Dear Evil HR Lady,
There are two of us in equal positions at my office. The excuse our Manager used for not promoting either of us was that there could only be one promotion and therefore it would not be forthcoming this year because if one was promoted the other would make too much fuss.
Since that time this other employee has been determined to undermine me with our boss by finding fault with everything I do, even to point of saying I am not qualified for my job, lied about my number of overtime hours and quoted me as saying I thought he was an idiot. I find my boss is buying everything she says. What can I do at this point to help save my job and bring attention to fact she is deliberately trying to get herself promoted by sabotaging me.
First of all, your boss is a full fledged weenie manager. I realise that’s not a technical term and you won’t find it in any business book, but that’s what he is. A weenie. I’m going to tell you a secret here, you didn’t get promoted last year because your boss didn’t want to promote you. You wouldn’t have gotten promoted even if you had no coworker.
And your coworker wouldn’t have gotten promoted last year even if you hadn’t been around.
Your boss is trying to blame outside forces beyond his control (i.e. you two couldn’t handle unequal positions) instead of owning his decision to not promote either one of you. Now, it is also true that the reason is that at least your coworker is immature and couldn’t handle it, but if it is only a problem with your coworker then your manager should have promoted you anyway and managed the coworker.
Managing is difficult to do, so frequently people with manager titles avoid managing like the plague.
Now, what do you do?
- Act, don’t react. Don’t sit around and wait for your coworker to set the agenda. Right now you’re reacting to what she does, instead of taking control of what you do.
- Speak to your boss directly. Ask him what you need to do to be promoted. Then shut up and listen to what he has to say. If he starts in with the “I can’t promote you both” stuff, say, “I understand that. I want to know what skills I need to improve and what projects I need to take on in order to be qualified to move to the next step.
- Meet with your boss regularly. This is important to build your relationship and stop rumours before they start. Just a 15 minute check up every other week can let your boss know what you are doing and thinking.
- Confront your coworker. I don’t mean in a screaming session worthy of the latest reality show. I mean, speak to her directly and say, “I know that you are saying things about me that are not true. Do not do this any more. I do not falsify time cards. I am capable of doing my job. I document things correctly and I will document and report any attempts you make to slander me.” This will be met with denial or accusations that you are incompetent and do falsify records. This is of no concern to you. What you are doing here is shifting the paradigm. Right now she does this because she thinks she can get away with it. You’ve now made it clear that you are aware and that she will not get away with it.
- Remain positive. After you’ve spoken with your coworker regarding her lousy behaviour, you can close by saying, “It’s important that we work well together in order to accomplish our goals. I’d like to have a good relationship with you.” Then remain positive. Don’t whine and complain. Don’t talk behind her back.
- Document, document, document. Document your work. Document her lies. When in doubt, write it down.
- Defend yourself without being defensive. This is harder than you might think. When your coworker goes to your boss claiming you are the cause of some problem, don’t let it go, but don’t complain about it either. Just ask him in your regular conversations if there are any problems he’d like you to address. Let him bring up the problems. Then you have your documentation on what you have been doing to show that this perception is false. If you’re in a meeting and your coworker says something untrue, just respond with, “Actually, that’s not true. I did do X, Y, and Z. Coworker did Q.”
- Expect that your boss is not an idiot. This may or may not be true. He isn’t the best manager, but he’s probably not all that dumb. Bosses can usually tell when one employee is trying to undermine another. So, even though you’re carefully making sure you’re not letting your coworker get away with slander, you can also act as if your boss understands the truth. This is necessary because otherwise you’ll just frustrate yourself.
Now, in an extra negative note, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if neither one of you end up with a promotion at the end of this year. But because you’re going to be working on developing your relationship with your boss, you’ll know what he values and you’ll be in a much stronger position than you were last time around.
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