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I work as a paralegal at a small law firm where I am resented by some of the other employees because the boss often compares their work to mine unfavorably. This has caused me to be seen as "the teacher's pet". My boss recently asked me to change positions from being his primary paralegal to handling another area of the practice for which he thought I was well suited. I am training the woman he hired to replace me and she constantly makes veiled sarcastic remarks to me about how "perfect" my work probably is, etc. She makes it clear that she envies my position and seems to be the type who will play hardball politics to get what she wants. How do I keep her from forming an alliance with the other employees against me?
Dear Just About Had It,
Forming alliances is one of the most common office politics behaviours. Human beings often seek the affirmation that comes with knowing "we" are not like "them." If alliances are formed within the workplace the cohesiveness of the organization is threatened and efficiency will suffer.
What you describe
is a workplace where the employer models we/they behaviour by comparing
the work of other staff to yours. The first thing I suggest as an antidote
to the forming of alliances is to alert your employer to the corrosive
impact he/she has on the working relationship within the office by comparing
the work of others to yours. Ask your boss for a private appointment
and let him/her know how much you appreciate the affirmation of your
work, but explain that it is counter-productive for
This may be a little hard for you to do, since it is ego-gratifying to hear that we are doing better work than others, but I urge you to take this step. You and your boss need to recognize that it requires planning and skill to keep an office well organized and running smoothly. Sometimes this means giving up behaviours that feel comfortable to us.
Abraham Lincoln suggested that the best way to get rid of our enemies is to turn them into friends. You fear that your successor will play "hardball" which I take it means you fear she will not work cooperatively with you. You need to build a cooperative relationship with her such that she sees that working with you will be far more to her advantage than working against you will be.
In your training of your successor if she comments on your work as perfect you should respond by affirming her capacity to do work of similar quality. Offer to make yourself available to answer questions and review her work so that she learns to do it as well as you do.
Undoing the boss's "teacher's pet" behaviour is an important first step towards building a team approach with your co-workers. The next step is to be a team player yourself, which in the beginning means you will need to be the one who goes the extra distance so that everyone sees the benefits of working cooperatively and not playing office politics.
Best of luck,
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