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How to Handle a Sneaky Troublemaker at Work

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Troublemakers make it difficult for employees to get work done, especially if they're sneaky with their actions. Some troublemakers enjoy gossiping and often leave co-workers feeling exposed and vulnerable. Others use their manipulative tactics to negatively influence supervisors. When dealing with a dishonest co-worker, subordinate or boss, you may need to address the problem with upper management or human relations before the behavior escalates into serious offenses that could harm others or damage the company as a whole.

Document Dishonest Behavior

Keep a private log of the troublemaker's mischievous conduct. If the offender's actions escalate and you're forced to address them with management, you need documented examples to back your concerns. According to the career website The Grindstone, proof of sneaky or dishonest dealings at work require legitimate proof. Avoid documenting small or irrelevant details so you don't come across as petty or overly sensitive. Focus on specific examples when the co-worker lied, cheated, deceived or purposely mismanaged people or projects.

Maintain Distance

Keep a safe distance from dishonest co-workers. Socializing with them might make you look guilty by association and you don't want to participate in the same type of negative behavior. According to "Forbes," you should avoid doing business with untrustworthy work associates because a person who is dishonest in one aspect will likely be dishonest in other areas of his life. If your work responsibilities require you to interact, keep your conversations professional and job-related. Avoid talking about other employees, your boss and clients, and focus on the task at hand.

Contact Upper Management

Report dishonest behavior to upper management. Some companies have confidential methods for reporting misconduct, but even if your company doesn't, you'll likely need to address the issues with management. When you report deceitful behavior, rely on your documented evidence and stick to the facts. You don't want management to think you have it out for the person and are trying to ruin her career. If the offenses are serious, management will have to decide if firing the troublemaker is the best course of action. If criminal activity such as fraud, money laundering or fiscal corruption aren't involved, upper management might be able to put the worker on probation, giving her the chance to rectify her untrustworthy behavior, notes The Grindstone.

Confront the Troublemaker

Confront the troublemaker if he's your subordinate and you have the authority to do something about his behavior. If his misconduct doesn't affect company operations or other employees, a firm rebuke might set him on the right path and no other actions may be necessary. If he's your equal and there's no animosity between the two of you, talk to him about his deceitful actions on a peer-to-peer basis. Your warning might help him realize that he'd better change his ways before you're forced to contact upper management. When a dishonest worker is your boss, you need to contact someone in authority above him.


As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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