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Reader Q&A: “My coworker is throwing me under the bus”

how to communicate better

Today I want to talk about managing challenging (and even toxic) work situations.

Thanks to our reader Marie who submitted a question.

Marie says:

One of my coworkers and I became friends a few years ago working alongside each other. I received a promotion to supervisor recently and this person became negative and rude about it right away. Now we rarely talk and when we do, this coworker complains to me about things that are out of my control and is very rude about it. This person also tries to throw me under the bus at meetings and to my boss on a regular basis. How do I deal with this?

Thanks for sharing this, Marie.

First I want to say I’m sorry to hear this. Losing someone you trusted is challenging.

It sounds to me like this friend is feeling threatened by your success. When someone is threatened, there’s usually fear or pain underneath their actions.

Although this is disappointing, ultimately you can’t control her reaction. Remember that if her actions are coming from a place of pain, she’s in pain.

That being said, this doesn’t excuse her throwing you under the bus.

The larger issue here is what do you do when something like this is ultimately sabotaging you and your success.

There are two ways that you can handle this:

Have a conversation

If you haven’t tried this yet, I’d reach out to her to see if you can schedule some time to chat. If she agrees, approach the conversation with no expectations from her.

All you can control is yourself so detach from any idea that this will change things.

If you end up having a conversation, I’d start with expressing how you feel. Avoid “you” statements and instead focus on how the situation is making you feel.

Statements like “I feel disappointed that we’re not friends” or “I’m observing in meetings…” are less accusatory and reduce threat. They put the ownership on you and what you’re experiencing.

After you state how you feel, give her space to share what she’s experiencing. One of my coaches once told me, “Seek to understand, before you seek to be understood.”

Let me repeat that: “Seek to understand, before you seek to be understood.”

Giving the other person space to share and listening deeply to their experiences will allow for more productive communication.

If you don’t want to handle this on your own, find an ally or someone else to talk to.

It’s possible that the situation may be bigger than you here, especially if the sabotaging is getting out of hand or it feels too big for you to tackle through communication.

If this is the case, I’d recommend the following:

  1. Document all the examples where you feel she has crossed the line.
  2. Outline the impact this is having on you and the team. Situations like this always have larger implications on the larger team morale.
  3. Ask yourself, what’s the outcome you want here? This is again going back to your needs and also focusing on a solution.
  4. Is there someone on your team who is a trusted higher-up? And, can they help you address this head on or help you mediate the situation?

Anchor yourself in finding a solution for yourself, and know the way you show up matters. That’s also all you can control. And that’s ok.

Work Bigger Team

Author Work Bigger Team

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