Sabotaged At Work? How to Keep Your Head, Protect Yourself & Come Out On Top

back stabber

You’re being sabotaged at work. You decide to:

  • Immediately get another job
  • Keep your head down and hope it all blows over
  • Go straight to HR, do not pass GO, do not collect $200

Oh, for an alternate reality! Unfortunately, here we have to deal with the economy and the fact that things like this rarely do blow over. Even more unfortunately, your human resources department isn’t always the helpful human resource you need it to be.

“HR is not an option for me to go to,” said a friend who’d been the victim of dirty office politics. “We have one HR person, and she’s one of the three ladies who is “in” on the sabotage.”

Earlier in the year, “Mary*” had noticed things were going on that were out of her control. She started saving her “good job” and “thanks for the quick turn-around” emails and so forth, but when she had her performance review, her boss claimed she overcommunicated on the job and was bad at prioritizing. Her boss couldn’t provide any examples that backed up these claims and ignored all the documentation Mary had that proved otherwise. Despite this, she received a low score on her review.

“I’ve never had a poor review in my whole career because I always put forth my best effort. It’s hurtful and frustrating to feel stuck when there’s no evidence or proof of failing in any way,” Mary said.

So what can you do when you’re up against saboteurs with clout? I asked the savvy Career Juice folks over on Brazen Careerist. Take a look, and good luck with your situation!

Linda A. Hamilton: “I was in that same position several times at my corporate America job. My suggestion is that she documents everything, trusts nobody and makes such she has her resume updated while perhaps looking elsewhere for something, but only leave if it’s much better. Sometimes managers are told to sabotage someone from higher up. I know I saw that as did some of my co-workers who approached me about it, so I documented everything. For whatever reason, document everything, do the best you can in all situations, and be ready for anything. It’s not being paranoid, it’s being prepared. ”

Cheryl Roshak: She should have an updated resume and start looking for a more suitable environment or company to work for. Why stay in such a hot bed of mistrust and conflict? She can do both, do a good job and look for work simultaneously. Just tell her to be discreet and careful. Wish her good luck and tell her to try and remain calm, this happens in the business world far too often.

Chris Parker: There are people on the job who will try to lie, sabotage, and make life hell for you, but as long as you are following the job description, doing what you are to do, and DOCUMENTING everything, it can work out in her/his favor. Document. Document. Document. If she has a person who is neutral and has observed the political play I would suggest that she try and befriend them. Have someone who will go to the even higher ups on her behalf if the harasser tries to fire her.

Noel Rozny:  The truth of the matter is that, in the end, most ulterior motives are discovered, but do you really want to suffer and wait around to find out how it will end? Your friend should take care of herself, document everything, and look as much as she can for something new.

JenG: There’s nothing wrong with documentation and updating her resume, but I would urge her to talk to the person about her feelings. Not in a confrontational way, but just say something like, “I just wanted to make sure we’re on the same page about X. You did Y and that made me uncomfortable because…” She’d probably need to practice the talk several times so it doesn’t come out emotionally, but just as a concern that she wants clarity on. It’s worth trying if she likes her job. If she hates it anyway, then the sabatoge is a moot point–she should be looking for another place to work regardless.

Iris Aikins-Afful: If the abuse is simply too much to handle, perhaps she should consider transferring to another department or finding another place to work altogether. However, no matter where a person works, there will always be some sort of tribulation, so she should also consider that if she does want to go to another job, she could be entering into an even worse situation. Another point to consider is that people like this, who concentrate so much of their time trying to pull others down, it turn pull themselves down by focusing on so much negativity as opposed to focusing on giving 110%. She could also consider waiting it out (while documenting everything). Sooner or later, people who are up to no good end up hanging themselves with their own rope.

Raquel Elle Bell: She may want to answer her own questions by focusing on the end result. How would she use the documentation and if she were to use it what would be the ramifications afterwards? If the documentation is for her to be able to see what is going on objectively I’d say do that. Overall she needs to figure out why whatever she thinks is happening is happening.

Linda A. Hamilton: Follow the advice previously given, do seek out HR if that department can be trusted, and hang in there. I learned the hard way that sometimes it’s better to find other work and leave the bad job than be like the battered wife and stay–the psychological ramifications are brutal.

*Some names have been changed.

Temps Aren’t Held Accountable?

What would you do?

(Based on a true story!)

You’re a long-term contract worker in a company, hoping to get permanently hired. You’re handed a task to write and post a short article on the company website about several very highly-placed people in your company, and you do.

It turns out you didn’t do that great of a job, grammar all over the place and misspellings galore, including–ack!–misspelling one of those highly-placed person’s names…who unfortunately notices it before anyone else does and calls up your boss in a tizzy.

But you don’t find any of that out until you’re about to leave for the day.

Do you:

  1. Fire your computer back up and fix your mistakes before leaving
  2. Mumble something about being distracted when you wrote it, say you have to leave for an appointment and run
  3. Say you were distracted, leave for an “appointment” but then are seen posting on Facebook about personal stuff when you get home a few minutes later

The person involved chose #3. Not sure that’s so wrong? All it takes is ONE co-worker to see what you’re doing online when you shouldn’t be and you’ve got trouble. And don’t think having privacy set to “Friends of Friends” or even “Friends” is safe, because you never know who knows whom, or who’s looking over somebody else’s shoulder. Or who wants a chance to do you some dirt.

Which is what happened in this case. A co-worker did notice #3, did tell their boss–and the boss involved said that because this person was not a permanent member of the staff, any mistake that person makes falls on the permanent employees.

So wait a minute: Not only do we not have accountability on the part of the contractor, but we don’t have it on the the company’s part either!

There are two things to be learned here:

  • There’s no “only” about being a contractor when you’re putting in the same hours as the permanent employee in the cube next to you. The work you do is real work and it should matter.
  • If contractors or temps aren’t held to the same standard as permanent employees, why have them do the work at all–especially work that’s in the public eye?

Everybody makes mistakes. We may hate it, but it’s how we learn. And you can’t learn if someone is always covering up for you, dusting away all traces of your botched-up job. Or rather, you DO learn something–that the company supports hiring people who get away with doing half-arsed jobs.

And just in case you were wondering, the correct choice above is #1. Why? Because unless you’ve got a truly pressing appointment after work or can get to the issue later the same night, you’d better be invested in making all those angry bosses into happy bosses ASAP. That is, if you want to be more than a contractor with lousy benefits (unless you’re lucky) and little to no job security (ditto)!

What’s been your contracting or temp work experience?

How to Get a Rockstar Team

When does a group become a team? 

Our Twitter #careerchat focused on how team-building activities can foster teamwork in the office and help the department prosper. But for team-building efforts to succeed, you really need to consider team makeup: Make sure the activity suits the people as much as the purpose.

Quick takeaways from the chat:

  • Teamwork is about putting aside differences, learning from others and focusing on the company’s goals, not just your own projects.
  • Team building shows employees you value your most important resource: Them.
  • Make sure the team-building activity is appropriate for everyone. It’s more important to get employees talking to each other than trying to make everyone play kickball or go on a ropes course.
  • Include activities to celebrate diversity. Exploring experiences, backgrounds and cultures will help the team view challenges differently and solve problems better.


Special thanks to @souzifrancis, @EmilieMeck, @SaleStart, @talentculture, @BillBoorman, @laurenkgray, @ShanaDouglas, @Tina_J_Wagner, @myFootpath, @zachhisert, @buona_vita, @CDonnet and @jendiva1.

Job seeker? Just want to get ahead in your career?

Join our Twitter #careerchat Tuesdays @ 12 PM CT to talk about everything from friending your boss on Facebook to personal branding to how to get a call back from recruiter.

How to join: Go to and follow the hashtag “careerchat” at noon CT every Tuesday!

Adapted from my post on