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Overcoming workplace saboteurs

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in Your Office Coach

Question: “My manager asked me to take over a very difficult position for which I had no background or training. He has been pleased with my progress. However, a group of guys from another department seem determined to make me fail. They ignore my requests, withhold information and argue about everything. My male predecessor left because of their behavior, so my being a woman is not the only problem. I tried making peace by offering to help with their work, but that only made things worse. Apparently, they viewed my olive branch as a sign of surrender. Recently, my boss and their manager decided that all communication between us must go through the two of them. This worries me, because it looks like I can’t handle the situation. Any suggestions?” — Not One of the Guys

Marie’s Answer: When they ran off your predecessor, these grouchy guys learned that sabotage can work. That’s why they’re trying it again. Here are some points to consider:

•    The managers’ decision to get involved is probably no reflection on your performance. If they are aware of your colleagues’ difficult history, they may simply be controlling communication to short-circuit their guerrilla tactics.

•    Ongoing management support will help, so try to strengthen your relationship with your adversaries’ manager. When faced with tenacious opponents, the best ammunition is a strong connection to their boss.

•    Since guys in macho mode often view collaborative overtures as weakness, you may need to toughen up your communication style. You’ll get the best results by being straightforward, direct and persistent.

Once management has made it clear that cooperation is mandatory, you should be able to gradually resume normal communications. For more Office Coach suggestions on workplace battles, see How to Handle Enemies & Adversaries.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

wedding dress buy January 8, 2011 at 3:49 am

Best wishes!Your article is very good!
It is so nice.


Mohan M Prasad September 21, 2009 at 12:23 pm

At the outset , I would like you to examine your statement “……..for which I have no background or training”.

This could be the genesis of the peer envy. Perhaps they view the assignment as a favor done out of turn by your manager. Any Initiative in the current circumstances to effect compromise can only compound the issue.

In case you have decided to take it on within the system, you may like to have a dialogue with your manager and get him to send you for training and make you more acceptable or you may suggest an alternative assignment which is commensurate to your background and you have the necessary competence and background to handle it comprehensively.

This way, may be you can gain acceptance from the peers from the other department and once you have gained their confidence you may have a go at the current assignment at a later date when situation is more conducive.

This is typically a wait and watch strategy without incurring the displeasure of the vitiated environment.

I agree with you; arbitration as proposed by your boss and the other manager can only aggravate the animosity. Rather it can become counterproductive in the long run.

Of course, the easy way out is ‘finding the way out”

I would vote for continuing and developing the coping mechanism. It will help you in your future.


Terri August 6, 2009 at 8:37 am

I have the same situation in my office and for my peace of mind I have just included my director in every email that is sent to this particular individual and it seems to keep things running more smoothly for them and for me. My director has not opposed me doing this and as a matter of fact it keeps him informed on what is taking place outside of his office. I wouldn’t take it personally if both managers have decided to be included in communication between you and the other dept – it may be their way to find out what is taking place and come up with a resolution or they may simply want to keep things documented for a future purpose. Keep your chin up and remain cordial in a hostile environment. It is hard but at the end of the day you know you did your job and you maintained your composure.


JackieJ August 5, 2009 at 3:55 pm

Make all your request or follow up in writing (email). This way you will have a paper trail of how many times you had to ask for the same thing.
It may also cause them to respond in writing inappropriately and then you got em!


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