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Dealing With A Co-worker Who Is Out For Revenge

Have you ever felt like a co-worker is out to get you? The vindictive co-worker is out for revenge, and is determined to make your job as difficult as possible. Every. Step. Of. The. Way.

You're being left out of key conversations, watching co-workers turn against you and feeling surprised to find yourself held responsible for something that never happened. All roads lead back to one co-worker who seems to have it out for you. Dealing with a vindictive co-worker is one of the most frustrating, gut-wrenching roadblocks any working professional can face. So let's hit it head-on, shall we?

When A Co-worker Is Out For Revenge
This post is inspired in part by a riveting Richard Branson interview and in part by my highly-vindictive cat, who was angry about his food choices the other day and quietly peed on a pile of clean laundry out of pure spite. If you've ever smelled cat urine, then you know that it packs an incredibly pungent odor that can take days to abate. Cats can hold a grudge that occasionally leads them to lose bladder control. Sometimes, there's isn't enough Febreze.

Vindictive, as defined by Google, means "having or showing a strong or unreasoning desire for revenge." Sounds all too familiar at work these days, doesn't it? The vindictive co-worker wants revenge for something you did, and that "something" could be anything! Let's throw out a few, quick possibilities, though.

Maybe you were hired to take the spot of a favorite co-worker who had been fired, and now you are the target of this employee's on-going animosity. Maybe you were assigned a plum account they wanted for themselves. Maybe you've been on a roll and done great work lately. Maybe you're in line for promotion.

Or maybe you're simply a nice, friendly person whom everyone seems to like and that grates on the vindictive co-worker, who will now spend valuable work time making sure you keep paying for your "mistake."

When It's Payback Time
The payback this co-worker doles out can be downright petty sometimes. This is the co-worker who lets a door shut in your face as you're walking up carrying a heavy box and "forgets" your cup of coffee on the daily departmental coffee run (but remembered everyone else). They might not respect your personal property either, and that's why your nice coat is always "falling" on the floor. Hmm.

In most cases, however, this co-worker's vindictive attitude is focused on sabotaging your work and quietly savaging your professional reputation -- e.g., making sure that what you do on the job is always called into question by management, and maybe even by customers! The vindictive co-worker is sneaky and manipulative. They love to take credit for the good, and blame you for the bad. Over time, they work hard to turn the tide of office opinion against you. Lying can seem like second nature to the highly-vindictive co-worker.

They might surprise you with last-minute changes, spread rumors about you and fail to inform you of key workplace details. Oh, you didn't realize there was a 2 p.m. meeting? Didn't you get the memo? (No, you did not get the memo.) You never know what might happen next, and so you're always on guard, waiting to once again be put on the defensive.

Five Tips For Dealing With Vindictive Co-workers
All the chaos can leave you feeling off-kilter by quitting time, which is exactly what the vindictive co-worker wants. It's not in your imagination; this stuff is really happening! And you have to come to work tomorrow with your emotional guard up and go through it all again. Yikes. How can you deal more effectively with a co-worker who is out to get you? Here are five tips:

1. Document everything. Never let a situation boil down to your words vs. the vindictive colleague's words. Organize and keep all documentation related to shared projects with this colleague. Unfortunately, you can no longer trust them. Make your own copy of reports as proof of your original work, if necessary. Keep a log of what's happening, because you never know when you'll have to step up to defend yourself in a pinch! Also be more careful in what you say at work and on social media, because the vindictive co-worker is listening! Don't give this co-worker new ways to put chinks in your armor.

2. Don't minimize the bad stuff. It can be easy to brush off the vindictive co-worker by humorously ignoring their petty paybacks. Hey, I'm all for finding the humor in things and brushing off petty annoyances, but this situation isn't very funny when it starts to affect your work progress. Verbalizing the problem can begin to make an impact. You might say, "Hey, did you guys notice these (wrong) numbers in the report? I wonder how they got there." Putting it "out there" tells the vindictive co-worker that you aren't afraid to ask questions and call out instances of underhanded behavior.

3. Hear this co-worker out. You can speak with this co-worker one on one, but don't get emotional. You might simply say, "We seem to be having a few communication issues" (yes, it's the understatement of the century but you need to tread lightly here) or "I'm not sure why this mistake happened, could we talk about it for a minute so it doesn't happen again?" You've gone over your documentation, and you're just trying to figure out how a mistake(s) could have happened. Listen, stick to the facts and focus on solutions. This way, you give the vindictive co-worker a chance to explain while also sending the signal that you're on to their ways.

4. Build alliances. You'll need to find a few, key work peers who always have your back and could vouch for you if your professionalism is ever called into question. Keep lines of communication open with the co-workers you trust (I hope you have at least one co-worker you can trust). Do your best work every day, stay positive, double-check your work, and follow through. Always remain kind and professional. In the best-case scenario, your manager will address the problem fairly, and quickly. However, if you have absolutely no support at work...

5. Find another job. Finding a new job should be a last resort, but if the vindictive co-worker is costing you dearly in terms of personal stress, your health and/or career advancement -- and management isn't at all supportive -- then it might just be time to consider a new job. You are not a quitter, you are a winner who deserves a better, respectful work environment! This is one situation where the grass may indeed be greener on the other side. You can't soar with the eagles when you work with turkeys. Finding success somewhere else (and being happy!) is your best revenge.

Not to pee on your pile of clean laundry (or in your proverbial bowl of Cheerios, as the case may be), but this situation is incredibly tough and personally draining. It will require you to stay calm and strong when you might feel anything but calm and strong. Remember that you are a good person, and that you are not alone. And if you have figured out a way to deal with vindictive cats effectively, please let me know.


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