights!! You have the right to work without being harassed or attacked by any government worker. You have the right to report any unprofessional or abusive behavior. You have the right to have your supervisor at your side anytime a CS (COTAR) employee chooses to discuss any perceived problem with you. You have the right to ask your supervisor to "not allow" the COTAR to approach you when you are at work unless their is an official reason for the visit..in which case your supervisor can be present. Your supervisor has the right to lodge an official complaint against the COTAR...although I would suggest using less combative methods to bring-up the subject. You have the right to ask the COTAR for references as to why he/she might be asking you to do certain things. Do you have the right to record conversations (like I did)...well, as long as no one knows???? Radio Shack sells a very small digital recorder that is very easy to hide....But I would never suggest such a thing!!!!!
Gil in Tex
SevenofNine  
#13 Posted : Sunday, February 08, 2009 10:58:58 PM(UTC)
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Well she has sent me nasty, very harshly worded emails that were horrible, just horrible. There have been contractors that have worked with her for a short time and quit because they just couldn't take her temperament and her outbursts.

What I don't understand is how someone who is so out of control behaviorally speaking and obviously abusive and most certainly does create a hostile work enviroment, has a job? It almost seems like government workers are untouchable.

And sure, as a contractor I could complain, but after the aggravation, the almost certain loss of my job if there is not another contract for me to transfer, and the burden of proof on me, the accuser - almost disportionatly, it seems very unfair. The fact that so many people are aware of how horrible she behaves as a boss, should be reason enough to at least evaluate it.

As far as her former boss, my understanding is that he had a meek personality. She barked at him, talked to him in such a nasty way, but he acquiesced, he didn't have the fortitude to respond to her, and she could be a good worker. And most people with an abusive personality disorder have good qualities, but when he promoted her, she became uncontrollable and he left. Now, imagine that a contractor like myself can have federal employees (over 4) tell me this confidentially because of the horrible work environment? I just think somewhere she has to know what she is doing.

This is more of a vent at this point. I am praying my SF-86 paperwork is accepted soon and I can transfer out of here. I just feel really terrible for all the federal employees and contractors that have to put up with this monster. Is there nothing that can be done? It seems like it.
Katydid_MD  
#14 Posted : Monday, February 09, 2009 12:33:10 AM(UTC)
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If she treats EVERYBODY badly, then I guess you can't say it is showing any favoritism/disfavoritism. I don't know why these types of people are tolerated. There are ways to get rid of people in the government, but the supervisors have to do the dirty work, and many are not up to it. There is a lot of pressure in government to move up, even if one is not suited for management, and too many people take the lure of higher pay, but aren't willing to do the hard parts of the job to really earn it.

I know how stressful it is, but try to roll with it. Keep your supervisor informed of the situation, but keep in mind that SOMEBODY has to deal with this COTR unless and until she is replaced. Keep your end of the communication professional. When you get an abusive email that doesn't address your question, you can reply (and cc your boss, if appropriate): "Thanks for the feedback. I know you are very busy (or whatever the abuse was about), but I still need the current balance on the XXX task (or whatever info you're trying to get from the person) at your earliest convenience."

The worst thing that can happen is that you'll begin to be known as one cool customer, and they'll put you in charge of dealing with all the temperamental prima donnas.

Best of luck in dealing with a bad situation.
mudpie  
#15 Posted : Monday, February 09, 2009 2:06:28 AM(UTC)
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There are several avenues.

1. File a complaint with your company for a hostile work environment.
2. File a complaint with the govt. contracting officer- double edged sword.
3. File an anonymous EEO complaint.
4. Better yet, have a group of people file a joint complaint.
maxketter  
#16 Posted : Monday, February 09, 2009 7:56:50 AM(UTC)
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As too big says watch the "inveroment"
bmj  
#17 Posted : Monday, February 09, 2009 10:45:00 AM(UTC)
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I'm not fully following everything here. You've stated you are a contractor, yet state that you & other contractors work for her. As a contractor you don't work for a COTR. The COTR does not have authority to direct the work of individuals contractor employees, nor the contractor company for that matter. She is the Contracting Officer's Representative and does not have the legal authority of a contracting officer. She only has the limited set of authority to do the tasks delegated by the contracting officer.

The second part I don't follow is the assumption you can't do anything about it. Having been a COTR for 25 years, we are all well aware of just how much power the contractor actually has. Just a single complaint, valid or not would have us in front of the contracting officer and commander in a flash. Neither one wants a problem with the contractor and would quickly dump any COTR that made waves.
SevenofNine  
#18 Posted : Monday, February 09, 2009 10:58:09 PM(UTC)
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How do I find out who the contractor's officer is for my contract? She acts as if she is the owner of the contract. Thanks so much for this information. I really don't know a lot about these types of things, but all your information helps tremendously.
Rocky Run  
#19 Posted : Monday, February 09, 2009 11:23:18 PM(UTC)
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Do you have a copy of the contract? It should say on the contract who the CO is.
Nuclear-Angel  
#20 Posted : Monday, February 09, 2009 11:43:07 PM(UTC)
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Certain notes:
1. Your contract should have a Team Lead or Project Mgr which, as your direct supervisor, he is the one who will have to address your complaint.
2. As previously said, you do not work for the COR, you work for that Team Lead / Pjt Mgr. The COR will direct the required task to him, and he will then direct to you what you need to do. A COR that is not aware of the required contractual relationship, is not properly trained.
3. Your Project Mgr / Team lead will know who the contracting officer is but, he will need to address this issue through his (company) contracting folks (in writing), so they can forward to the Contracting Officer for action.
4. Do not file a EEO complain (there is no privity or relationship between you and the fed agency), unless the complaint is internal to YOUR company.
5. Do not engage in trying to comfront the COR alongside other feds (as recommendation number 4 earlier says), the COR and the Contracting Officer may perceive a "conflict of interest" that can get you removed or fired for conduct detrimental to the contract.

Just a few lines for you to digress... The government contractual relationship is complicated and sometimes makes contractors feel they are right there along with the feds when they are working at "arms length".
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