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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

The Smart Way to Deal With That Two-Faced Co-worker Who Drives You Nuts

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When it comes to your colleagues, you know that—while there are plenty of great ones you’ll encounter throughout your working life—there are also plenty of annoying ones who will serve to make your time in the office that much tougher.

One of the worst (aside from the person whose lunch diet seems to consist of only tuna fish and hardboiled eggs)? The fake co-worker.

You know the type, right? He says one thing to your face, and then something totally different behind your back.

It’s frustrating—there’s no denying that. And, even further, it will often leave you wondering exactly how to deal. Should you paste on a smile, pretend nothing is happening, and be just as phony as him? Should you confront him head on? Should you go to your boss?

Well, as always, a lot can depend on your individual situation. But, regardless of your specific circumstances, these five tips should help to guide you in the right direction.

1. Confirm Your Suspicions

Before you run off the rails and confront that person with smoke coming out of your ears, it’s important to check your sources first.

Do you know for a fact that your co-worker is being malicious and two-faced—meaning that you witnessed it yourself? Or, is this something you heard through the grapevine?

You already know that office gossip can spiral out of control in a hurry. So, rather than acting on assumptions and jumping to conclusions, make sure that you have your facts straight. That simple act alone will save you a lot of headaches and plenty of unnecessary drama.

2. Get Some Space

Alright, so you know for certain that this colleague of yours is fake. Despite her smile and friendly demeanor, she’ll throw you under the bus the second you turn around. What now?

It’s important to create a little bit of distance between the two of you. Since you’ve confirmed that this person is indeed insincere, engaging in office chatter by the vending machines won’t do you any favors.

Instead, make your best effort to have some space. You don’t need to be blatantly rude or cold. But, avoiding being totally buddy-buddy and limiting face-time will ultimately give her less ammunition to use against you.

3. Keep Records

The last thing you want to do when you’re dealing with a fake co-worker is find yourself smack dab in the middle of an awful game of “he said, she said.”

So—call it paranoid—but it’s important for you to keep accurate records of anything negative, misleading, or mean-spirited that occurs. Whether you end up approaching the person directly or having a discussion with your superior, that supporting documentation will come in handy when you need to add more legitimacy to your complaints.

Try to correspond with that colleague using email as much as possible—that’s a surefire way to confirm that you have important things in writing. If something happens during a spoken conversation? Jot down the date, time, and a description of what occurred.

Yes, I know it can seem like a bit of overkill. But, when you feel like you’re dealing with someone who’s out to make your life that much harder, you really can’t be too careful.

4. Have the Tough Conversation

You could likely deal with the occasional backhanded comment. But, if your issue with this employee seems to be ongoing, it’s time to have an honest conversation.

Your best bet is to start directly with the person who’s causing the problem. Request to schedule a sit-down with him or her where you both can have some private and quiet space to talk—you don’t need this to turn into a recess-fist-fight scenario. Instead, just bring up the behavior that’s been bothering you.

Perhaps she’ll be so taken aback by your direct confrontation that she’ll apologize immediately and you both can move on from there. More likely than that, though? She’ll deny it profusely. That’s frustrating, but you can take comfort in the fact that you’ve made your point and proved that you won’t just roll over and be treated poorly.

What if things don’t improve after your frank discussion? Then it might be time to bring your concerns and documentation to a superior. Nobody wants to be a tattle-tale, but you also don’t deserve to have to keep tip-toeing around this person.

5. Avoid the Revenge Trap

Whether things improve or not, it can be more than tempting to want to get your revenge. It’s only fair that he gets a taste of his own medicine, right?

Wrong. As alluring as that siren song of sweet retaliation can be, it’s important that you always put your best foot forward in the office—rather than taking the knife out of your own back only to use it on someone else. Your co-workers might not always be moral and ethical, but you don’t need to subscribe to that same philosophy.

Needing to cope with a fake co-worker is never fun. But, unfortunately, it’s likely one of those things you’re going to need to do every now and then.

As long as you’re able to keep your distance, cover your own bases, have an honest conversation, and—of course—rise above, you’ll be much more likely to handle that sticky situation with professionalism and politeness.