I'm a mid-level manager in a national organization and have had some problems arise with others in the organization spreading misinformation about me and my department. Other managers in my office are twisting facts, exaggerating situations and starting rumors about me to make me look bad. It seems they never miss an opportunity to embellish on an issue or leave out key facts, raising questions about my abilities and the quality of my work.
I haven't gone to my superior or HR at this point because I don't want to be looked at as a whiner. Plus, these people are so skillful that they cover their tracks very well. What is the best way to handle this? It's bothering me so much, I'm afraid it will start to affect my work.
Don't worry, Lisa, you're not alone - not by a long shot. Some people in the workplace are so overworked and overwhelmed that their rational thinking is compromised. This leads to making stupid decisions, like spreading hearsay or bad information about another employee. Other people who engage in this type of diabolical behavior are just plain evil.
Every workplace has its challenges, but a lot of the time these challenges have nothing to do with the actual work itself, and everything to do with "people problems." Understanding this reality of life on the cube farm should compel you to do whatever you can to be the type of employee that doesn't ever get involved in political situations.
The first thing you can do is refuse to play the role of a victim. Is it possible you're doing something to incite such behavior by your co-workers? Try to think rationally and objectively about how your behavior leads people to want to destroy you. It's time to do what you can to change the problem, because it's really hard to get others to change - unless they want to.
You can go to HR or your manager. But I think you're right, you may just end up looking like a whiner, so this would be the last resort if I were in your shoes. Try to disengage from the drama and re-frame it as a business challenge. Hard to do, for sure, but actively working at removing your emotional ties will make a huge difference in your ability to rectify this annoying and stressful situation.
Next, try to take a look at any behavior you demonstrate that would negatively contribute to the situation. Then I'd focus on being such a stellar employee that you reach "beyond reproach" status. When your professionalism and amazing work output reach this level, it'll be hard for anyone to believe anything bad about you.
And then the tables will turn, and the people who are spreading the rumors will be the ones worrying about their professional reputations.
Molly Luffy, MBA is a local business coach who helps people shift from surviving to thriving at work. Send your work-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org