4 things to do when a colleague works with your boss behind your back

Illustration: Ashley Siebels

After finding out that your coworker has deliberately left you out of a decision-making process and worked with your boss without your knowledge, a looming feeling sets in.

Well beyond the millennial social media concept of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), this makes you feel like you are no longer a valued member of your team at work — and maybe even like your days there might be numbered. This could be especially hard if it’s happened to you on multiple occasions.

Here’s how to manage the situation.

Remember all of your big contributions to the team

Don’t forget what you’ve already done. When someone completely removes you from a crucial process or decision, it can be easy to doubt yourself. You might even wallow in self doubt, thinking that it was only a matter of time until people at your job found out that you’re not as talented or knowledgeable as you appear.

When you begin to question your value, write down the work accomplishments you’re most proud of for a confidence boost.

Gather information

Amy Gallo,author of the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict at Work and Harvard Business Review contributing editor, shared advice from author Caroline Webb in the publication:

“If you don’t know all the facts of the situation – perhaps you just heard about the conversation through the office rumor mill – try to find out what really happened. You might go to your boss and ask in a neutral way about what transpired: ‘Hey, I heard you and Carlos were talking about his new idea.’ Take care to maintain a casual, non-accusatory tone so that your boss doesn’t think you’re trying to start a feud.”

Try using this line on the colleague leaving you out of the loop

Alison Green, author of the Ask a Manager blog, offers advise in QuickBase:

“With a coworker who keeps going over your head, you might say: ‘I’m the person managing X and I’d appreciate you bringing concerns about it to me to resolve. If we’re not able to reach a resolution and you feel the issue is important enough to escalate, you of course can do that. But I’d like you to start with me first so that I have a chance to hear your concern. Can you do that?’ “

Let your boss step in

Sara McCord, a former staff writer for The Muse, wrote in the publication that your final option when someone does something like demand to talk to your supervisor instead of you is to “be a tattletale.”

She says that if addressing the person about it directly on your own doesn’t solve the situation, you should tell your supervisor what’s going on, and that they can have a conversation with the person:

“If it’s an external stakeholder, your boss may have a variety of ways she can smooth things over. She can chime in that she’d love to take over, but as she is terribly busy, she won’t be able to get to this person’s urgent requests for several weeks. She can say that you’ve only said the most wonderful things about this other person and she’s so glad to hear that things are moving along as swimmingly as she had hoped.

“Or, she can say that she’d love to help, but as you are the expert, she’ll be consulting with you prior to each and every conversation because yours is the most valuable feedback of all.”

Jane Burnett|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at jburnett@theladders.com.