21 steps 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.
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.
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Can a coworker get you fired?
A coworker does not have the direct authority to fire you, as that decision is typically made by management or HR.
However, a coworker can influence the decision to fire you by reporting legitimate concerns about your performance, behavior, or violations of company policies.
In some cases, coworkers may attempt to get you fired through malicious actions, such as spreading false rumors, sabotaging your work, or creating a hostile work environment.
Signs 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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. They compete with you aggressively
If you notice that your coworker is suddenly competing with you in an aggressive or underhanded manner, it might be a sign that they are trying to get you fired.
This competition may manifest in various ways, such as taking credit for your ideas, undermining your efforts, or actively working to outperform you in a way that makes you look inadequate.
6. 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.
Documenting communication and collecting evidence will be useful in case you work in a company where justice and fairness are core values.
In case those are absent and you are actually working within a corrupt system, then perhaps it would be best to directly confront the people who are trying to sabotage 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.
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.
10. Keep your emotions under control
Do your best to maintain composure. In the face of adversity, retain your equanimity and remain steadfast in your pursuit of truth and responsibility.
Do not let your emotions dictate your actions. Maintain emotional intelligence and respond rationally to any provocation.
11. Figure out the motivations behind your coworker's actions
Try to understand the underlying motivations of your coworker and discern the forces that drive their behavior. What circumstances lead to this situation?
Do your best to put yourself in the shoes of the colleague in question and think about what is their problem with you. Is this hostility personal or purely professional? Have you done anything to offend them? Do they see you as a threat?
12. Be mindful of your body language
An honest and righteous individual has nothing to hide. The truth is on their side. You need to embody these ideas and exude them through your body language and behavior.
So stand up straight with your shoulders back in case a conflict escalates. Project confidence and competence in your actions and demeanor, making it difficult for others to undermine you.
13. Master the art of negotiation
Negotiating is one of the most valuable life skills that one could acquire and it has many practical applications in a professional and corporate setting.
Negotiating well is all about developing the skills required to reach mutually beneficial resolutions while maintaining your integrity.
It can help you navigate difficult situations, resolve conflicts, and find common ground. By effectively utilizing negotiation skills, you can address issues professionally and potentially mitigate the negative impact of a coworker's actions.
Negotiation skills enable you to engage in constructive conversations and find solutions that work for all parties involved.
By focusing on interests rather than positions, you can explore possible outcomes that address the underlying concerns of both you and your coworker.
14. Form workplace alliances
One effective strategy is to form workplace alliances with other coworkers. These alliances can provide you with support, protection, and valuable insights into the situation.
When you have allies in the workplace, you are less likely to be isolated or targeted.
Your coworkers can provide emotional support and help you navigate through difficult situations.
Moreover, having more people on your side can make it more difficult for the problematic coworker to succeed in their efforts to get you fired.
Also, forming alliances with your friendly colleagues allows you to gather information and insights about the situation that you might not have access to otherwise.
They may be aware of the coworker's intentions or tactics and can help you identify patterns or red flags.
This information can be crucial in helping you protect yourself and possibly even addressing the issue with management or HR.
15. Document incidents and conflicts
Another crucial step when dealing with a coworker who is trying to get you fired is to thoroughly document any incidents and conflicts.
This can provide you with valuable evidence to support your case if the situation escalates or if you need to involve management or HR.
Keeping a detailed record of any incidents or conflicts with the coworker in question serves as tangible evidence of their behavior.
This documentation can be critical if you need to report the situation to your supervisor, the Human Resources department, or other higher-ups in the company.
It can help to validate your claims and demonstrate a pattern of problematic behavior.
16. Choose your words carefully
When reporting incidents related to a coworker who is attempting to make you look bad and jeopardize your job, it is crucial to be mindful of your word choices.
Careful language helps to ensure that your report is perceived as accurate, objective, and professional.
Using unbiased and factual language will showcase your professionalism. This allows you to effectively convey the situation without appearing to be overly emotional or retaliatory.
Being precise and accurate with your word choices will lend credibility to your account of the incident.
Avoid exaggerating or making assumptions, as these can damage your credibility and make it harder for others to take your report seriously.
17. Foster good relationships with your superiors
Maintaining strong connections with your supervisors or managers can be beneficial in several ways when faced with a coworker who is trying to make you look bad.
By building good relationships with your superiors, you establish trust and rapport with them.
This can help ensure that they value your work and contributions, and it may make them less likely to believe false accusations or misinformation from the problematic coworker.
By maintaining a good rapport with higher-ups, you can feel more comfortable discussing the issue with them, and they may be more receptive to your concerns.
Also, your superiors can provide valuable support and guidance when you're facing a difficult situation with a coworker.
They may be able to offer solutions, mediate conflicts, or suggest resources, such as HR, to help you navigate the situation.
18. Seek professional help outside of work
When dealing with a challenging situation at work, such as a coworker attempting to get you fired, seeking professional help outside of the workplace can be invaluable.
Life coaches, therapists, and other professionals can provide guidance, support, and strategies to help you navigate the situation effectively.
A therapist or counselor can help you process your emotions, cope with stress, and build resilience in the face of adversity.
An outside professional can provide an unbiased perspective on the situation. They can help you evaluate your options and make rational decisions without being influenced by the emotions and tensions present in the workplace.
19. Relax and unwind after work
Dealing with a hostile coworker can cause significant stress, which can negatively impact your physical and mental health.
By finding ways to unwind after work, you can reduce stress levels and prevent burnout.
Engaging in activities that you enjoy or practicing relaxation techniques can help you manage stress more effectively.
Also, unwinding after work allows you to process the emotions and thoughts related to the situation with your coworker.
This time can be used for reflection, journaling, or discussing your feelings with a trusted friend or family member.
By addressing your emotions, you can maintain your emotional well-being and avoid carrying negative feelings into other aspects of your life.
(Unwinding is actually an important part of complex problem-solving. This is something that we address in our guide on how to properly unwind after work in a way that improves your problem-solving skills.)
20. Look at the situation as a learning experience
Use this conflict as an opportunity to grow personally and professionally, acquiring skills that will benefit you in the long run. You need to embrace the chaos, as they say.
Acknowledge the conflict as an opportunity for growth and development, rather than avoiding or denying its existence.
Overcome this challenge with courage, integrity, and resilience, emerging stronger and wiser for having faced it.
21. 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.
My experience when a coworker was trying to get me fired
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. They totally threw me under the bus.
(Later on, I realized that this person was an absolute narcissist, unable to take responsibility for their actions.)
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.
(In case you do get fired, know that you can be rehired after being wrongfully terminated from your job.)
Frequently asked questions about coworkers who try to get you fired
Is trying to get someone fired harassment?
Attempting to get someone fired can be considered harassment if it involves malicious behavior, targeted and repeated actions, or creating a hostile work environment for the targeted individual. This can include spreading false rumors, sabotaging their work, or engaging in other harmful behaviors with the intent of causing their dismissal.
However, reporting genuine concerns about a coworker's performance, ethical violations, or illegal actions is not harassment but rather a responsible approach to addressing workplace issues.
Is conspiring to get someone fired a felony?
Conspiring to get someone fired is not typically considered a felony in itself. However, if the actions taken as part of the conspiracy involve illegal activities, such as fraud, defamation, or theft of confidential information, those involved may be subject to criminal charges depending on the jurisdiction and severity of the offense.
Additionally, conspiring to get someone fired can lead to civil lawsuits if the targeted individual can prove wrongful termination, defamation, or other damages resulting from the conspiracy. It is important to note that laws and regulations regarding employment practices vary by jurisdiction, so consulting with a legal professional for specific guidance is recommended.
What should I include in my documentation of incidents?
When documenting incidents involving a coworker attempting to get you fired, it is essential to provide a clear and detailed record. Here are some key elements to include in your documentation: date and time of the incident, description of the incident, people involved, location, evidence, and the impact that it had.
Can I confront the coworker who is trying to get me fired directly?
It is not recommended to confront the coworker in question directly. It's best to report the situation to your direct manager and the Human Resources Department of your company and let them handle the situation.
How can I involve HR in resolving conflicts?
Simply send an email to the HR department or to a specific rep and ask them for a personal consultation. They will get back to you soon with further details on arranging the meeting.