Dealing with Your Nemesis at Work

Nemesis at Work
Dealing with a Nemesis at Work

One of my favorite televisions shows is Modern Family. I can’t think of a character on that show that I don’t like.  But one of my favorite characters is Cam. He was a college football player who now coaches a high school football team.

As a former athlete, Cam is uber-competitive. And he always seems to have a “nemesis.” It may be another teacher at the school where he coaches. It might be someone in his social circle. But he always seems to find someone who he must compete with.

I think we’ve all run into that in our professional lives at one point or another. It could be the insecure boss who has to find fault with everything you do. It could be the peer that is competing with you for the next promotion.

It doesn’t matter how competitive you are. The other person may just be the type that has to beat someone at something. If you are the competitive type, it will definitely fuel the fire.

Recognize the situation

Some people are so non-competitive that they don’t even realize they have a nemesis. They assume that since they are both on the same team and they will naturally work together.

When something goes wrong for you and the other person gains an advantage, the first assumption is that that’s just how it works out sometimes.

At some point, you must recognize a trend. If the other person is not so subtle about it, it may be a blatant competition. Even the most trusting person in the world needs to keep their eyes open to people who will take advantage of their good nature.

Are you being singled out?

Once you recognize a nemesis at work, you need to find out what drives him. Is this person just out for himself and competing with everyone that gets in the way of his career advancement? Or has this person singled you out? Maybe you made him mad about something in the past. Maybe you have something that he wants, like a title or position, or control of a primo project. Sometimes, having access to a high-ranking executive is enough for someone to try to bring you down.

What is driving your nemesis at work?

So you have identified a nemesis at work and determined that he has singled you out. What now? You want to find out why this person is suddenly your nemesis. Does he want something you have? You may not think you hold all that much power. But if someone sees you as a threat, they at least perceive that you have some form of power.

Take an inventory of what you have. Do you have a unique relationship with someone in power? Even if your nemesis saw you laughing and joking with the boss, he may perceive that you are extra chummy with the boss.  And he’ll want to bring you down. He may bad-mouth you behind your back, or point out some of your errors or weaknesses.

You could simply be a threat because you are successful. There is an old saying that there are two ways to have the tallest building in town. Build the tallest building, or tear all the taller buildings down. Some people who are incapable or insecure may not be able to compete with your success. They will resort to tearing you down to make themselves look better.

Dealing with the nemesis at work

Build the tallest building. When people resort to tearing you down, it is best to continue to build the tallest building. Take the high road. A good manager should see your nemesis’s negativity and the fact that you are adding legitimate value.

Promote your value. It’s great that you add value to your workplace. And few managers like self-promoting people that always brag about their accomplishments. But managers need to be made aware of the value you are adding. Instead of telling the manager everything you’ve done, promote it in terms of the value you are adding to the manager’s area.

Be honest about your mistakes. Nobody likes to point out when they make a mistake, especially to their boss. But you have to realize that if you don’t report it, somebody else probably will. Informing the boss of your mistakes gives you two advantages. First, you can put it in the best light. Report the error and diffuse it by also reporting how you plan on fixing it. Secondly, it preempts your nemesis. By the time he gets to the boss to report your screw-up, the boss already knows about it. You’ve stolen the thunder away from your nemesis.

Conclusion

Perhaps nemesis is a strong word. But every once in a while, we run into someone who plays politics and works against us. You need to always have your guard up for these people and know how to deal with them to avert their schemes to defeat you.

How have you dealt with your nemesis at work?

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of Geerati at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Related Posts
Independent Consultant
Although there are many ways to categorize consulting, one major difference is whether someone works as an independent consultant, or as a consultant working for a consulting firm. Firm consultants vs ...
READ MORE
What Does a Consultant on the Bench Do?
Like many industries, the consulting industry can be feast or famine.  There can be more work than you have time to complete it.  In those cases you have to decide ...
READ MORE
Why You Should Be a Consultant – Hint: You Are
My father worked for a large manufacturing company for nearly forty years. He retired from his management position in 1986.  Twenty-two years after his death, my surviving mother still collects ...
READ MORE
The Thick Skin of a Consultant
Suppose you hire a local landscaping firm to care for your lawn.  During a backyard party, if a guest comments that your bushes are overgrown and the grass is cut ...
READ MORE
Is Celebrity Apprentice good business training?
I don’t watch a lot of TV, but one of my favorite shows is Celebrity Apprentice.  Not that I think it’s quality TV by any means; I just get a ...
READ MORE
Treating the Root Cause of the Problem
A colleague of mine recently went to the doctor a while back.  He was having some severe pain in his knees.  The doctor quietly analyzed the problem and then sat ...
READ MORE
The Top Tool for the Consultant Toolkit
Have you ever watched a TV commercial from a company you didn’t like?  Did it make you wonder who in their right mind would purchase such a product? Have you ever ...
READ MORE
Paying Your Dues for Success
I remember once when a manager at my client was promoted and was making that milestone move from cubicle to a private office.  This was a big career move and ...
READ MORE
Contractual Documents Used in Consulting
I had a friend once who had several years of experience. He decided to give consulting a try. He knew a friend in the industry and made an agreement to ...
READ MORE
Good Manager, Poor Leader. What’s Missing?
The baseball coach was frustrated with his team. They just weren't executing. When they were up to bat, they couldn't buy a hit. The pitchers gave up too many hits. ...
READ MORE
Can You be an Independent Consultant and Work
What Does a Consultant on the Bench Do?
Why You Should Be a Consultant – Hint:
The Thick Skin of a Consultant
Is Celebrity Apprentice good business training?
Treating the Root Cause of the Problem
The Top Tool for the Consultant Toolkit
Paying Your Dues for Success
Contractual Documents Used in Consulting
Good Manager, Poor Leader. What’s Missing?

  • Pingback: How to Handle a Work Nemesis - AITS Consulting()

  • Chris Pehura

    Every so often someone will grant you the privilege of being their nemesis. When that happens, make sure everyone in your environment knows it’s going on. What is odd is that some get in the habit of putting people down so often, they tend to exhibit the behavior in group meetings too.

    When this happens, state it’s going on. State that you and the person saying the nasties need to talk offline about this. Then transition back to the topics of the meeting. This sends a signal to the group that there is friction, and that you’re “manning up” to address it.