10 painless ways to deal with a coworker trying to get you fired
Dealing with a coworker who is trying to get you fired is going to be quite the challenge. I know, it is a terrible situation. Believe me, I have been there.
It is very stressful and it can prevent you from doing great work and furthering your career. Right now you might be thinking of going straight to your boss or just leaving your job.
But it would be wise of you not to rush things. Give it a day of thinking because It is never a good idea to take actions based on emotions or out of ignorance.
Besides, there is plenty that you can do to deal with that coworker who is trying to make you lose your job. I hope that the advice here will be helpful in your situation.
At the end of this post, I will tell you a personal story about a coworker trying to make me look bad and what worked for me.
Table of Contents
What are the signs that a coworker is trying to get you fired
Let’s take a look at some classic signs that a coworker is trying to sabotage you and get you fired.
They keep tabs on you
You might notice that at first the person in question takes particular interest in you and your work for no apparent reason. They might ask you how your work is going and even try to help you with something.
However, they are just doing their best to monitor you and they are just waiting for you to mess up with something.
Soon they might reveal to be a little pedantic with you and this is usually a sign that you should watch out for this person.
They gaslight you
Gaslighting is a popular manipulation technique. Basically, the person who is being gaslighted is given some sort of initial information.
Later on, the person who is manipulating them insists that the initial information was different than what it actually was.
If this is something that you are experiencing, then they are trying to manipulate you and cloud your judgment. The main purpose of this technique is to make you doubt yourself and your capabilities.
However, it also has the potential to cause you to fail in your work because of the misleading information that you were given.
Refusal to help or provide you with information
A downright refusal to help that goes on continuously can be a sign that your colleague is hostile toward you. And if they refuse to give you essential information and support, then they are most likely trying to sabotage you. Here is how you can deal with a coworker who is ignoring you.
They give you bad advice on purpose
In combination with gaslighting, your backstabbing colleague might be giving you bad advice on purpose.
As soon as you notice signs of such behavior, you can be sure that this person is completely unreliable and you should stop listening to them.
They try to make you look bad in front of your boss and colleagues
And of course, they might just blatantly and unapologetically try to make you look bad in front of your colleagues and your boss.
At this point, they openly state with their behavior that they don’t like you for some reason and they want you gone.
The good thing in this situation is that a colleague or maybe even your boss might pick up on what is going on and do something to resolve the situation. Also, have you considered the possibility that your coworker is trying to get you fired because they see you as a professional threat?
How to deal with a coworker who is trying to get you fired
If you are absolutely sure that your coworker is malicious and trying to get you fired, then you need to act immediately.
Here are some effective steps that you can take in order to protect yourself from people trying to make you look bad in front of your coworkers and your boss.
1. Check your company policy
Somebody trying to get you fired is a form of harassment. This should be considered gross misconduct and in itself is a termination offense.
So go over your company policy and check what it says about this type of behavior. The person who is harassing you should be fired, not you.
2. Do some self-evaluation and self-reflection
No sane boss or manager will fire you if you are somebody who gets along with people and does great work. So take a look at the work that you have been doing and ask yourself what could you be doing better.
Also, consider your professional relationships. Have you been a good coworker lately? Are you helpful, resourceful, and knowledgeable? Are you a team player?
3. Start documenting your work
Make sure that you document everything related to your work. Make daily and weekly work reports, even if they are not required by your superiors.
You need to be able to show what you have been working on and for what reasons.
This is to show (and prove if necessary) that you are diligent in your work and there is no ground on which you should be fired.
4. Document online and written communication as evidence
As the coworker who is trying to get you fired might be feeding you misleading information, you should keep logs of what they are telling you.
So make sure you keep those emails and private messages. You can even take screenshots and underline certain parts of the text.
This way, in case it comes to a dispute between you and them, you can show your superiors exactly what they have told you.
5. Seek help from your boss and HR
This is something that you should do early on once you notice what is going on because any supervisor would want something like this to be brought to their attention as early as possible.
Also, if possible, file a complaint to HR. You should involve as many people as possible. Raise hell. Make noise. Show your bully that they are messing with the wrong person.
Go to your superior and tell them about what is going on. Explain how you see things from your point of view. Tell them that you feel threatened and harassed.
Tell them that this unpleasant situation is impacting your work and your mental well-being. Ask them what actions they can take to stop this from happening.
NOTE: If your superior refuses to take action for some reason, then you should seek out their superior.
And if you feel bad about going behind their back, then ask yourself what kind of boss allows their team members to be harassed in the workplace like this. And if they are also trying to sabotage you? Here we have listed some classic signs that your boss feels threatened by you and is trying to get rid of you.
6. Allow a cooldown period
Now that you have taken control of the situation, you should just focus on your work and let the measures you have taken shield you for a while.
Ideally, the deplorable behavior of your coworker will stop. Just go about your workdays as usual and focus on doing a great job.
However, keep tabs on your harasser and stay alert. You should report them in case you notice that they have started to target somebody else.
7. Deal with any complaints against you
In case your boss calls you for a private conversation and tells you that complaints have been made about you, then do your best to figure out exactly what those complaints are.
Ask them what exactly you did wrong and request some form of evidence. In case they fail to elaborate, then that would be quite suspicious of them.
Logic and confidence in yourself are your best friends in this situation.
8. Limit your communication with them
It would be best to avoid interacting with that person from now on. Do your best to ignore them. Don’t give in to snarky remarks and passive-aggressive behavior. Essentially, you are dealing with classic toxic coworker behavior.
What these people want is drama and confrontations so don’t give them what they want. Ignore them and hopefully, they will lose interest.
9. Be nice when interactions are unavoidable
A high-risk-high-reward strategy to deal with a person who is trying to get you fired is to be overly nice to them when interactions are unavoidable.
Given that you are willing to go the extra mile. This is a Machiavellian tactic that will most likely anger the person even more so be careful.
If they decide to confront you or have a public meltdown, you can at least tell them that you have been very nice to them and you don’t understand what made them so angry. And by the way, here you can visit our complete blog series on dealing with difficult coworkers.
10. Explore other job opportunities
In no way am I telling you to just give up and leave on your own. However, keep in mind that you have other options.
Also, exploring other jobs will give you psychological safety, and perhaps you won’t be so stressed out about the situation.
And who knows, you might actually stumble upon a better-paying job at a place without emotionally disturbed werewolves.
What worked for me when a coworker was trying to make me look bad
What was interesting about my situation was that the person who was trying to get me fired was a subordinate of mine.
A few years ago, I was managing a small team. A member of the team was going through some personal problems and this affected their performance.
I did my best to support my subordinate through these difficult times. I told them to take a paid leave from work for a week or two so they could clear up their mind.
When the person came back to work, I did my best to shield them from the everyday hassles of working a nine-to-five desk job. I gave them less work and I wasn’t critical if they failed to accomplish something.
This went on for quite some time.
Unfortunately, my teammate’s performance was becoming worse. They didn’t show any signs of improvement. They would slack, not trying at all, sometimes wasting entire workdays.
I had numerous talks with them, offering whatever support I could. I become their personal counselor and compensated for their failings at work by doing their job outside of regular work hours.
Later on, this person and I were called in by our boss to resolve the situation. My colleague blamed me for their own failings, saying that I was a lousy team manager. Later on, I realized that this person was a toxic narcissist.
They blamed me for miscommunication within the team and for poorly managing our projects.
Our boss fired this person the very next day.
You see, this whole time our boss (the department manager) was in the loop. They knew exactly what was going on because I had involved them from the very beginning.
They were also very concerned and provided all the support that they could. They knew very well that I was doing everything in my power to help my teammate.
Unfortunately, this situation went on for too long. And when this person blamed me for their failings, our boss decided that he would not tolerate this behavior anymore.
- Take action as soon as you notice that somebody is trying to get you fired.
- Involve your superior (and their boss), and HR from the very beginning of the situation.
- Document your work and all written communication between you and the person who is harassing you.
- Here is what you can do if they throw you under the bus for something.
- Consider searching for other job options if the odds don’t seem to be in your favor.
- In case you do get fired, know that you can be rehired after being wrongfully terminated from your job.
- Knowing that you have a target on your back at work can be stressful. Here's how you can unwind after work.