I’ve made lateral moves to align my interests and strengths with the emerging needs of my employer. It requires concerted effort in an environment that lacks any real professional development structure, but has been worth it so far. However, I have a fairly new co-worker who has been riding my coattails hard since he started, with subtle undermining, and one overt backstabbing, and who even knows what else. Having a toxic competitor rather than a trusted collaborator on our team has led to a lot of anger, lost sleep, and too many days when I just didn’t want to get out of bed and go to work.
Too often lately, I’m torn between not giving this person the satisfaction of pushing me out the door given all that I’ve worked for, and the liberation of handing in a resignation letter (drafted when the backstabbing incident came to a head) with a two week effective date. What do you think?
I admire that, despite the lack of professional development opportunities, you have invested a lot in making a challenging work situation acceptable if not satisfactory – you say it’s worth it. But now that someone is trying to undermine you, I think you have to decide whether your job is worth fighting for. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.
Look the backstabbing co-worker in the eye
If you feel it is, before you resign because of that toxic dolt, please ask yourself, do you have anything to lose by confronting him in the company of your boss? The philosopher king Marcus Aurelius counseled, “The second rule is to look a thing in the face, and know it for what it is.” (We’ll get to his first rule shortly!)
You know what this backstabbing co-worker is. Is it okay to let him push you out the door?
I’d say no, but that’s because I like to face things head-on, and because I know so few details about your situation that I can appear cavalier! Would it be worth looking this in the face by discussing it candidly in a meeting with the co-worker and with your boss? In other words, openly call out the backstabber’s behavior for what it is. Do it politely and professionally, but frankly and firmly.
Keep an untroubled spirit
This very direct approach assumes, of course, that you have already decided to resign and that you have carefully planned out your next steps if that meeting doesn’t yield a good outcome. Because maybe you won’t have to resign.
Perhaps you should not be so quick to be the one to move out of the way and let the dolt pass. As long as you have a good exit strategy, why not take this head-on and try to protect all you’ve worked for?
Toxic, backstabbing co-workers should not control our work lives.
Leaving may be your best option. I wanted to suggest an alternative that might not pose much risk, and that gives your employer a chance to do the right thing by you. Whatever you decide, remember what else Marcus Aurelius said: “The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit.”
I wish you the best!
Would you take the backstabbing co-worker head-on? What other options might this reader have? Have you ever been undermined or run out of your company by a toxic co-worker? How did you handle it?
(The question in this column was edited from a reader’s comment on another recent column.)