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Work around the office manipulator

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Question: “I’m not sure whether to trust one of my co-workers. 'Amy' is helpful and considerate to me. She provides useful information and makes friendly, encouraging comments. She seems like a good team player. However, some co-workers say Amy stabs people in the back because she wants to climb the corporate ladder. According to them, she shows off her knowledge, points out others’ mistakes and makes a big deal of her workload. Amy clearly has the trust and confidence of management, so apparently her other side is seen only by her peers. If Amy really is a skillful manipulator, how do I avoid being hurt by her tactics, especially when management thinks so highly of her?”
— Cautious Co-worker

Marie’s Answer:
Your co-workers may be correct about Amy’s motives or they may simply be jealous. To balance friendliness with caution, consider the following suggestions:

  • Continue to respond in kind to Amy, since you have personally found her to be pleasant and helpful. Maintaining a good relationship with her is important, especially since she has a lot of influence.
  • Nevertheless, given your co-workers’ warnings, avoid talking too freely with Amy. Don’t share any information that could come back to haunt you.
  • Get to know the managers yourself, to guard against backstabbing. If they have a firsthand opinion of you, they will rely less on what they hear from others.

If your own career goals include a desire to be promoted, see what you can learn from Amy’s success. To move up, you will need to impress senior management, and Amy seems to have cracked that code. To assess your own leverage at work, see "How Much Political Power Do You Have?"

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