My work colleague, who I manage, keeps taking things that I say out of context to use against me. What should I do?
I’m no mathematician but I reckon that if we work five days out of seven, we spend about 70% of our lives getting ready for work, commuting to work, and actually at work. It stands to reason, then, that it is important for our work lives to be peaceful, given that they take up so much of our time. Surely most people would agree that work is more pleasant when we have friendly, supportive colleagues alongside tasks which motivate and challenge us. At the very least, there should be somebody who will bring you a cup of tea in a crisis. However – sadly – this is often not the case.
When you come to work with good intentions, you assume that others are doing the same. If this colleague does appear to be building a case against you, it would seem that they are not doing so in the spirit of peace and harmony. This must be so frustrating, especially if you have been working hard to appease them. You should know that, although it may not feel like it, this is almost certainly nothing to do with you personally. When we feel extra threatened by or envious of someone, it is usually because we recognise something in them which we feel we are lacking in ourselves. Your colleague acting against you is probably a testament to how much they subconsciously admire you – but obviously that doesn’t make it okay.
Your situation is made more complicated by the fact that you manage this tricky colleague. There are power dynamics at play here which may be contributing to this colleague’s ill will. However, rest assured that you are a professional, not a power-hungry tyrant. Managing people is always difficult. Make sure that you catalogue the ways that your leadership makes a positive difference in your workplace. You may be managing a whole team who are grateful for your direction. Try not to focus too much on this one person. Remember, you’ll never please everybody (and why should you?).
If this colleague is set on making work a warzone, there are things that you can do to protect yourself. Try not to meet with them alone. Find a trusted ally or neutral person who can be in the room with you to verify what’s said. If this isn’t possible, recording your meetings is not an extreme step. If your colleague treats you badly, note it somewhere and report it to your superiors and HR. You’re not rocking the boat or making a fuss. Every workplace should have procedures in place to address conflict. It’s more than fine to make use of them.
Conflict with colleagues can feel deflating and, if it continues to spiral, it can take away the joy of coming to work. Don’t let it. Stay positive and look for your allies. You are too busy doing brilliantly at your job to be drawn into this kind of drama. As a manager, it is fine if not everyone likes you. You might not like everyone, after all. However, you should be treated with respect by those around you. That is the least you deserve. I wish you luck on the journey ahead.
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