Published On: Mon, Dec 11th, 2023

Carolyn Hax: Risk retaliation or let a colleague take credit for work?

Carolyn Hax: Risk retaliation or let a colleague take credit for work?
Carolyn Hax: Risk retaliation or let a colleague take credit for work?


Adapted from an online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn: I’m a woman working in a male-dominated industry. After privately and professionally confronting a male colleague via email about publicly taking credit for information I gave him, I received a response that can only be described as deliberately cruel and meant to put me in my place.

Thankfully, my office has a door, because I spent a good bit of time yesterday in tears. What makes it worse is that we’d previously had a very good relationship.

This is not a one-off; I’ve since learned that he has done this type of thing before. My supervisor and chain of command are aware and outraged on my behalf, but I’ve said I don’t want to pursue any complaint because I absolutely fear retaliation.

I’ve been told that I can’t let him get to me and that, from now on, I just shouldn’t give him information, which, duh. But my confidence is badly shaken, and it seems wrong to let him “get away” with this. Any suggestions on how to cope?

Put in My Place: Don’t let him “get away” with it, then? You have a supervisor and chain of command to back you.

Whether you’re up for a stressful fight is entirely up to you, and if you’re not, you’re not. No judgments here.

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But while it’s a given that fighting an injustice comes with confrontation, stress, retaliation and/or uncomfortable consequences, I think we spend less time on the ways a decision not to fight an injustice has consequences as well.

So your crossroads now is about choosing which kind of stress you prefer. You say you have made your decision already, technically, but maybe you were thinking it was peace (from not acting) vs. stress (from taking action), when it’s really stress vs. stress. So the crossroads is still there.

I wish it were otherwise. This is how the jackholes of the world gain purchase, knowing their tolerance for a fight is higher than most people’s.

· He’ll find a way to do it again, if not to you, then to someone else. Don’t tie management’s hands. Allow them to talk to him, but not before you make sure they tell you exactly what they will do to protect you from retaliation.

· Your day in tears probably means there will be fewer the next time you have to call someone out. Thank you for being brave. That was not easy to do.

Dear Carolyn: “James” and I were friends for years before we dated, then our feelings got the best of us. We were together about eight months, then James abruptly broke up with me. In what was probably TMI, he explained that he is not as physically attracted to me as he would like to be.

Ugh, it was right that we broke up. But now we are friends again, and I can tell he is trying his best, but all I can think of is how he thinks I’m not good enough for him — but apparently would be for someone else, the kind of person I could successfully land, I guess. How can I be friends with someone who feels this way?

Friends With an Ex: Ugh is right.

You don’t have to stay friends. Ta-da. Unless you still want to.

You also don’t need to assign values to attractiveness. It’s not objective, one to 10, and you’re now everyone’s six. It’s its own subjective, chemical thing, and it develops or it doesn’t. So it wasn’t there for James. So be it. That doesn’t mean your attractiveness won’t go to 11 for someone else.


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