There are a lot of people in the world of corporate America who desperately need to be told to go fuck themselves. These aren’t just people that annoy, but people that you genuinely loathe. They make the office environment intolerable due to their overzealousness for the job combined with their incessant kiss-ass nature. Throw in a dash of shamelessness, a sprinkle of corporate brown-nosing, and a pinch of teacher’s pet, and you get the worst of the worst when it comes to co-workers.
But none of them compare to this monster.
You see in the workplace there is a certain, understood courtesy when it comes to dealing with work disagreements. You come to me with your problems, I do my best to resolve them and vice versa. If you think I screwed up on something, you give me the opportunity to resolve it or explain the discrepancy. Everyone goes in assuming best intentions from each other, rather than malice or outright incompetence. We’re all on the same team, yadda yadda yadda.
Sometimes, those disagreements cannot be squashed quickly, if at all. There will be times where a colleague will be annoyed at your style, work ethic (or lack thereof), or attitude. Even in those moments, though, we still adhere to those rules of engagement, so to speak. Unless you’re one of those people.
Those people who, in the middle of an e-mail exchange decide, unprompted, to start adding the higher-ups to this conversation. Their boss, my boss, my boss’s boss, someone in another department who somehow has authority over my department’s management or budget. They’ve called in the big guns, the reinforcements, for their side of the argument. And in doing so, they’ve declared war.
Make no mistake, people, the surprise CC’ing of the boss is an act of aggression. It’s a subtle move meant to undermine your position, put you on the defensive, and hope the pressure from your superiors will make you retreat.
Rather than continue to work through these issues with you, or even ask your permission to loop in someone else to resolve this conflict, they’ve gone rogue. They went over your head while not actually going over your head, but the intent is clear.
For whatever reason, they want to put you and your perceived failings in the spotlight so that they can look good and you can look bad. They’re calling you out and putting you in the line of fire all so that they can win this argument and look like the perfect little employee doing it.
It’s a coward’s play. They’ve given up the moral high ground and are instead trying to win the argument through pure pressure and chicanery. They know their stance is probably wrong, but they think that if they run and tell the teacher their sins will be overlooked while yours are punished.
In doing so, they have fired the first shot, the opening salvo in the battle of the blame that is to come. They disregarded the rules of combat and threw diplomacy out the window.
So how do you deal with someone who has declared war on you?
Well, as I said, diplomacy has been left behind. Your only option is to win through an onslaught of aggression, rather than the passive-aggression they have thrown at you. Drag up their unhelpfulness. Put them on blast for not wanting to solve this problem amicably. Throw every mistake they’ve made into the limelight.
Don’t be afraid to retaliate, tit for tat, and bring in their superiors. Let this rat’s bosses know exactly the kind of person that they’ve been employing. They want to adjudicate you in front of your boss? Two can play at that game.
On the other hand, if they just brought in their boss to flex and make a show of power, feel free to bring in your own boss for some extra back-up. The point is that you want to level the playing field, while making it clear that they were the aggressor.
Just like in war, there is no chance that you will emerge from this situation unscathed. That option was gone the moment they brought in the boss. It’s unfortunate, but all you can do is come out the other side with all your limbs intact and making sure this animal doesn’t have the chance to do this to you or someone else in the future. You didn’t start this war, but you damn sure can end it.