Career Tips for Office Politics: Dealing with an Undermining, Backstabbing Colleague Last week I was interviewed along with Ingrid Goldbloom Bloch for an article on Dice.com, sharing career tips for dealing with backstabbing colleagues.
(For the full article, see Confronting a Co-Worker Who Undermines You, November 14, 2014.)
You know the person I mean…
-the one who takes credit for your ideas
-the one who says “Yes, Yes, Yes” but never delivers on time and you think there’s something going on
-the one who works for another boss and there’s a “fight” between your groups, so they don’t help you
-the one in the boss’s office throwing you under the bus
Yup. That one. We’ve all dealt with someone like that in our offices; hopefully the behavior hasn’t been directed at you, but if it has, here are some ideas:
1. For the credit-stealer: Make sure that people know what you’re working on. Copy people on email; make large lists of ideas and projects and hang a list in your work space so people see it daily; create regular reports for your boss on what you’ve been doing.
2. For the tardy torpedo-er: Casually mention to your boss that you’ve asked X for something (say this without blame and early on when you’ve first requested it); make sure you visit that person face to face if possible and don’t always rely on email to get necessary work done; ask your boss to intervene with the other person’s boss if you don’t report to the same person.
3. For the other boss’s minion: It’s really a fight between the bosses, and not you and the other employee. Try to foster friendship with that other employee, so that they will help where they can. Let your boss put the boxing gloves on, if need be.
4. For the backstabber talking about you in the boss’s office: This one’s complicated. Sometimes, the boss likes to create and be in the middle of drama. (Time to leave.) Sometimes, the boss isn’t on your side, either. (Time to leave.) Sometimes, there’s an actual problem that can be sorted out, but the other person didn’t feel comfortable bringing it up to you. (Do some self-reflection or ask for feedback about your approachability.) Stay close to your boss; that’s the person you need to impress. Make sure you know that the boss has your back, and if not, either take steps to mend that relationship, or start looking for a new boss.
Confronting it Yourself
Of course, it’s always an option to speak directly with the colleague.
I recommend following this script for most difficult conversations:
“I noticed that (insert factual description of behavior and NOT a label, an inflammatory statement or name-calling); is anything up?”
Ex: “I noticed that I hadn’t been invited to that meeting; is anything up?” (NOT “I noticed that you’re going around me again, what’s up?”)
It’s important to pay attention to whether the behavior is a one-time occurrence or a pattern. For a one-time or two-time occurrence, it makes sense to bring it up with your colleague directly. It’s typically when you see a pattern emerge that it may be time to escalate the issue and bring it up to your boss instead of the other person.