Office Politics 201: Let Go of What You Can’t Control & Guard Your Heart

Question:

I knew I might regret telling my manager the truth. I just didn’t know how much.

The problem is and has always been my coworker. She’s a cheat. She doesn’t work the hours she claims on her payroll She set up an E-bay resale brokerage when the pandemic started.  

It was easy for her to hide her moonlighting when we worked remote. Now we all work hybrid. On our three days back in the office, it’s more obvious she’s not working.

Also, she got every coworker her giving her things to sell.

This week, our manager twice noticed she wasn’t at her desk. Each time he asked me where she was. I said, “I don’t know.” I didn’t. I didn’t tell him what I thought.

Then he pushed me. “Where do you think she is?”

“I don’t know.”

“Where do you suspect?”

It all poured out. I didn’t want to out my coworker, but her lack of integrity made me sick. I also realized if I didn’t say something, I was letting her get away with it.   

My manager asked me to keep an eye on the situation. He said Katie cheated in a way that was hard for him to prove and he needed concrete evidence because she’d claim racism. He said for him to make a solid case against her, someone had to notice when she wasn’t at her workstation and then look around and spot that she was hiding out on other floors in the building, doing personal business.

I told him I wasn’t a spy. He said, “Okay. Just tell me when she vanishes, and I’ll send someone else to locate her.”

I don’t know how Katie found out I’d told on her, but she has. She’s now at her desk full-time.

The problem? She’s personable and has many friends in the office. They love her E-bay business. They’re mad because she’s shut down selling coworkers’ things, just before Christmas, when they could really use the cash. 

She’s also convinced our coworkers she never spent more than a few minutes during the day on E-bay because she’s automated things. And that she uses her lunch break and just splintered the thirty minutes throughout the day.

They don’t sit next to her and realize she’s been on her personal cell and computer almost all day. They feel I’ve wronged her and have iced me out. How do I combat this? 

Answer:

You can ride out this office storm.

You need to realize your coworkers don’t understand the big picture and likely believe you’re your coworker says. She’s tapped into their self-interest, and potentially their anger at the higher levels in your company. They likely admire her entrepreneurial success.

Here are the landmines you need to avoid.

No matter how tempted you feel to explain what’s really happening, keep your ego in check and bite your tongue. Your likable coworker has protected herself by creating a positive office person. Even if you have the facts and they don’t, those who like Ms. Congeniality will give credence to what she says and consider you mean-spirited.

While you may feel every one of your coworkers think you’re the problem, mature employees realize there’s more to a story than one person’s side.

Don’t isolate. If you avoid your coworkers, you eliminate the opportunity for them to see you as the person you are. Engage with your coworkers, even those who view you with suspicion. If you continue playing your “A” game, some of your coworkers may wonder if they’ve been played – by your coworker.  

You took an action you felt right. Never regret that. By doing so, you stood up for what you felt was right.

Stand up for yourself by not letting toxic behavior of any kind get to you. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” When you’re judged negatively by others, it’s easy to let that poison seep into your mind. Let go of what you can’t control and remember that you did the right thing.   

That’s what my collie says daily, “Everything you do flows from your heart. Let go of all the rest.”

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4 thoughts on “Office Politics 201: Let Go of What You Can’t Control & Guard Your Heart

  1. Wise comments about a a difficult situation. But really, don’t they have an IT department? If this women doing her eBay business at work is doing it on her office computer, there should be easy ways for an IT tech to find that out. Similarly, if she’s using other devices, they should be able to monitor how much time she’s on her work computer and how active she is on it–i.e., not just find that it’s on, but is it actually in use.

  2. Great catch, Susan. I didn’t even think about that. Though then I looked back @ my notes can realized the E-bay entrepreneur was using her person computer & cell @ the office.

  3. I work at a place where I have very few allies. And even the few I have are polite but afraid to support me because of one particular individual.

    I began work here at the start of the pandemic and so everything was remote. I missed out on getting to know people and once we got back in the office, the clicks remained as they were and I never quite found one to join.

    We do have many events that I have not attended because I don’t feel welcome. There is one person who refuses to meet with me and when I complain to my supervisor, he ignores the issue and takes her side. Even when I’m right I’m wrong.

    Socially, it’s a very difficult place for me as I don’t feel that I fit in. I like my actual work and what I am doing but the isolation feels dangerous. What do you advise me to do?

    1. Hi, Caroline, I absolutely empathize. Although it’s hard to attend events where you unwelcome, sometimes that’s the best strategy.
      Here’s what I wrote in Beating the Workplace Bully: A Tactical Guide to Taking Charge, chapter 7, https://amzn.to/3msclOW. Just as a wolf pack steers a caribou calf away from the herd, bullies isolate their targets. If you allow a bully to isolate you, you give your bully greater control over you, even carte blanche to do as he wishes. You become an easier target. Because you’re not around others who could help defend you, the bully can spread rumors about you or even convince others you’re the problem.
      Never give in to a bully’s isolation ploy. Jump out of this trap by making friends with coworkers, acquiring allies, establishing an active relationship with your supervisor, and building a strong reputation.
      If you want, I’ll write more. You have good instincts; isolation is dangerous.
      Next, given the importance of your supervisor’s opinion to your career, never let a bully get between you and your supervisor. Establish a reputation for quality work and a solid work ethic. Carefully document your accomplishments and keep your supervisor informed, so no one can claim that you neglected your work or take credit for your efforts.

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