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Jealousy, Backstabbing, Competition…How to react when a colleague is trying to hurt you?
- Posted by: Bianca Braga
- Category: HR
What it’s all about?
Whispered rumors to the manager, tricky questions during meetings, colleagues who think they are the little boss…
At the office, dirty games can lead to a real trench war. Hence the importance of reacting quickly, but diplomatically, to avoid the endless spiral of resentment.
Many times, everything starts from little things.
A colleague who forgot to put you in the email copy. Another who, in a meeting, asks you the question that you shared with him, ten minutes earlier and that you were afraid of.
A new project that was supposed to be entrusted to you, that everyone knew you were interested in, but a colleague is recovering it “in extremis” based on discussions over coffee with your manager.
Or more viciously, a personal trial – divorce, illness, financial problems… – whispered to your office neighbor, who rushes to repeat it so much that the rest of the team no longer considers you capable of facing a bigger client or a more important mission.
The more these clashes increase, the more they will become more and more violent and they will no longer be considered as leftists.
“A real backstabbing causes a feeling of betrayal and has an impact on our professional life“, emphasizes coach and doctor of anthropology Marie Rebeyrolle, founder of the Carré Pluriel company.
Even if done with a smile and in polite terms, these attacks carry the seeds of a real war of influence, with potentially serious consequences.
Isolating a colleague, sabotaging his image in the eyes of the team, the “little boss” attitude to destroy its self-confidence… None of this is insignificant.
Leaving things as they are or, on the contrary, reacting too quickly, means assuming the risk of a latent conflict, of a hunting atmosphere in the open space and of manipulation strategies worthy of an episode of the “Succession” series.
How do you do a demining operation?
The first step to avoid it: take a step back. First of all, because we are not all equal in the face of jealousy or low blows.
Where some immediately counter-attack, others will be taken by surprise, beaten or even completely depressed. Everything depends on the personality, history and personal experiences of everyone.
Taking a step back from your own reactions and their intimate driving forces, perhaps with the help of a coach or a psychologist, means giving yourself the opportunity to balance them and not act under the exclusive influence of your emotions.
Especially since unconscious prejudices can make us feel attacked, when it is not the case.
“Better to bet on the pure mission of the intention, assuming some well-intentioned colleagues, than on the demonization of the intention“, encourages Marie Rebeyrolle.
A colleague constantly forgets to put you in the copy of important exchanges?
You can interrogate him, adopting an open posture and a precise approach technique.
“We recall the facts, ask an open question, then ask our colleague to take responsibility,” explains our coach.
For example: “I’m never in these types of exchanges when I think I should be. What do you think? Can we agree on a way from now?” All this with a smile and remembering that a better organization would benefit everyone.
The same thing with the other colleague, still your equal, who thinks he is the little boss and constantly asks you if you have revived a “such and such” client or blocked a “such and such” meeting.
You can, before striking him with a green wood, give him the benefit of… the doubt.
“They might be looking for help to organize their own work, without daring to say it clearly,” suggests Marie Rebeyrolle.
We can first ask him why he’s asking us these questions, before telling him how we feel – “he’s intrusive”, “I feel like you’re playing the role of N+1” – and ask him to stop.
Even knowing them well, you can ignore everything that is happening in the minds of your office neighbors.
Analyze the conflict terrain
Are there objective and rational explanations for the aggressive or subtle behavior of a colleague?
“Certain contexts create conflict, in a systemic way, points out Marie Rebeyrolle.
A director unable to make up his mind, a hierarchy accustomed to promoting those who pull in others, departments whose territories actually overlap, human resource management based on up or out. … Analyzing all this, will allow you to understand exactly what is at stake, to remember that not everything is your fault, so to ensure your position, but also to choose your battles.”
Not all battles are worth it: you don’t change the intrinsic functioning of a company by entering into a conflict with a colleague. No more than changing a jealous and irrational employee, addicted to rivalry, into an affable and reasonable personality.
Before going on the offensive, it is important to decide for each battle if it is worth fighting. If so, prepare an appropriate tactic beforehand.
The strategy of the Go game
To win a chess game, one strives to knock down the opponent’s pieces and clear the board.
“At the office we adopt the opposite strategy, that of the Japanese game of go: we start from an empty board on which we advance the stones one by one. We are trying to occupy the territory, to exist more than the other. We avoid confrontation, otherwise we risk getting involved in a sterile conflictual relationship and becoming, in everyone’s eyes, the obsessive and unbearable colleague.“
Instead of fighting back, the best tactic is therefore to move on. To be as professional as possible, to invest energy in your work and to get involved, even more than usual, with the rest of the team.
This is the key to face: the rival matters less than the spectators.
“The main challenge is not to find yourself in a corridor, warns Marie Rebeyrolle. Alone, we are lost. We never get out of a conflict relationship without allies. Hence the importance of deepening the ties that already exist and weaving new ones. “
Take the time to drink coffee with a close colleague, have lunch with a member of another department, ask questions, seek help or advice regarding ongoing files…
The objective is to identify the right people, depending on their personality or position, to weave a network of allies, who will act when the time comes.
“They will be able to send you information, defend you in a meeting or argue in your absence,” enumerates Marie Rebeyrolle. As long as you don’t try to turn everyone against the colleague with whom there is a conflict.”
Hence the importance of taking a step back and detaching yourself from your emotions in order to find the right balance between defending yourself and crushing the other.
The red line of aggression
Because there is a danger of letting violence come to life and gain in intensity.
“Fear and anguish play a major role in these relationships, warns Marie Rebeyrolle, they fuel silent, hidden conflicts punctuated by repeated attacks, which can end very badly.”
And they resort to moral harassment, with its share of consequences, until exhaustion.
“Here is the limit, the one in which we involve managers or HR and in which we objectively question the functioning of our company,” continues our coach. If these behaviors are promoted and we do not support them, it is better to leave. Otherwise, it is unlivable.”
There is no obligation to impose the law of the strongest when other management methods are based on collective intelligence and mutual aid.
Also, nothing obliges you to suffer your own reaction to the manifestations of jealousy, or the campaigns of denigration that sometimes take place in the company.
The more important it is the position you occupy, the more power you have and the more jealousy and resentment you will arouse.
If you don’t refuse promotions, you are forced to learn to live with them.
Hence the importance of investing in yourself and getting to know yourself in order to arm yourself better.
The ability to assert oneself, to defend oneself and not to be beaten by a rival is like a muscle: it gets stronger with time and practice. So it’s never too early to start.
Trapped in an ongoing dispute? This is how you can survive!
Jealous and petty colleagues exist and will exist everywhere.
There is no need to close your eyes. Injustices, pettiness and low blows as well.
Learn to survive them in 8 short lessons.
1/ Stay big
If it is true that in the face of a tasteless blow we are immediately tempted to respond with the same coin, do not lose sight of the fact that the satisfaction you could experience would be for a very short-period…
And the repercussions can be longer and more negative than you expect. Remaining master in the face of darkness is rarely something you regret, even if it will be only for you.
2/ Communicate to evacuate
However, it is not good – and not recommended – to keep any bitterness or resentment in yourself. It is necessary to make your truth heard, even to defend yourself if an injustice has been committed.
You have to go through the communication channel to clarify the misunderstanding, error or aggression with the person in question. Dare to talk to him, write to him if you are more shy, remaining polite and calm at the same time.
3/ Regain your self-esteem
Being proactive, taking things into your own hands in a temperate, sober and adult way can only increase your self-esteem and develop greater confidence in mastering events and professional hazards.
Don’t beat yourself up for not reacting immediately. On the contrary, take time to reflect and, above all, look at yourself with pride; your merit/competence is/are not in question here.
4/ Avoid positioning yourself as a victim
The worst reaction you could have would be that of the grieving victim. Do not enter into self-pity, misery or doubt in any way. “I can never do anything right”, “I’m always fooled” and other such horrors must be banished from your thinking.
Understanding the facts, overcoming them by solving the “bugs” of the huge professional machine (through communication) is the only way to your well-being.
5/ Stay within the spheres of truth
“Putting in its place” a disappointment, which you might experience as a failure, is vital for your mind. It would be completely detrimental to your development to give a disproportionate place to a disappointment. Reframe the event.
Reposition it in your work, your positive, beneficial actions. Think about what you accomplished brilliantly, succeeded, built… And stay true to your values, your lines of conduct.
6/ Learn a lesson
Very often, a negative event should be constructive for the future. So, you should learn the lessons of disappointment…
Here’s what you can do from now on: you will keep certain information to yourself, you will think twice before making certain promises, be afraid of certain smiles, better understand human and professional mechanisms. To understand the mechanism means to master it, to dominate it.
7/ To surpass in order to surpass oneself
No matter how childish it may seem, by understanding the other, by asking yourself about the origin of his motivations, for example, you will be able to forgive and by forgiving you will manage to overcome disillusionment and evolve. Do not lose sight of the fact that the strength of your character will not be useful to your “opponent”, but to yourself!
8/ Practice humor
No, humor is not (only) “the politeness of despair”, as Boris Vian used to say… Humor is also this light casualness that will allow you to take a step back and transform a gloomy energy into strength. Finding the comic side of the whole situation will allow you to evacuate it for good and, maybe even, to want to make it the funny anecdote of your evening with friends!
Do not embrace the attitude of the ostrich, faced with the repetition of these vicious behaviors!
Be aware that something is not right, that you are being used.
But don’t stop at this victim status, ask yourself questions about your own responsibility.
Before complaining about sabotage or confronting someone, it’s better to ask yourself, “What is it about me that makes him play this game?” . The difficulty of saying “no”, the lack of reaction assimilated to tolerance or implicit agreement, … and try to correct this attitude.
To avoid feeling guilty, put things in perspective. For example, the remarks of a colleague who is always very critical are not necessarily directed against you, they simply correspond to his way of functioning and communication: instead of asking a question or stating a need, he issues a criticism.
Learn to distance yourself, to cultivate indifference and emotional detachment.
Reply is not the best solution
Think twice before returning blow for blow…
An escalation would probably be counterproductive. In the best case, choose another weapon or rely on collective strength, for example, asking your colleagues to tell you about the manager’s behavior with them: does he reproach them in the same way? are the attitudes the same?
If you feel capable, try the direct approach, the explanation in private. Make sure you choose the right time and place and stick to the facts.
Set boundaries, such as: explaining to a client what you accept or not, the values you defend… and say or do something that marks the end of the game or demotivates the other person.
Limit your losses, otherwise run away!
To shut down your detractors once and for all, become irreproachable… to the best of your abilities!
Take care of your work so that you are not accused of anything, scrupulously respect the deadlines, strictly respect the validation procedures, pay attention to the recipients of your emails, etc.
Another possible technique: dodging! Avoid dealing with these toxic people as much as possible: schedule short meetings, exchanges by e-mail or conf-call rather than in person, etc.
And if all your attempts fail, all you have left is… escape!
Self-assurance has certain limits: to free yourself for good, right?
Even if the article was very long, I hope I helped you find some ideas to be able to constructively participate in the culture of well-being in your company.
We are here to help you free yourself from administrative tasks and have an operational fluidity.
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Leave a comment with what you have managed to implement so far.
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