Take high road with wily colleague

QUESTION: After joining a start-up company with only four employees, I developed a very bad relationship with one of them. This woman is incompetent and tries to steal other people’s ideas. She tells new employees about our past conflicts in order to turn them against me.

She also sucks up to our manager by always being very agreeable with him.

Whenever we have an argument, she plays the victim and cries in his office. Because he believes her, I’m now seen as the troublemaker on the team. How do I put a stop to her manipulative behavior?

Answer Your nemesis may be a credit-grabbing suck-up, but right now her job is a lot safer than yours.

Start-up companies are too small and vulnerable to tolerate much dissension. Anyone who is not considered part of the team will soon be on the outside.

Trying to bring her down will not help to lift you up.

So instead of wasting energy on hatred and retaliation, start working to improve your own reputation.

First, take a long, hard look in the mirror. You can easily see your adversary’s negative traits, but what about your own?

Would co-workers describe you as helpful, pleasant, and cooperative?

If not, figure out what you need to do differently.

Next, you must mentally call a truce with this woman.

Even if you hate her guts, your own success depends on improving this relationship.

Take the first step by sincerely resolving to put the past behind you, then asking if she will do the same.

Finally, swallow your pride and ask your manager how you can improve.

Listen to his answer without arguing or complaining. Then try to be the kind of team player that this company needs.

The bottom line is that you can’t change other people.

You can change only yourself.

But sometimes, when you adjust your own attitudes and behaviors, you find that others eventually respond in kind.

Question: My 24-year-old son works for a 50-year-old woman. He was just suspended for two days because he became confrontational with her.

Although I usually try not to give advice, I would like to suggest that he take advantage of free counseling through his company’s benefit program.

Is that a good idea?

Would it work against him in any way?

ANSWER: Fighting with his boss is much more likely to work against him than participating in company-sponsored counseling.

Since your son has already been suspended, the next step could be termination.

Although adult children should be expected to handle their own problems, you’re wise to encourage him to seek professional guidance.

A good counselor can help him learn to control his temper and handle conflict more productively.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.” Send in questions and get free coaching tips at