You Can’t Be Too Complacent At Work

One of the things I hate most about work is the competitive aspect. I’ve always been the type who learn or excel for the sake of personal development.  Recently,  with two different co-workers, I’ve noticed subtle attempts to assert their abilities and credentials above others in the department.   

One always attempts to take ownership of highly visible projects, at least to those outside our department. Doing the work is another story.  S/he is definitely the type that would easily throw others under the bus and take credit for work. 

The other person took over for a colleague who was much more collaborative about projects.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it reflects a different mindset than others in the department.  I feel sort of shoved aside on a major project; whereas before I was involved enough on this project to develop valuable skills and be an equal in the event of absences or vacations.   To top it off, in a recent email, this new colleague wrote that s/he is planning projects while I am “working on” similar projects.  The words “Planning” and “working on” convey very different levels and s/he is quite selective with words.  In fact I actually have more experience planning and on bigger projects, so far at least.  I have seen hints of this so I’m not surprise that s/he chose to word it this way to an outsider.

I’m not naive enough to think that my natural complacency is good.  This individual’s ability to connect with my boss and enthusiasm for bigger projects has already led my boss to pass on more boring projects my way. Certain types tend to get promoted.

Have you dealt with back-stabbing co-workers? How?


7 responses to “You Can’t Be Too Complacent At Work

  1. That sounds awful! So far we’ve been pretty good at not hiring that kind of person. 😐 Work environment is so important.

  2. I’m struggling with a bit of this, and troublesome co-workers in general, so sadly have no advice to give. Is it possible to find a fairly BS-free workplace?

  3. Ugh, ugh, ugh. (I’ve been lucky in my workplaces that everyone tends to give credit where credit is due, but I’m in publishing and not corporate.) That’s shitty, and apart from pushing back and playing it their way (fight fire with fire) I don’t really have any other suggestions.

  4. One of my staff has had difficulty with this and I’ve had to advise her on dealing with it, but I’m not sure whether my advice was really useful.

    I have always maintained an open line of communication with my direct reports so that I can get good feedback and insight on their projects from them myself, so that if this sort of thing were likely to happen, I don’t have to deal with the shadings that you mention as the only information. That’s from my role as a manager – I can tell when someone’s talking about doing more than they really did if they’re talking as though they were a lead but can’t speak from a leadership role. Also, I stamp that out immediately.

    So if it were you, I’d establish relevant touch-base reporting in person to your boss directly – not as a tattling sort of thing but to keep your boss in the loop on your actual work. If you’re being handed more boring projects are a result of the boss thinking that you’re taking less initiative, then this should be helpful. I have always found that it’s helpful to hear a little more information from my staff than less, specifically, a lack of information means I have to work that much harder to match projects to their skills and interests.

    If the tone of the emails continue to be a bit on the heavyhanded side, perhaps you could then gently raise the issue with your boss that “it seems to you that the emails are giving the impression that you’re not partners, when you understood that you were. Has anything changed? If not, would she advise that you address the issue?” Depends on your boss.

    I’ve had a boss who HATED office politics and any hint of dealing with politics and therefore attempts to address these things through that boss wouldn’t have yielded fruit but ultimately I had no problems with impressing everyone else with my competence over the credit-stealer in the end without saying anything directly. So inaction on that front might possibly be your friend. I tread cautiously with these more subtle things.

  5. Revanche- Good advice. My boss hates dealing with internal departmental politics so no “tattling” for me. However, I will try to keep the boss more up-to-date on my actual work and figure out a way to be more visible on more occasions.

  6. A few more thoughts:

    Simply telling your boss that you loved working on X, Y and Z of that project because you stretched in this skill or you got to try a new strategy you’d not tested before and learned something from it, and taking point on A, B, or C or the other may be good information in a personal conversation without ever talking about your “partner” should be good information.

    Then asking what else you can work on that would be more like that could be useful as well. It lets your boss in on the notion that actually, you do have initiative because you are starting that conversation and you have concrete details to back up the visibility of the project in a subtle but strong way. I would appreciate the ammunition you were giving me, without tying my hands with a complaint that I couldn’t immediately substantiate.

    Also, being more engaged with other people if that’s an opportunity that you have and their projects – that’s a good move as well. It demonstrates your capability more publicly without needing to say anything. It can be done very subtly with just a few words and a grin, once in a while. Very effective, very helpful in your day to day, as they will then want to help you out too.

    • Love those tips! All too often people, including myself, think that you either are good at trumpeting your accomplishments or you’re not. There are ways to get credit where credit is due without being too obvious.

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