Are you dealing with an untrustworthy co-worker? Maybe you are certain they are after your job, throwing you under the bus every chance they can get. Or perhaps you simply think they are 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.

So what can you do? Here’s your prescription:

Your Daily Regimen for Protecting Yourself From Your Co-Worker

So you think you might not be able to trust your co-workers? What can you do to protect yourself? There are a few helpful strategies that can mean the difference between getting blindsided by a untrustworthy colleague versus stopping him or her in their collective tracks. Consider the following:

Make it personal – You’ve heard the old adage “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Keep your work enemies close.

Build your allies – You need allies at work. They lobby on your behalf and shut down those untrustworthy co-workers when you aren’t around.

Document everything – A critical way to protect yourself is to have a “paper trail” regarding your exchanges with untrustworthy or suspicious co-workers. Save those e-mails.

Get close to your boss –If you want to protect yourself from co-workers, you need to make sure your boss is on your side.

Do your job –It’s hard to argue against great performance so be sure that you outperform your workplace enemies.

For more on protecting yourself from your co-worker, click here.

When Surgery is Required

What if you’ve come to the point that your daily regimen isn’t enough and you need to confront the problem head-on. You need to conduct surgery. Confronting a co-worker is a tricky and stressful situation. What matters most is if you think your co-worker is “malignant” or “benign.” In other words, deep down are they a “good” or “bad” person? Consider these steps when approaching surgery (click here).

What is equally important is that the patient doesn’t die on the table (that’s you by the way). So, be sure not to do any of the following when confronting your co-worker. Any of these lower your probability of survival (and we know what that means):

Don’t lose your temper – Yelling and screaming will not get your point across or finally get them to understand you. All it will do is make you appear as though you are a part of the problem.

Don’t confront over e-mail – This approach ALWAYS spirals out of control. Soon you areengaged in a word-smithing battle over a period of days / weeks with the “cc” list increasing witheach additional “reply all.”

Don’t go to the boss first – Your boss does not want to be mom or dad. Think of them as the expensive specialist from out of town. They only want to brought in when all other efforts have failed. You need to have the conversation first.

Don’t do it in public – An audience will only complicate the message and cause the reaction of your co-worker to be extremely unpredictable. Find a private place.

There you have it. Ways to protect yourself from a sneaky and untrustworthy co-worker. When done well, the problem can be easily isolated and recovery to full-health is in your near future. The trick is to not slip and inadvertently kill the patient in the process. In other words, “guns blazing” is a sure-fire way to end up on your way out, and nobody wants that… well except maybe your sneaky co-worker.

We can’t have that.