I have an executive colleague who's determined to be the shining star at our charity. She clearly strives to be closest "to the throne" and gets upset when our CEO praises my (or anyone else's) work. She's the sort of workplace bully who takes credit for everything good coming out of our team and plays the blame game whenever we have a problem. She is fawning and ingratiating with the CEO, who, frankly, eats it up.
Although this colleague can be nasty to everyone, she seems to pick me out for her special poison. She pointedly doesn't speak to me in meetings or at social events and seems to think any ideas I have are worthless (as she lets everyone know). She also gossips behind my back.
The BIG news is that I recently (and accidentally) stumbled across a piece of quite shocking "dirt" on this colleague. I could make her very miserable and maybe even cause her to lose her marriage AND her job. I’d love to see her really suffer, at this point.
A dose of her own “medicine” might do her some good, don’t you think?
Kathryn says ...
Every business—for-profit or nonprofit—seems to have a least one “cutthroat” who is too busy clawing their way to the top to remember their workplace etiquette or even their humanity. And it is no surprise that these tyrants find the perceived weakest (read: kindest) of the bunch to pick out for their nasty attentions (she thinks that is you). That’s the way it worked when we were in 3rd grade and it is still the same. Unfortunately, the darker side of human nature is depressingly predictable.
Refusing to be a victim of workplace bullying is fair enough: you shouldn’t be the target of a ruthless, unkind co-worker. That said, PLEASE let go of your “dishing the dirt” plan. Destroying the offender’s career and/or marriage doesn’t strike me as a fair or equitable solution to this workplace bullying problem. I understand that revenge fantasies can be deeply satisfying; nevertheless, acting on those destructive daydreams are often out of line. Frankly, you will only drop to her level and you don't want to go there.
I advise that you step back, get some perspective and take another route to stop her from picking on you.
At the risk of sounding too soft, I think it is worth a try to ignore this woman and, when necessary, interact in a polite, calm and soothing manner—much like you would treat a wild animal that crossed your path. Treat your colleague as all workplace bullies should be treated: sidestep her petty insults and carry on.
One other, stronger (but still reasonable!) way to stop the madness is for you to confront her directly about her bad work behavior. This needs to be done off-site, in a one-on-one meeting. Tell her exactly what you've experienced and tell her emphatically to stop it. Make it clear you're not going to be on the other end of her unwarranted, bullying attacks any longer. Tell her that you will stand up to her, in private or in public, if she tries it again. Be strong and self-assured and this likely thin-skinned oppressor will choose another victim. (Sad, but true.) And never fear — with her voracious ambition to be on top, your unpleasant colleague will likely soon be moving on to greener pastures.
Short of becoming a threatening workplace bully, yourself, be ready to pick your fights when you must and assemble your allies when you're ready. The CEO, who seemingly doesn't get this woman's not-so-hidden agenda, will be of no help to you here. Your co-workers are your best supporters: they know who your colleague really is and what she's trying to do to you (and everyone else).
Bottom line: This workplace bullying behavior has no place in a nonprofit, where successful mission delivery is paramount and everyone needs works together to achieve social change.