I love my job, am good at it, and work for a good employer but one of my co-workers is a bully and I'm the latest victim of her accusations and am now on probation. Can I save my job?
Q. I love my job, am good at it, and work for a good employer. I get along with all my co-workers except one. She’s a bully and has managed to get a person fired. I’m the latest victim of her accusations and am now on probation. Can I save my job?
A. Yes, but you’ll need to take rapid action.
The reason that bullies gain so much power in the workplace is that people are afraid of them. Most people will be nicer to people they are afraid of than to people who don’t create problems.
You mentioned in your letter that her boss seems unwilling to stop her. The truth is, her boss is probably cowering in the corner every time the bully comes into sight.
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Because you get along well with all your other co-workers, this is a good time to ask people to write letters of reference. You might say you’re considering applying for graduate school or joining a professional association.
You need to figure out who has the most to lose in the organization if you end up fired. I’d imagine that may be your boss, some of your co-workers, and anyone who appreciates your work. Now consider who among them has courage.
Go to each individual privately, bring the letters people have written, and focus on what each individual has to lose if you’re fired. Make it clear you love your job and your employer. Do not criticize your co-worker or defend yourself. At the end of the meeting, ask each individual for their advice and help.
You also need to figure out who is smart and has some guts in your human-resources department. Make an appointment with them.
In the meeting with HR, ask if you have been put on probation because of the concerns of this one co-worker and her one ally. If this is the reason, say something like this, “My co-worker must have a track record of excellent work, harmonious relationships with others, and clear understanding of what this organization needs for her concerns to be taken so seriously.”
Now ask the HR person to tell you if anyone else shares these concerns about your work. If the answer is yes, you just found out how to save your job. Improve in every area suggested. If the answer is no, ask the HR person to help you understand why the concerns of this one employee have put you on probation.
If you can tackle this genuinely challenging situation with maturity, calm and grace (even if you feel hysterical and furious inside), you’ll immediately undermine the credibility and the accusations of your co-worker.
The last word(s)
Q. I’m a deeply spiritual person who always ends up arguing about God with a guy belonging to a fundamental religion. How do I point out to him that he’s rigid and judgmental?
A. You retire from the power struggle. Listen to his arguments; say, “You are right”; and return to following your own path to God.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., is an executive coach, trainer, therapist, speaker and author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). She can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube