Back-stabbing. This behavior often uses techniques such as hitting below the belt by using previously confided or sensitive information against the person or by communicating through someone else but with plausible deniability. This individual may even resort to showing artificial concern as a way of validating their behavior "You know I wouldn't want to hurt you but I'm only saying this because I'm concerned about you."
Co-worker: I'm concerned about Sally. She must have been a little distracted yesterday when she was sending out those notices to the clients because the calculations were wrong and could really cause the company some problems. Do you think everything is okay with her? However, fortunately I caught the error early so don't worry about it.
The boss confronts Sally who tries to explain that she discovered the error when she was doing her routine checking for errors and it was in no danger of being sent to clients. However, the boss's perception of the event has already been biased due to the co-worker's seemingly caring and concerned comments. This is a no-win situation for Sally because the co-worker has malicious intentions and a confrontation would only be twisted to her own purposes such as "Sally has been so touchy and irritable lately."
Unfortunately, this type of person may be fairly skilled at influencing others. In this situation, Sally may need to clearly document everything she does so that she has evidence that opposes the co-workers comments. Depending upon the situation, she may also make the suggestion to the boss that the co-worker is overly focused on Sally's work.
An internet reader described the following situation: I work in a special needs preschool and I do circletime everyday. When I was sick, I asked my co-teacher aide if she will do it for me and she said "Yes." I leave to go to the restroom and return to see the head teacher doing circletime. The co-worker never says a word about why she didn't do it. Also, she has deleted pictures used to document learning and when I restored them, she permanently deleted them and denied it ever happened.
This reader gives a number of other examples, including behavior towards the special needs children, and states: I feel guilty telling on her but am about to quit my job.
This is an unfortunate example of someone deliberately trying to create problems for others. In this situation, the reader would not be able to directly confront her (in fact, it seems that she has) because the aide would only deny it. However, the key to the problem is that the reader states "I feel guilty telling on her, but am about to quit my job." This sentiment is what allows the aide to get away with her behavior--she can count on not having to be responsible for her behavior. This reader needs to deal with her irrational feelings of guilt and recognize that guilt is about doing something wrong. If she reports the aide's behavior, not only is she not doing anything wrong but she is protecting these vulnerable children from a malicious person.
I would suspect that the head teacher already has some awareness of her behavior and may just need some supporting documentation to do something about it. Whether or not she quits her job, this reader should provide the head teacher with the necessary information so that the children can be protected.
Now, this situation would be more complicated if the aide had a special or close relationship with the head teacher. In that sort of situation, the reader may need to very detailed in her documentation and may have to go above the head teacher, if reporting to the head teacher doesn't change the situation.
These back-stabbing situations are very difficult to deal with because they are usually the malicious type of passive-aggressive person. It is understandable that this reader wants to get away from this person. However, it is important to for her to see if the situation can be remedied, because I'm sure this is not the only malicious person she will have to deal with in her life. So she needs to resolve her own feelings of guilt in order to handle the situation.
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Dr. Monica Frank