“I don’t trust my co-worker”

Have you ever had the experience of not trusting a co-worker? Maybe you thought he or she was out for your job, throwing you under the bus every chance he or she had. Or perhaps you simply thought they were behind your disappearing lunch from the break room. Either way, looking over our shoulder daily takes a mental and emotional toll that can have significant consequences. In best cases, it leads to added stress and burn-out. In worst cases, it promotes paranoia and soon we are plotting ways to either trap the culprit in the act or eat his or her lunch before they get to ours. Not a pretty sight.

This month we’ll be tackling this all-too-real dysfunction: “I don’t trust my co-worker.” We’ll be tackling the following questions throughout the month:

  • What are the signs that I can’t trust my co-worker?
  • What are the best ways to protect ourselves in these situations?
  • What is the role that bosses play in promoting distrust amongst co-workers and if we are the boss, what can we do to eliminate this dysfunction in the office?
  • What can we do to recognize distrustful co-workers and avoid those environments from the beginning before it’s too late?

Every week, I’ll kick off our conversation by addressing one of these big questions. Throughout the week I’ll collect and share stories, examples and other opinions as we dig in. By the end of the month, if we haven’t cured this dysfunction, we’ll do a darn good job treating it!

Write to me with your stories, examples or opinions on the subject. I promise to protect the innocent (and guilty!).

So, can you trust your co-workers? Before you plot your counter-terrorist strategies and booby trap your lunch, make sure there aren’t any easier (and more productive) approaches to stopping distrustful co-workers in their tracks.

Speaking of stolen lunches, I think this commercial sums it up nicely!


A note from Brandon

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5 replies
  1. Author says:

    This has been going on for quite a while, I cannot seem to trust my co workers at all. I keep thinking they are out to get me for some reason, even talking to some of them makes me feel really uncomfortable. I can’t stand it, so help me understand why!

  2. Brandon Smith says:

    Without much more to go on, I would ask you the following questions:

    1. Have they ever done anything to warrant your distrust? Have you caught them in the act before?
    2. Have you spoken to your boss and / or your coworkers about this? Perhaps it was a misunderstanding that could be cleared up with a conversation
    3. Do you have a history of distrusting coworkers / others? If so, the problem may rest more with you than with them. If so, some deeper work may be in order

    Good luck and keep me posted!


  3. Rebecca says:

    I have a similar problem, but it has nothing to do with lunches disappearing. When one of my co-workers is gone, everything is so peaceful. We get much more work done, we work together very well and are more productive in general. This co-worker though, I think is very manipulative in a negative way. She throws us under the bus whenever possible. She is calculating. My gut says to stay away from her whenever possible. I get the feeling that she creates situations to look like a hero or to say “this is why this place needs me.” The last one, very recently was that a door was possibly left unlocked overnight, though not likely, and seemed to single me out the second I came to work. Her tone, with the “discovery” was over the top shocked and whipped our old boss and our new boss into a frenzy. She puts pressure on my other co-workers to give up their days off so she can have them, she disappears for long periods, no idea or clue left to let anyone know where she has gone. She is a nightmare. I feel like there is something very unsteady about her and I would like to keep my job, but I feel like I need to just look for another one most days. The stress of her being is around is getting to be too much. I even told another co-worker that whenever possible I would like to have her check my closing routine, and feel like I need to be on constant defense and watch my back. I don’t know how to handle it. Several people in the workplace have kept track of her data entry errors, her super long breaks and so on and submitted to the boss, but she insists that her hands are tied and that regardless of her flaws, her length of time there at the office makes her valuable because she knows so much, just never implements them herself. It seems so stupid to me.

  4. Brandon Smith says:

    I think you are on the right track. The only way you are going to remedy the situation is if the boss feels like the pain of her staying exceeds the pain of her leaving. In other words, the boss needs to believe that if she stays, many of you are going to leave causing huge issues and that pain is greater than losing the knowledge of that individual. So, what do you do? You need to go to the boss as a group and explain what chaos this individual is bringing. Use phrases like “bullying behavior,” “hostile work environment,” and “negative impact on our overall productivity and performance.” I would also recommend you send those phrases to the boss in an e-mail for documentation purposes. If you have an HR department, those phrases in particular will get HR’s antenna’s up.

    Good luck and keep me posted.

  5. Rachel says:

    I’m in somewhat of a unique situation. Two months ago, my company hired another member of our insurance verification team which I am in charge of supervising. Little did we know that at the time we hired her she was 7 months pregnant. She did not tell anyone she was pregnant until two weeks ago, and then it was only because our president found out when he was checking all new hire Facebook profiles (her profile was public and she had several sonogram pictures up). Her plan was just to call of work on her due date which was a Friday and return to work on a Monday. I totally understand why she didn’t disclose this in an interview and is not legally obligated to, however she kind of threw our team under the bus. She ended up going into labor earlier than expected, leaving us with no time to find backup help. To make the situation even more sensitive, it was a high risk pregnancy, and the child did not survive. Since I have been the one keeping up with her assignments, which are time sensitive in addition to my own time-sensitive projects, and I’ve noticed she has been making a lot of errors and is going to need retraining. She has often been oversensitive in the past about constructive criticism (she has called my manager crying saying that I hate her, when I told her I would need a doctor’s excuse from a previous absence and that I needed to know where she was at in her workload). I’m having a hard time trusting her because she didn’t tell us about needing to be on maternity/medical leave far enough in advance for our team to be prepared, and I’m afraid of being labeled a bully when I am trying to retrain her when she returns. I want to be sensitive to her situation, but at the same time she has broken the trust in our department. How should I approach the situation.

What do YOU think?

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