Note: this post addressed a question that came in through the Ask a Coach section of this blog.
Two months ago, my team and I gained a new supervisor. Before she arrived, colleagues warned me about her, describing her as an evil b* supreme. Several urged me to resign and find a new position “before too late” and she ruins my reputation. Three different individuals told me she excels at getting rid of those she perceives as a threat, with each adding, “there’s no way she won’t see you as a threat.”
I thought I’d be immune. I have excellent communication skills and have worked a decade for a major governmental organization that is respected worldwide. We deliver nonpartisan information. I have a network of friends inside and out of my organization.
Then I met her and the look in her eyes chilled me. They reminded me a wolf’s, icy amber and dangerous. It wasn’t long before I received a letter of reprimand informing me my work was substandard. Next, I received a written warning claiming I’d been insubordinate. Every day friends tell me they’ve heard troubling things about me.
I’m frightened. I’ve sought legal advice but am not litigious. I just want to do my job and ride this out. The attorney I located told me I need to provide her the letter of reprimand, but she charges four hundred dollars an hour and my resources are limited.
One colleague suggested I contact a highly placed individual who has had her own run-ins with my new supervisor. This individual has contacts in my organization and works in a senior position for another well-respected organization. What should I do?
Boxer Joe Lewis once said, “You can run but you can’t hide.” When someone targets you, you need to get in the ring.
Here’s what you need to know. Although you have more protection than most, with allies, good communication skills and a positive work history, no one is immune when someone else seeks to harm their reputation.
Use what you have to counter what’s going on. Contact this highly placed individual; she might give you information that will help guide your next steps. When you need to cut off a snake’s head, you need to know who the snake is. This individual may help you based on her experiences with Madam X, however, remember that whatever she says is colored by her own experiences.
Find the money so your attorney can craft a well-worded response to the reprimand letter and allegations of insubordination. Attorneys can be helpful even when you don’t sue as they can give you a legal assessment detailing your options.
Those targeted often want to slink away and hide in a closet when others relay false, disparaging stories about them. Those who value you enough to let you know the stories they’ve heard and ask for your side rather than accepting what they’ve heard, give you a gift. Don’t shut your ears; instead take heart. You can make it through this if you deal with it directly Even false stories take on a life of their own and the mud slung at you can turn to concrete. Counter any falsehoods with calm, rational information
Finally, while you like your current organization, you might like another one as well or better. If things become untenable, and you leave, you’re not running away, you’re moving on.
© 2020, Lynne Curry
Lynne Curry is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016) and “Solutions” (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com). Send your questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.