The games people play

2008

I'm not sure how to categorise what I am experiencing. I have been with my current company for almost two years. The company hired me for a new position that was not even open yet but offered me a temporary job in an entry level area to begin ( if I wanted) until the new job was ready. I took the entry level just to get my feet wet and acclimated again to the industry.

I was there for six months - got my promotion - and then started the new job. From day one I have met with constant opposition from supervisors and co-workers. Apparently the news of me getting the new position over the old-timers was spread around.

There is one young lady in particular who at every opportunity has tried to get me fired and now this young lady is in my new department and my boss is giving her my old work and some new work that I actually wanted to do.

I was also given a new client and have handled the new business with flying colours but this young lady still harbours resentment and just recently when I was home on a Monday caring for my son who was sick she decided to call me on my cell phone to see why I was not at work. (I had already left my boss a message).

But before she called me she went over to my husband's department to see if he was at work that day. My husband and I work for the same company. Once she saw that he was not in she went to my husband's supervisor and asked where I was. When my husband finally arrived at work at 11:30 am ( his scheduled time) he was told that a blond girl was looking for me in his department. He went over to my department and found out it was who he suspected and asked her what she needed. She said she was just worried about me. But the real reason was to see if my husband and I were playing hooky from work.

This was the icing on the cake due to the fact that this is not the only time she has tried to make my husband and I look bad in our manager's eyes. I am not sure what to do and I cannot stand to be around this person due to trust issues. Do I have any legal recourse?

To make matters worse, my boss is always protecting her and defending her when she makes mistakes or is gone for two hours at lunch getting her nails done or takes a four day weekend with no prior authorisation. I have kept quiet. It just seems that I am always being pulled into her web of games because she is trying to take the heat off of herself.

I am desperate for advice. There has to be some way for me to be able to keep my job and my sanity while having to work closely with this person.

Mary, Vancouver

Charles Helliwell's Answer:

OKÖwe've all had to deal with jealousy at work, and this one is no exception. However, it also sounds as if you have a double challenge in this instance in dealing with your Boss as well.

Your first task must be to extricate yourself from being on the defensive all the time. You are sounding like someone who is constantly having to justify your actions. Stop doing that. You have nothing to justify. You are in your position on merit and by right, so keep those thoughts at the front of your mind at all times.

Justification is always seen as the act of a defensive individual and consequently implies a negative and insecure person. There is a fine line between justification and validation. Validation of the decisions and choices you make, suggests confidence and self-assurance. Whether you feel it or not, you must exude confidence and self-assurance as a manager or supervisor. People are very quick to read and react to the signals of someone who isn't.

You are being undermined purposely by someone who wants you to fail. That is going to make you hyper-sensitive to any decisions you make or actions you take and this is going to make you start to question yourself in front of your colleagues. This is something you must not do. You must be decisive and self-assured at all times. Sometimes you'll make good choices; other times you'll make poor ones. Stand by those decisions and stand by your judgement, which will be sound.

Others less capable and less committed than you will always find fault with them. No matter whether you're the CEO or on the first step of supervision, that will always be so. Accept that and move on.

Now to your 'poisonous parasite'. Take her off-site and tell her directly that her behaviour is totally unacceptable and disappointing to you. Tell her that if she harbours ambitions to grow and develop and learn from you, then she is going about it the wrong way. Tell her that you expect her to be positive and supportive of you and the team, and that her actions are clearly not indicative of this. Tell her that you will be monitoring her behaviour and her commitment over the next six months and that you expect to see significant progress. Tell her that unless you see that progress, you will be taking actions to rectify this (you don't need to tell her what those will be. Let her stew over them); however, you would rather see her take a more positive and productive role.

Next, you have a conversation with your Boss and put him/her straight on the conversation you just had with the poisonous parasite. You tell your Boss that he/she put you in this supervisory position and that they are letting you down by not backing you more rigorously. Tell your Boss you are supervising the poisonous parasite and not them.

Consequently, you will expect your Boss to tell this person that they are to deal with you and not them. On the other hand, tell him/her that if they'd like to take on this person directly and manage them themselves, then they are more than welcome to her.

Your Boss sounds weak and lily-livered. (S)he won't want to take the risk of having this person report directly to them, because they will know how troublesome she is. And lastly, you must go and have a conversation with HR about the poisonous parasite and put it on the record, because at some point, you may have to start the process of exiting the individual.

In the meantime, stand tall; keep faith in yourself and your judgement and rally your department around you and your approach to the business and not her poisonous shenanigans.

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About our Expert

Charles Helliwell
Charles Helliwell

For almost 20 years, Charles Helliwell has been enjoying a lifestyle and making a living as a behavioural and relationship mentor specialising in the personal and professional development of individuals and teams in the workplace.

Older Comments

There may be a reason why the author has suggested the given order for the 'actions to take'. I personally would speak to HR first, then speak to my boss, then finally speak to the problem team member. This ensures I have support from the right people before I speak to the next, and gives me the opportunity to set the frame for the situation with each person I speak to - without one of the problem individuals getting the chance to get their word in first. If you speak to the problem team member and they go straight to the boss before you've had a chance to talk to her, it could just end up being more of a mess.

But, as I say, perhaps the author is aware of a greater risk of approaching things that way.

Victoria

Victoria

Very many thanks for your valuable perspective. Yes, the choice is there to take, what I would call the safe option, by consulting with HR and the Boss first. In my judgement, HR are at their most effective when dealing with process and procedure and not necessarily with day-to-day management issues, as they mostly just don't have the experience in doing so. As for the Boss; we've already established that he/she is hardly a figure to seek advice and guidance from, so I wouldn't go there. No, in this instance, I would urge Mary to back herself and her own judgement; deal with this individual and validate her actions afterwards. After all, if there's one thing you can count on, it's that this individual WILL go running to the Boss and perhaps even HR, and whatever Mary will have said or done will be presented as significantly different by this individual. Consequently, it's far better that Mary deal with it first in her own style and manner and have a written record what she said and what she required from this person; something fundamental to this approach, which I omitted to add to my original advice, for which I humbly apologise.

Charles Helliwell London