Career Advice: Dealing With The Clever Trouble-maker
Walsh Enterprises Business & Financial Advisors
Huntington Beach, California USA
Dealing With the Clever Trouble-maker
Reprint from a blog posted April 2009 at www.walshal.wordpress.com
A client asked me to review a letter she wrote, and it prompted me to
write this article.
She’s dealing with a trouble-maker in a professional association who is
trying to build political power for herself by exercising divide & conquer
tactics. The woman’s using her position & influence to divide people by
ethnic, national, and professional lines so she can control them. It’s
causing problems for my client because she’s being pressured to go
We’ve all run across people like this. It’s very immature behavior. Most
people leave it behind on the playground when they grow out of
childhood. A few never grow up.
I think my client knew her letter was wrong on some level because she
asked me to review it. The letter was basically a mental dump of all her
anger & frustrations – with wording and language that she would
never normally use. She was planning to send it to the head of the
organization. I’m glad she didn’t – and now she is too.
So how does one deal with such people? They can be very aggravating
and destructive. They appeal to the basest behaviors in others.
Fortunately, most people of this type self-implode at some point. They try
to operate below the radar of management, but eventually they are found
out. So the best way to deal with them is usually to ignore them and let
Then there are the rare situations when you just have to do something. I
had one of those experiences. Another manager at the same level as me
was trying to turn people against me in order to make himself look
better. He wanted to run his department and mine. He resorted to
devious tactics; including cruising my computer after-hours looking for
ammunition to use against me.
The easy aspect of dealing with these people is that they’re not hard to
spot. Their arrogance and lack of scruples makes them stand out
quickly. I even had other people coming to me and warning me (that’s
how I found out about him cruising my computer).
Most of the time, I ignored him and concentrated on my relationships with
the other employees. By being real, and having integrity, I earned their
respect. But this alone wasn’t enough. He kept trying to make me look
bad to my boss by sneaking in behind my back and presenting
“evidence” that was taken out of context and left off critical info. I would
find myself in the position of being called on the carpet to explain. I
never got in trouble, but it got annoying and my boss was a little dense
about what was going on.
Finally I decided that something had to be said. I bided my time, chose
my moment, and then presented my case as calmly & rationally as
possible. My comments were received without response, and my boss
then took some time to observe for himself. I just waited. It wasn’t long
before my antagonist boxed himself into a corner and became so
paranoid that he quit for fear of being fired first. I ended up running my
department and his.
Getting back to that letter. If you have a similar problem and just can’t
stop yourself from writing a letter (or email) - do it in private, get all of
your bitterness & anger out, read it several times to make yourself feel
better, and then destroy it. Write several if you need to, but don’t
show them to anyone else and don’t give them to your boss. If anything
has to be said - do it in person, do it as calmly & rationally as possible,
and don’t lower yourself to the level of your antagonist.
Keep the high ground.