Today we're talking about when a coworker sabotages your work.
My coworker Peter threw me under the bus to all of my customers. Just before I left on a much needed vacation, I outlined the two major projects I had in the works and gave Peter everything he needed to handle any customer calls.
Peter said “No problem, I’ll handle everything just as you would want.” My computer signature auto-reply let customers know that if they had questions, Peter could take care of them. Peter however, told every customer who called, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t left information on that.” As a result, when I got home my inbox was full of angry emails, and I lost several key accounts.
How do I handle this? I want to tell my customers that I didn’t let them down, that I gave Peter enough background information that he should have been able to handle their questions.
Don’t. If you start explaining what happened, you’ll risk making your customers uneasy. It will seem like you and Peter are playing shift the blame games and that they’re caught in the crossfire. Instead, call every customer and apologize profusely, then determine what they need and how you can help them.
Call the customers you lost as well. You may not be able to get them back, but if you handle those calls well and they find they don’t like their new vendor, they may return.
Next, meet with Peter. Don’t confront him, fact find. Did he not know how to handle the customers’ questions and thus truly felt he didn’t have enough information? Did he feel you unfairly dumped your job on him? Or, as you may already suspect, did he intentionally sabotage you, and if so, why?
Finally, fill your boss in, as he’ll undoubtedly learn about this situation and it’s better if he hears the straight story from you. Take the high road in how you factually present the situation and make no accusations.
Outline for him the information you gave Peter before you left and add that Peter told you “No problem,” but then told customers he wasn’t left the proper information. Provide your boss the emails you received and tell him how you’ve resolved the customers’ complaints.
My guess – neither you nor anyone else in your company will ever experience the “Peter” situation again.
© 2016, Lynne Curry. If you'd like an answer to your career question, it's easy. Write firstname.lastname@example.org. Lynne authored Beating the Workplace Bully (AMACOM, 2016) and Solutions. You can also follow Lynne@lynnecurry10 on Twitter or access her other posts on SheKnows, www.workplacecoachblog.com or www.bullywhisperer.com.
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