Through no fault of her own, “Loni” almost lost her job. When she called me requesting coaching, she told me told me she’d been on the fast-track to a senior management position in her first nine months with her company but that morning her CEO had told her to “pull it together or you’re out.” She said several recent disasters had led her company’s CEO to lose confidence in her.
Loni said she’d mislaid crucial documents, sent unprofessional emails (that she hadn’t remembered writing) and submitted shoddy on key recent assignments. Since her dad had dementia, Loni worried she might be showing early signs of the same illness. Loni told me she’d visited her dad’s physician and he’d told her dementia could start with subtle short-term memory changes.
I asked Loni to give me a chronology of the recent problems and asked her if anything had changed at work before the problems had started. She said, “Nothing” and when I pressed her, she insisted she’d been on a “winning streak.” She mentioned that the CEO had publicly praised her in an “all hands” meeting.
I asked, “Exactly when did he praise you?;” “Who has access to your office?”; “When you go across the hall, do you lock your computer?”, and “What are your relationships like with others in your company?”
I asked Loni for a copy of the problem emails her CEO had referenced in his meeting with her and we searched for them in her set log without finding them. Loni described the two women who worked closest to her office as caring individuals and said one in particular had been incredibly helpful in trying to help her find lost documents.
“Mind if I interview her to find out who you come across to these two?” I asked. My spidey-sense kicked on during one interview when the coworker described Loni as “spacey”, but acted as if she said so only reluctantly.
After that, Loni and I visited her CEO and I gave him several alternative theories concerning what might be happening and how we could find out. In further investigation, I learned one of the two coworkers felt Loni had belittled her and had otherwise had abused her power and position once she’d begun to rise in the corporate hierarchy. She was the only one, however who felt that.
Revenge in the workplace happens more frequently than many realize. Here’s what to look for:
- Have you lost documents despite an organized workspace?
- Are rumors about you floating around the workplace?
- Are there items in your sent log you didn’t originate?
- Have documents you created disappeared from your computer?
- Does someone have a vested interest in you being fired?
- Do you sense you’re being sabotaged, particularly after you seem to be rising fast in your workplace?
- “The cling film over the toilet seat thing is so last year. I fixed the restroom light sensor to plunge the room into darkness after one minute.”
- “Make sure there’s a huge wheelie bin parked in the boss’s personal parking space. Sends a message.”
- After I got stiffed by my employer on a huge business deal, I set up meetings with them, pretending to be a major new customer. On the interview day, got a load of panicked emails from the sales-team driving round trying to find my offices. Pure joy.
- “My boss took credit for a 350-page report I wrote and got a huge bonus. Was it wrong of me wipe all of his department’s computer files and get him suspended?
- Pretend you’re not pissed off at your old employer for throwing you out with the trash. Maintain relationships with your old managers and HR. Suggest the worst possible employee for them to hire as your replacement. Definitely vouch for this person and sing her praises.
Those who commit revenge generally feel justified and often cover up their continued sabotage with aggressively helpful efforts once their target’s career begins to plummet. According to https://www.insurancequotes.com, eighty-three percent of people get away with revenge.
© 2019, Lynne Curry
Lynne Curry writes a weekly column on workplace issues. She is author of “Solutions” and “Beating the Workplace Bully” and founded The Growth Company, an Avitus company and now serves as Regional Director of Training & Business Consulting for The Growth Company, an Avitus Group company. Send your questions to her at Lcurry@avitusgroup.com, www.thegrowthcompany.com, follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10 or via www.workplacecoachblog.com.