Finding yourself in the middle of a work environment where manipulative, deceitful colleagues are trying to pin the blame for workplace missteps on you can make you feel crazy and demoralized. It can also mess up your reputation and your career if you aren’t careful. This can be an especially bad situation if the nasty colleagues have the boss’s ear and can convince her to see things their way.
Know Your Job
Know the responsibilities of your job inside and out and from top to bottom. Figure out exactly what your colleagues are responsible for too, and learn the internal chain of command. Having this info will make it tougher for deceptive co-workers to try to railroad you, make you think you're responsible for something you aren't, or tell you untruths in an effort to throw you off track.
Watch Colleague Behaviors
Don’t let an office snake strike by surprise. A colleague who goes out of her way to frame you is probably setting up other people in the office as well. Pay attention to her untruthful statements, unprofessional behaviors and attempts to avoid responsibility or deflect blame. Understanding the office manipulator’s standard operating procedure will help you identify and avoid her traps.
Call Her Out
Having a colleague try to frame you is such a bizarre situation that when you find it happening to you, you may be too shocked to immediately react to the situation. By the time you realize what's going on, the potential for damage may be done. As soon as you're aware of what your colleague is attempting to pull, confront her about her behavior. For example, “You told our boss the deadline was missed because of me, yet you're the one who didn't take the materials to the printer on time. Why did you do that?” Even if the colleague tries to wiggle out of the net or explain away her actions, she’ll be on notice that you're on to her schemes.
A good frame job is often a collection of smaller frame jobs. A colleague who wants to place the blame for something major at your feet may set you up through seemingly small attacks to lay the groundwork for a bigger frame-up. Document every instance of unethical behavior so you can defend yourself later. Save email correspondence, memos, faxes, voice mail messages and texts that implicate you or your colleagues in an attempted frame job. Time and date stamp work so you can demonstrate when work projects were created, their progress and their completion. Make note of other staffers, customers, clients or vendors who witness unscrupulous behaviors by colleagues so they can be witnesses, if necessary.
Defend and Report
Don't let a frame job stand. If your colleagues place the blame for an office problem on you, immediately defend yourself, in person and in writing, to your supervisor or an upper-level manager and set the record straight. Present the documentation that backs up your claims, or if there are eyewitnesses who can vouch for your side of the story, call them into play. Ask for a mediation session with human resources or a conflict resolution specialist to lay the evidence out for all to see. If you are set up to take the fall for a legal, ethical or financial debacle that is not your doing, consider consulting an employment law specialist to help you examine your legal options.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.