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How To Deal With A Coworker Who Is Trying To Get You Fired

Sabotage makes a hard job harder. You start noticing one cubicle clique goes silent when you pass by. After working 12-hour days on a project, someone else gets the credit. Now the boss wants to speak with you. Someone has anonymously complained about your performance. All you want to do is quit –– or at least burn through your mental health and vaycay days. 

 

Before it gets that drastic, take control. If you’re unsure about exactly how to deal with a coworker who is trying to get you fired, here are some important steps.

Confirm Your Suspicions

 

Just because someone is undermining you at work, it doesn’t mean they’re trying to get you sacked. If you’re in a competitive field (and these days even strawberry fields are competitive), your sabotaging colleague could just be looking out for number one. Similarly, plenty of people casually spread ruinous gossip without worrying about the consequences. So if you’re suddenly the focus of rumors, it doesn’t mean someone is trying to get you fired. Yes, that needs to be addressed but it’s not the same issue. The workplace is filled with what author M. Reese Everson, Esq calls “Hamans,” someone who “presents themselves as someone who is more powerful than they actually are and seeks out more homage, praise or credit, than they are actually due. A Haman is nothing more than a Hateful, Arrogant, Maniacal, Narcissist advisor to someone in power. Hip-Hop culture refers to these individuals as ‘haters.’”

 

When you’re worried that someone is trying to get you fired, their actions and your instincts matter more than words. Gift of gabbers who casually tell you what a great job you’re doing should be scrutinized. Our worst enemies are those who praise us to our face while stabbing us in the back. Pay attention to what they do, not what they say. If they are always nearby when your boss is discussing the quality of your work, it’s a red flag. If you’ve heard they got someone else canned, this is cause for concern. 

 

Trust your instincts. We often dismiss our feelings but if someone makes you feel uncomfortable or seems untrustworthy, pay attention. Instincts are a big reason why human beings are so successful. As organizational psychotherapist Joan Kingsley explains, “You might wonder if you’re imagining things and being paranoid. Well, maybe you are, but under no circumstances should you ignore your feelings. They are often the very first sign of trouble.”

Document Everything

 

If you think a coworker is trying to get you fired, limit your conversations with them.  Document everything. When dealing with issues on a project, send emails or texts. If you have positive performance reviews, print them out. The situation may not be dire, but if you’re worried about your job you need to build a case for yourself. Documentation can do more than verify your value to your current employer. It will also show your worth to the next one.

 

To Speak or Not to Speak

 

When it comes to advice about how to deal with a coworker who is trying to get you fired, there’s plenty of disagreement on the issue of whether or not to confront them. Certainly you shouldn’t make false accusations (which can actually get you terminated). Some recommend speaking to the co-worker if you have sufficient evidence. The problem is, few of us are adept at judging our own character. If there’s the slightest chance the confrontation will devolve into a screaming match, stay silent. You won’t be doing yourself or your career any favors if you have a fight at the office. 

 

Instead, you may want to bring your concerns to your boss. Taking them to HR might hurt more than help. You should speak to them if the coworker is trying to get you fired because of race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other non-performance factors. However, HR exists to protect your employer. If the backstabbing coworker outperforms you, guess who will lose their job?

 

Prepare for Your Exit

 

The cliche applies: hope for the best, prepare for the worst. So update your resume. Polish your page on LinkedIn and other career sites. Network. Companies are concerned about lawsuits, so they may not have a lot to say even if you do get fired. Still, you don’t want to be caught flat-footed. Above all, if you do get fired, behave as the professional you know you are.

 

Moving On

 

Going forward, practice modesty at work. Envy often drives coworkers to do bad things. Don’t give them a reason to be jealous. Don’t brag about your new car, your recent vacation, and certainly not your salary. If you are in line for a promotion, keep it to yourself. Above all, be parsimonious with your trust. While work friends can be amazing, go slow. Don’t put yourself in the position of telling your secrets to someone who will use your truth against you.

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