Whether you’re dealing with a menacing boss, a conniving coworker or a competitor who is keen to take you down, most of us have dealt with a hater or two in our professional lives. While it’s normal to get upset and want to exact some type of “revenge”, the reality is engaging negative behavior only give others an edge by distracting you from achieving your goals and showcasing the more unsavoury parts of your personality. Here’s what to do instead: protect your reputation by staying in an elevated state. Keep your responses high and your energy focused on producing excellent work and no one can touch you. Here are 5 ways to do it.
Respond with grace every time.
The definition of grace is “smoothness and elegance of movement” and “courteous good will”. Think about how responding this way might look and apply it to your day-to-day actions. When you gently smile in the face of pettiness, say “Let’s talk about this in more detail when we can give it the attention it deserves” instead of growling when your boss tries to throw yet another deliverable onto your packed schedule and respond with silence in the face of gossip, you elevate yourself above the petty drama that weighs so many teams down.
Draw a boundary every time.
It doesn’t matter how kind, hardworking or transparent you are, there will come a time when someone tests your boundaries and tries to push you further than you’re willing to go. When this happens, use gentle but firm language to let them know you’re not one to be bullied. Questions like, “What do you mean by that?”, “Where did you get that information?” and “Why are you speaking to me like that?” are great ways to address someone who is being passive-aggressive and picking up the phone or scheduling a 1-1 alignment meeting (and following up with detailed notes via email) every single time someone crosses the line usually works to get people to back off.
Take Ownership of Your Space.
I work in branding, content and digital strategy which means a lot of my work looks fun (it is) and easy (it’s not) from the outside. I cannot tell you how many times I have had clients or team members decide they want to play on social media and jump in only to create chaos and throw the strategy off-balance. I could just whine and roll my eyes but guess what happens when the end result isn’t what it should be? Yep, I take the blame. If you have been hired for a job because of your expertise, it is imperative that you make your ownership known by clearly communicating your plan, your preferred process and gently calling anyone out when they do not follow either once it has been signed off. Don’t worry about looking defensive. Great execution requires a strong strategy and firm boundaries and the “design by committee” leads to disaster unless the entire team are experts in your area.
Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You
I love this quote by comedian, Steve Martin, because it sums up how much control we have over our own success. Showing up on time, planning out your day, communicating your expectations clearly, taking credit for the good work you have done and executing on time all serve as layers of protection against industry gossip. It does not matter what people do or say if you are consistently putting out great work.
Own Your Mistakes, Don’t Dwell on Them.
No one is perfect and we all have moments when we drop the ball or overlook a typo in a social post. Life moves fast and mistakes happen. The key is to learn from them, apologize when necessary and move on. The more you dwell on your missteps the slower your progress and the more you make others see them as a bigger deal. Get up, brush it off, make changes and move on.