Do You Think You’re Being Set up for Failure at Work? Here’s How to Handle It!

Man sitting in front of computer at work with head in hands

Do you have a strong feeling that people or forces are conspiring against you at work? Have you noticed that some of your colleagues withhold information or resources necessary for you to reach your goals? Unfortunately, in a recent BioSpace Community Survey, some life science professionals indicated they felt like they were being set up for failure. A lack of transparency in major decisions, little guidance or feedback being provided, and unrealistic expectations were all mentioned. As a result of a variety of circumstances, many professionals believe that there is no way to meet their performance targets.

It’s normal for frustration to set in when you think that you’re doing all you can, but forces beyond your control determine your results. If you work for an organization that doesn’t prioritize open communication at all employee levels, things can become even more complicated. You might also receive conflicting advice about what you should do in the workplace to change things. Here’s how to handle the feeling that you’re being set up for failure!

Think ahead

Let’s say you’ve noticed multiple situations, instances, and facts that lead you to believe others are working against you. First, run the details by a trusted, colleague, mentor, or coach outside of your organization. They can help to provide an unbiased viewpoint of what has happened. If you’re sure that you are being set up, it’s time to start thinking ahead in regards to your actions. How might your manager and coworkers view your current performance? Telling others within your company about your thoughts prematurely can do more harm than good. Think about how your future actions will affect you days, weeks, and months down the line.

Create a paper trail

Start collecting evidence of what you suspect is going on. Keeping relevant documents, emails, files, and notes is very important. Creating a paper trail that’s physical or electronic will be beneficial if you have to expose what is going on to others. Record a timeline of events to keep for yourself, so you remember specific details. You must be able to distinguish between objective facts and any subjective feelings you may have. Proof of intent and detrimental activities would be necessary if you plan to approach internal management or an external attorney.

Do your best work

If you are in fact being sabotaged in some way, the best response is to produce your best work! Going above and beyond what’s expected can help others see how valuable you really are. This might be difficult to accomplish if someone is making it nearly impossible for you to do your job. Think about any workarounds or alternate solutions to attaining the resources and support you need to be successful. This could require some creativity on your part, but think about what new ways you can get things done that don’t rely on the status quo. Doing your best work regardless of the circumstances also helps to build your leadership skills.

Be open with management or human resources

Depending on how blatant and damaging the attempt to set you up is, you might have to get your boss or manager involved. If you think what is going on could permanently damage your reputation, eliminate your chance of success, and/or cause you to lose your job, speaking with your manager is vital. Request a one-on-one meeting with your boss and try to divulge as little information as you can prior to the meeting. During the discussion, tell them what has been going on while placing an emphasis on the facts (as opposed to your subjective feelings). Sharing the paper or electronic trail of events can also be helpful. Afterward, sincerely wait to hear their feedback. In the event you believe your manager is the person working against you, consider being open with someone in your human resources department.

At some point in your career, you might feel as though other professionals are setting you up for failure. Before deciding that is actually what’s going on, run the facts by others you trust. If indeed you can conclude aspects of sabotage are at play, think multiple steps ahead when it comes to your actions. Begin creating a paper trail and electronic filing system to keep up with questionable incidents and events. Maintain a positive outlook by focusing on doing your best work. Finally, if things are extremely serious, be open with management and/or human resources about what’s going on in a one-on-one meeting. What can you do to handle a situation like this?

Porschia Parker is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. She empowers ambitious professionals and motivated executives to add $10K on average to their salaries.

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