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15 tips on how to deal with a coworker who is trying to get you fired

Are you in a tricky situation with a coworker who you think is trying to get you fired?

You work hard, you try to be a good teammate, but for some reason, one of your coworkers has it in for you — and they’re doing all they can to tarnish your reputation.

It’s a nightmare of a situation and there’s no doubt it’ll make going into work pretty tense and miserable, but not if you follow these tips below.

We’ve covered 15 do’s and don’ts on how to deal with a coworker who is trying to get you fired so that you can stay in control of the situation and keep not only your job but your sanity too.

Let’s  jump straight in:

15 do’s and don’ts on how to deal with a coworker who is trying to get you fired

1) Do stay calm and take onboard any feedback

Here’s the situation:

You’ve been called into the boss’s office and told that a coworker has made a complaint about you.

Your initial reaction might be disbelief, doubt, even shock. That’s understandable, especially if this has come out of the blue and you weren’t aware that a coworker had an issue with you.

The key here is to:

  • Avoid becoming defensive, even if you know the allegations aren’t true
  • Take on any feedback from your manager/boss
  • Find out more about the complaint so you have the full picture

The truth is:

You’ll need to put your feelings aside for the time being.

As difficult as it might be to control your emotions, it won’t bode well for you if you start on the offensive straight away.

And you need to take action sooner rather than later. Be proactive about the situation, instead of going with the flow and “seeing what happens”.

Because the chances are, if your coworker wants you out, they’ll do everything possible to paint a bad picture of you. So as soon you can, follow the steps below and get back in control of your work life.

2) Don’t approach your coworker about it (unless appropriate to do so)

And as soon as you leave your boss’s office, it’s probably best to avoid a direct conflict with the coworker in question.

Unfortunately, you don’t know what lengths they’ll go to if they’ve got a vendetta against you, so don’t give any fuel to their fire.

Remain courteous, polite, and professional. Limit the amount of time you spend with your coworker if you need to, but don’t make it obvious to the rest of your team that there’s a rift between you.

Now, putting on a poker face and remaining calm in this situation isn’t going to be easy. Especially if your coworker is doing their best to make you lose your cool. But if you want to stand a chance of keeping your job, you’ve got to take the high road and deal with it professionally.

On the other hand:

If the complaint is fairly petty and one that can be resolved easily, you might want to talk to your coworker about it.

This will depend on the relationship you have with them and if the issue at hand can be fixed through a casual conversation. Miscommunication happens all the time, so it might just be a case of clearing up an issue and moving on.

But, if the complaint against you is bigger than that, or their behavior is out of control, it’s best to keep things simple and avoid making the situation worse.

In this case, you might feel it’s better not to confront them about it and leave it to management instead.

3) Do keep your thoughts to yourself

You might be tempted to confide in coworkers that you trust but if there are serious allegations against you, it’s best to keep your thoughts to yourself.

The main reason for this is because even with the best intentions, news spreads, and it could escalate the situation.

Again, this depends on the type of complaint made against you but also who made the complaint.

If it’s a senior coworker who’s in a position of power, be sure that they’ll be keeping an eye out for your next move. Therefore, keeping it all to yourself ensures that they don’t know your plans and they can’t (or shouldn’t) begin building a case against you.

If it’s a coworker on your level, they’ll be looking to see if their tactics are working and if they can get a rise out of you.

But a final point on this — keeping your issues to yourself can make you feel isolated or lonely at work.

It’s important to remember that not everyone on your team is against you just because of the actions of one person. And whilst you might not tell them about the situation, you should ensure you have support outside of work.

4) Take it to HR (unless it’s a senior co-worker)

And that leads us onto our next tip — if it turns out to be someone with power and influence who’s got it in for you, human resources (HR) probably won’t offer the support you need.

The truth is:

In most cases, HR will back the employer over the employee. It’s not right, or fair, but it happens.

So to avoid making your situation worse, don’t complain to HR unless you have a solid case against your coworker’s complaint.

And even then, be prepared to have a battle on your hands, especially if the person you’re locking horns with is in a position to swing the fight their way.

However, if you’re on an even playing field with the coworker who is trying to get you fired, talking to management or HR could help, especially if it’s an issue you can’t resolve yourself.

In any case, you should follow the steps below to collect sufficient evidence against your coworker.

That way, when you do take your case to your manager or HR, you’ll have no problem proving your case and clearing your name.

5) Do review your time at this workplace

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked for the company, you’ve got to look back at your performance and identify if there are any areas for concern.

If you’ve never had one, request a performance evaluation.

Start by looking back over everything that’s happened since you took this job:

  • Request a copy of your HR file
  • Go through any existing performance reviews
  • Check that you’ve never said anything inappropriate on social media
  • Comb through your work emails and correspondences with the coworker in question

Hopefully, your record will be clean and you have nothing to worry about but if there are any discrepancies, your coworker or company may use that against you in the future.

And whilst you can’t change the past, being aware of the argument they might use against you will give you time to build a defense case, so you’re better prepared to fight for your job.

6) Don’t send external messages about the issue from your workplace

If you are contacting external people about your case — whether it be with a lawyer, or your spouse at home, whatever you do, DON’T use your company phone, computer, or WIFI.

Only send external messages using your mobile phone and make sure you’ve switched over to your data plan instead of the company WIFI. This is essential because most companies reserve the right to check all communications coming in and out.

Here’s the thing:

Even if it’s just to have a quick moan to your partner or friends about what’s going on, anything you do say using company communications could be used against you.

So, play it safe and keep all personal communications separate, that way there’ll be no surprises later on down the line.

7) Do keep a record of EVERYTHING that happens

From the moment you receive wind that a coworker is trying to get you fired, you need to keep a paper trail of everything that happens.

That means recording dates and times, with meticulous attention to detail, of every interaction you have with your coworker. Every incident that happens with them, every little comment, write it down and keep your file somewhere safe.

So what’s the benefit of doing this?

Well, when the time comes to fight your corner, you’ll have every single incident/event/conversation recorded down, so there’ll be no room for discrepancies.

And — you can highlight how your coworker has been unfairly targeting you, hopefully paving a case against their behavior rather than yours.

Finally, keep a record of your achievements and work record. Be ready to show your employers that you do your job to the best of your ability, regardless of what your coworker says.

8) Don’t let your guard down

If you’re lucky, this issue will get resolved quickly.

But unfortunately, some office feuds can last years and although this will take its toll on you emotionally and physically, you’ve got to keep your wits about you.

Don’t ever assume your coworker has backed down. They could be waiting for their next opportunity to wage a case against you, and all they need is one slip up to take their shot.

Now, that doesn’t mean you have to be a deer in headlights at work but just be aware that until the problem has fully been resolved, you don’t want to let your guard down.

It’s a sad fact but some people value success over fairness, and if your coworker is on a mission to get you fired, they might stoop to manipulative tactics.

9) Do keep an eye on your coworker

So that’s why it’s a good idea to keep one eye on your coworker at all times. Watch how he/she interacts with other members of your team.

And whilst you might not want to approach them directly, you can keep a log of everything “dodgy” that you see happening.

Now, it might sound like you’re stooping to their level by looking for evidence against them, but the truth is you might need it. And, you’re going about it quietly and without disrupting their work or the work of your team.

If your case goes further and your job is on the line, you’ll want to prove that your coworker isn’t trustworthy, especially if they bully others or stop you from doing your job.

Essentially, you want to have the best case possible built against them.

Hopefully, you won’t have to use it, but if things take a turn for the worst, it’ll be supporting evidence for your case — so don’t miss out on any details that could help you.

10) Don’t let it interfere with your work

Whilst all this is going on, it’s natural that your concentration at work will be affected.

But you’ve got to find a way to take the focus off the issues with your colleague and continue adhering to the requirements of your contract.

Why?

Because you need to show your employer that your work is consistent, professional, to a high standard, regardless of the stress you’re going through.

Again, this will be a part of your defense if your coworker truly is trying to get you fired. And importantly — the proof of your performance will lie in how well you do your job.

If your employers are fair, they’ll recognize this in light of the complaints against you. If not, you’ll have evidence to present to your lawyer to show that you’re competent and hardworking at work.

The bottom line is:

Rather than letting this become a “he said, she said” situation, you need to rely on the facts.

Your reviews at work show how well you’re performing, not your coworker, so ensure you’re doing everything right and by the book.

11) Do get up to speed on your rights in the workplace

A quick google search will give you all you need to know about your rights in the workplace but it’s also a good idea to seek the help of a lawyer.

They’ll be able to look at your circumstances and advise you on what to do next. Plus, they’ll be able to plan and ensure that you begin building your defense sooner rather than later.

This is also an important point if your coworker is abusive, or a bully.

Whilst most of the advice in this article is centered around taking the high ground and being the bigger person, there’s absolutely no reason to tolerate bullying in the workplace.

So, the more you know about your rights, company policy, and the law regarding abusive coworkers, you can start to make proactive changes.

12) Don’t gossip about it to others

It might be tempting to gossip about what’s going on with your colleagues or even slate the coworker who’s waged war on you to others but trust us on this — it won’t help.

Even if you believe you’re garnering support from your team, it’s unprofessional and you never know how or when it might come back to bite you.

If a teammate comes to you and confides that they’re having similar issues with the same coworker, try to stay as neutral as possible and make a record of everything they say.

This might come in handy in the future if you need more proof that your coworker is unfairly targeting people but you still shouldn’t divulge all the details of your case to anyone until you’re sure of what you’re doing.

With that being said, a crisis at work can become extremely stressful, and looking after your emotional and mental health should be a priority.

Here are a few things you can do to feel better:

  • If you need to vent, speak to someone unrelated to your workplace (friends or family)
  • Ensure you’re giving yourself proper breaks, take a walk or have lunch away from the office if you need time away from your coworker
  • Try to stay positive — not everyone in your office is against you, so don’t let one person ruin the relationship you have with your team
  • Don’t be afraid to take time off from work if you feel burnout or if your stress levels are taking a toll on your health

The truth is, even if gossiping to your team at work makes you feel better, the risks far outweigh the benefits. Find other ways to release stress without jeopardizing your job.

13) Do stand up for yourself when you need to

Now, if you’ve got a particularly confronting or argumentative coworker, you have the right and responsibility to stand up for yourself.

Maybe they try to take credit for a project you did most of the work on or they unfairly accuse you of wrongdoing in front of everyone at the staff meeting.

Whatever the situation, don’t be afraid to speak up and make your point. Again, this won’t be easy — you’ll need to stay calm and composed — whilst also maintaining your position.

But, bully’s don’t like being called out on their bad behavior, so the more you do take a stand, the less they’ll see you as a target, especially in front of the rest of the team.

And that doesn’t mean flipping over the table at your next work meeting to make your point.

It means being clever, sticking to the facts, responding professionally, and derailing the bully with your confidence.

14) Don’t try to get even

Revenge will most likely come to your mind at some point during this ordeal. It’s natural to want your coworker to suffer as you have but know that it won’t make the situation any better.

Trying to give your coworker a taste of their own medicine could result in you in worse trouble than before, so take the high road and as they say, “kill them with kindness”.

Sure, revenge might give you short-term pleasure and satisfaction, but in the end, keeping your job here is what matters.

Put it this way:

You’ll feel more satisfaction when your employer recognizes that you are in the right and your coworker isn’t, rather than to wage a war with them that’ll probably end with one or both of you being fired.

But the only way for them to see that is if you approach this situation calmly, quietly gathering evidence and building your case, and resolving it professionally.

15) Do show willingness to resolve the issue

And finally, be willing to do all you can to fix the problem.

If it turns out that you need a series of mediated meetings with the coworker in question, go along with it and be open and honest with them.

Be willing to make compromises and show your employers that you’re actively trying to defuse and resolve the issue.

If they can see your willingness to help and be a part of the solution, they’ll be far less likely to penalize you or take the case further.

Here’s the thing:

It is frustrating to do the right thing.

You may be sick and tired of your coworker by now, but by being as difficult or stubborn as they are, you’re giving them the satisfaction of bringing you down to their level.

So, now we’ve covered how to deal with a coworker who is trying to get you fired, let’s look into some of the reasons why this nightmare has cropped up in the first place:

Why is your coworker trying to get you fired?

Life would be a breeze if we could all get along, but in reality, relationships turn sour, coworkers fall out, and even your dream job can be destroyed by a vengeful colleague.

In some cases you’ll know exactly why a coworker has it in for you — maybe you’ve clashed during a work meeting or your personalities simply don’t get along.

But what if you don’t know the reason a coworker is trying to get you fired?

Naturally, it’ll make you start to self-doubt. You may find yourself frantically looking back over every interaction you’ve had with them, to see where you messed up.

But the truth is:

There are different types of people in the workplace that will go out of their way to make your life miserable at work, and even to the extent of getting you fired. Even if you’ve done nothing wrong.

Let’s look into a few of them:

  • The office bully: A bully is a bully, no different from the mean kid at school. They get off on making other people uncomfortable. They will belittle, intimidate, or harass people they work with.
  • The narcissist at work: Narcissists lack empathy, so they won’t care about throwing you under the bus to get your job. They’ll take credit for work they haven’t done, and use demeaning language to put you down.
  • The office gossiper: Gossipers cause more harm and damage than people realize by spreading information around that might be personal or unverified.
  • The slacker: This type of coworker will avoid taking responsibility for anything, and to deflect blame from themselves they’ll point the finger at others.

But whatever type of person you’re dealing with at work, it’s important you remember that many of their tactics might involve derailing your focus at work, so you effectively finish off the job they’ve set out to do (get you fired).

That’s why it’s essential to be firm and stand your ground but to also continue focussing on your work and being professional at all times.

Final thoughts

Hopefully, the tips above will help you deal with your coworker until things blow over or you come to a resolution. But what happens if things don’t improve?

Sometimes, if the issues can’t be resolved with your coworker, you might want to consider changing team or even department, so that you no longer work together (if possible).

Speak to your manager about this, and be sure to show them how much effort you’ve put into resolving the issue first.

If they can see you’ve been willing to make changes and improve the relationship but your coworker still hasn’t, they’ll hopefully take your side and make changes to improve your time at work.

But in most cases, collecting evidence as we’ve advised and continuing to do your job well will be enough to make your case to HR or your manager.

The most important thing is to be clear on your rights at work and don’t stand for bullying or abusive behavior. With these steps in mind, you can resolve the issue without starting a workplace war.

Written by Kiran Athar

Kiran is a foodie, writer and traveler. She considers herself a citizen of the world, who gets her inspiration from the people she meets along her journeys. She's currently living in Spain, where she spends her time writing, watching the shepherds and eating tapas in the mountains of Andalucía.

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