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I have a co-worker who is your stereotypical douche. Underhanded, shady, takes credit for other people’s work, and so on. He’s even gone so far as having his wife attempt to defame my character around town. I say “attempt” because he didn’t succeed, and basically everyone sees through him and knows my integrity speaks for itself. How do I get my apparently blind boss to understand how crappy this guy is, without making it seems like I’m just being petty and cutting him down?
Dear Human With The Douchey Coworker,
There’s not a lot more douchey than the guy who rides other’s coattails, then claims to have designed the coat.
I wonder how his wife is attempting to defame your chapter around town. I wonder what he told his wife that led her to do that. Without knowing the ins and outs of the situation, he sounds pretty insecure. Is he jealous of your work? Is he trying to compensate for the fact that you’re (probably) doing a better job? Is he worried everyone will finally find out he’s not as great as he tries to portray himself? The answer doesn’t matter all that much. While it’s one thing to have a work disagreement, it’s another when your coworker is trying to defame you personally.
I also wonder why you want your boss to see how shitty he is. Do you want validation he’s a douchebag? Maybe you’re not receiving enough credit for your own work? Maybe his childish behaviour is affecting your ability to work?
You say that “everyone sees through him” except for your “apparently blind boss.” I’d ask, what knowledge are others privy to that your boss isn’t? Or, does your boss know, but choose to turn a blind eye?
If there’s information about this Douche that your boss doesn’t know, tell your boss. As you know, this can be a slippery slope because you don’t want to come off as a tattletale child asking a parent to remedy a sibling feud. But just because it’s a fine line doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be walked. If it’s affecting the workplace, your boss should know.
Instead of focusing on Douchebag’s actions, try to keep the conversation about how his actions affect you/your coworker’s work. If I were a boss, I wouldn’t want an asshole on my team. But for the bosses that may not care, speaking to the bottom line may help.
For example, maybe don’t say: “Douchebag did X,Y and Z and so we all hate him.”
But, maybe say: “Do you have time to talk? I’ve tried to keep this issue out of your hands because I don’t want to bother you, but at this point, it’s starting to affect our work and I just wanted to keep you in the loop in case you noticed. For a while now, Douchebag has been doing [these sorts of things] and taking credit for other’s people work, like when he [example]. I’ve ignored it but now he’s spreading rumours about me and it’s making me feel uncomfortable. I wanted to let you know because even though what he’s doing is inappropriate, I’m trying my best… but it’s starting to affect [my work, my mental health, our teamwork, specifics, etc.].”
You don’t have to suggest a solution like “fire him!!!!” Simply let your boss know what’s happening in an unbiased way. Frame it as wanting to keep them in the loop and wanting to ensure work remains positive and productive. Let them respond.
Once your boss has all the info, do they get it? If so, then you’re in a place to possibly offer suggestions. Or, your boss’s changed viewpoint may be a solution itself.
Going to people about problems that shouldn’t be a problem in the first place is always awkward and uncomfortable. If you feel that way, it’s okay to say it. Maybe you start or end the dreaded convo with “I’ve really dreaded telling you about this because I don’t want to come off as cutting Douchebag down” or “I hate/am really nervous to bring this up because it may make me look bad, but it’s in the best interest of [our work here].”
Personally, sometimes I’m surprised by how people respond to honest confrontations. I assume I’ll end up being the one who’s scolded meanwhile the other person keeps reaping rewards they never sowed.
In one situation with a tailcoat rider, even though I outlined simple steps he could take, I realized that, again, I was the one doing everything for the project. He always had an excuse for not doing his fair share and he knew that I’d pick up the slack, so he really didn’t have to. I had to decide between flipping out at him—calling him the list of names I’d collected in my head—or risk looking like a whiny baby by going above him. So, I risked looking like a whiny baby and went to the woman who gave us the project. Everyone said she was a bitchy hard-ass: The perfect personality to tell me to suck it up and deal with it myself.
But I was rageful enough to give it a shot: “I’m not really sure what to do but Mr. Lazy hasn’t done a thing on this project, even though I’ve asked him to do A, B, C. I don’t know what you can do about it, so I don’t expect this to change anything. But I wanted to let you know that if the project doesn’t look like my other work, that’s why—because I was doing it by myself.”
She must have also worked with a Mr.Lazy before she wasn’t having it. She was pissed for me. “That’s not ok. Do you want me to talk to him?” and “Do you want me to take him off the project?”
In this particular case, I chose to just eat it because I knew I’d have the ability to avoid Mr. Lazy after it was over. Yet, it was still surprising to see I wasn’t blamed for speaking the truth.
But what happens if your boss sees Douchebag’s actions and doesn’t care—or you tell your boss and they still don’t care? Then, you purchase a voodoo doll and start working your otherworldly magic. Just kidding (although it could be a good stress reliever??).
In this case, though, your options are limited. You could always try talking to the Douchebag, asking him to please keep it professional. But my guess is that he knows he’s being a douchebag and won’t stop of his own free will (douchebags gonna douchebag).
So then, your last option would be limiting contact with him. I’m not sure what your job is or the tasks you share with Douchebag, but are there ways to minimize your time with him (working different projects, different shifts, etc)?
You also highlighted that your integrity speaks for itself and that people can basically read through his bullshit. If I’m correct in assuming that means your co-workers are on your side, you already have a leg up. In the worst-case scenario, try to focus on that; the people who support you. And on the strength you must have for not punching Douchebag in the face every time he takes more than his fair share of credit. (And I get the feeling he has a very punchable face).