There was an episode of the short-lived but unequivocally brilliant show Don’t Trust the B In Apt. 23 in which the naive June starts a job at an investment banking firm. She works with a group of men and the lone other female in the group immediately befriends her and makes her first week there an absolute dream. She gives her tips about coworkers, invites her to drinks, comforts her about her finances, etc. June is convinced she has found a great friend and confidante.
However, June’s wise/borderline insane roommate Chloe (the B--- in Apt. 23) insists that June has not found a friend but a nemesis who will do everything in her power to take her down. "She's your nemesis, trust me," says Chloe. Sure enough, Chloe is right.
Of course, having an office nemesis or mortal enemy can happen anywhere, but when there are only a few women in a work environment the sense of competition intensifies. According to a 2007 Workplace Bullying Institute survey, though the majority of workplace bullies are men (60/40), female bullies target other women 71% of the time. Additionally, female bullies more frequently engage in under-the-radar behaviors such as sabotage (53.7% of female vs. 39.9% of male bullies) and abuse of authority (50.2% vs. 44.7%).
The episode ended with June literally stabbing this girl in the back accidentally with a cake knife. In order to avoid this happening to you, we talked to some experts about how to spot your workplace nemesis.
1. She (or he!) is really (and maybe suddenly) super interested in being your bestie
She meets you on the first day and immediately wants to hang out with you all the time. She Facebook friends you and follows you on Instagram. You may just think, “Hey, I’m great and super interesting and take amazing pictures of sunsets, so why wouldn’t she want to know me?” But beware of this over-friendliness. Carly Fauth of personal finance blog Money Crashers says, “They may later use any information you provide them against you. Anyone that patronizes you with silly compliments could be a nemesis as well. They're trying to get on your good side so you'll divulge more personal information.” This is classic Art of War behavior. She may be getting to know you so she can take you down.
2. She's all about someone winning and someone losing
And guess which role she wants to play? She'll look for ways to blame you for anything and make herself look like a hero. Leigh Steere, co-founder of Managing People Better, said, “Employees who try to 'take down' a coworker are saying 'Someone must lose so I can win.' Back stabbers may 'win' temporarily, but soon enough, someone will catch them at their game and it will result in career damage. Instead, all employees should be thinking, 'How can I help everyone succeed and shine?' In the end, professionals with a win-win attitude, who are looking out for everyone, are the ones who get ahead in their careers.”
3. She tries to get you to do anything that will damage your career
This one seems obvious, but she may be sly. If she has been at the company longer, she may know exactly how to piss off your boss and could give you bad direction like encouraging that you send a bold email or putting something on social media.
So now that you have spotted this office nemesis, what do you do? Steere says you have a few options.
1. Ignore it
Sometimes, if you don't respond, the person will stop the behavior.
2. Go out of your way to help her
Sometimes killing her with kindness can turn the relationship around. But do not spend too much time doing this if it gets no results.
3. Confront her
Say, "I'm noticing that you are making comments at my expense. If you have an issue with me, I request that you speak to me about it directly and privately. If you develop a reputation for talking badly about others at meetings or around the water cooler, you end up hurting your own career. People tend not to trust individuals who engage in this type of communication."
4. Report it
If you see a continuing pattern of this behavior, document your observations in as much detail as possible and go to HR.