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When a peer tries to make you look bad

by on
in Office Politics,Workplace Communication

Jane had worked with her admin team on a report the field sales team needed for its sales efforts. The report would be a “starting point,” since the field team hadn’t kept the customer account database updated. Her hope was that the sales team would gradually provide feedback, so she could update the database.

But one field manager, Tom, didn’t like all the inaccuracies.

He came to Jane to vent his frustration. When he was finished, Jane explained that she had no way of knowing the up-to-date information, but she planned to support sales by updating the database, once the field team provided the missing information.

Flash forward to a few days later. On a team conference call, Jane once again reviewed the plan. Managers praised the plan, and everyone pledged to work together.

But not Tom. He vented to everyone on the call, bashing Jane and her admin team for putting out such a flawed report.

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Jane kept her cool. Most people on the call felt frustrated by Tom’s outburst, but were impressed with Jane’s professionalism.

What would you have done next? Here’s what Jane did—and what you should do, if a colleague tries to sabotage you in front of the group:

√ Don’t approach someone for a discussion until you can think rationally. After the conference call ended, Jane took a few deep breaths and shook off her anger before going down the hall to find Tom.

√ Immediately address issues. Don’t wait and hope they eventually just go away. Jane calmly and unemotionally let Tom know that his outburst had not only caused a very positive conference call to turn negative, but that it made it appear that he was trying to make her look bad. She asked whether that was the intent of his comments.

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√ Stand up for yourself in a professional manner. Jane’s direct approach surprised Tom, but what could he say? He tried poorly to explain his actions.

By being professional, Jane got what she wanted: agreement from Tom that he wouldn’t behave that way again.

√ Wrap up on a positive note. Jane committed to working together as a team, saying she looked forward to continuing to work with Tom and that she hoped they could both put this incident behind them for good.

√ Report back to your boss. In a one-on-one discussion with her boss, Jane described how she had handled the situation with Tom. The boss ­commended her professionalism and thank­ed her for proactively dealing with the uncomfortable situation.

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— Adapted from “Co-worker Sabotage! How One Savvy Professional Turned a Dirty Trick Around,” Lisa Quast, Forbes.

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