The word “troll” is used to describe people who sow discord on the Internet, start arguments, cause uproars and foment general discontent. In 2014, Zelda Williams, the daughter of the late comedian Robin Williams, was driven off Twitter after receiving menacing and abusive messages from trolls. In February 2015, the Washington Post published an article by Michelle Goldberg about trolls who have caused many feminist writers to stop writing. Many other these women had received threats of physical harm and constant harassment.
Trolls, however, don’t confine themselves to cyberspace. If you think back through your workplace experiences, someone might come to mind who fits this description. Your contact with them might even be recent.
Here are some examples of workplace troll behaviors:
- Running to a supervisor to complain about a co-worker and lying/exaggerating the issue, if there even is one.
- Giving a co-worker permission to do something that isn’t correct then denying they had given consent.
- Taking credit for another co-worker’s work.
- Blaming problems on a project on another person, when it was them.
- Complaining about how hard they are working (and insinuating others aren’t) when, in actuality, they’re spending more time complaining than working.
I could go on, but I’m sure you can add to the list.
What motivates people to act like this? Maybe they hate themselves and/or their lives so much that when they see someone else who has what they want, they feel compelled to try to tear that person apart. Maybe they’re simply mean-spirited and vindictive by nature. I’m not sure.
How do you deal with a workplace troll? (No, you can’t bring violence into the picture, except in your imagination).
- Ignore them if they’re merely annoying and not causing any problems for you or others.
- Deal with them with humor and kindness.
- Document everything they do if it’s affecting your career.
- Confront them in a calm way (with a witness)
- Call in a drone strike…Oops. Sorry. My imagination’s getting in the way again.
- Tell your supervisor. And their supervisor. And all supervisors.
- If nothing changes because your supervisors don’t do anything and your work life has become impacted by the troll’s continuing harassment, talk to an employment lawyer.
Your life and happiness is important. Don’t let a workplace troll poison it!