The backstabber at work is out to get me

A co-worker is spreading lies about me and I'm afraid I'll be fired

By Cary Tennis
Published July 29, 2013 11:05PM (EDT)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

Friends at work tell me that the office back-stabber has targeted me. I have not asked for details because there is nothing I can do, anyway. My boss enables this mischief by sending me condemning emails whenever the back-stabber complains about me.

It's true that I am not a good fit for this job and I am searching for another one. Do you have any tools and techniques for dealing with this situation? I am meditating and seeing a therapist but am still unable to sleep at night.

This is not the first time that a back-stabber has condemned me and cozied up to the boss. HR cannot help because I have no proof.


Dear Stabbed,

I'm sorry you are losing sleep over this situation. It must be very distressing. But here is a way you may find some solace. This is an exercise in imagining. Imagine that this job is gone. Imagine that you are free of it. Imagine that the backstabber who is tormenting you is found out. Imagine that this backstabber back-stabs the wrong person, someone who is close to the boss, and the boss is filled with outrage and flies into a fit of vindictiveness and sees the injustice and not only fires the backstabber but makes sure that the backstabber never works in this town again, and then it is the backstabber who is tossing and turning at night, unable to sleep, tormented by worries about the future. Imagine that you yourself, having been the lucky one, having seen justice done, feel a new sense of happiness about the world and its ways, and your sense that you've been treated unjustly goes away, and you see the world in a new light. Imagine then that the hidden talents you have, those talents that the world has overlooked all these years, imagine that now that you have this new outlook, those talents seem to blossom, and are discovered, and you are given the job that you always wanted, the job that shows you in the best light and uses your highest talents.

I suggest you participate in this imagined scenario every day. Work on this; put details in it; imagine the details, how the face of the backstabber looks when discovered, how your boss comes to you and apologizes, and promotes you, and how you take the promotion but only until your new job is finalized. Imagine your new apartment in a better part of town; imagine where you will eat with the money you are now making. Imagine the admiring glances of employees at your new job, how they crowd around to meet you and pat you on the back.

Imagine this in detail every day. Keep elaborating. Whenever you feel anxious, replace that anxiety with this ever-more-elaborate world of your future, in your imagination.

Know that you will be taken care of. Know that whatever happens, your life has been rich and full, and you were put here for a reason, and all the pleasurable moments you have spent up until now are all with you, available for reliving in all their splendor at any moment you choose. Know that your parents loved you with unspeakable intensity, and that this life you have is a gift, an anonymous gift from an unknowable benefactor who also loves you with unspeakable intensity, and is looking after you, arranging the road ahead, waiting with benign curiosity to see what you will do next.

Cary Tennis

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