I Backstabbed a Coworker

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I’m upset with myself. When faced with situations where I should be loyal, I often spill the beans to protect my own interests or to put the blame on someone else. Then I feel terrible about it. There was a situation at work. I was going to take a whole bunch of students to the staff hockey game, a coworker who I like very much didn’t think it was fair that I would be handling all of those kids, the other two teachers whose classes I was taking have a reputation for being kind of selfish. So, my coworker went and told the office what was happening and the two teachers got an ear full for not taking their own students. One of them came to me in tears and said “how did anyone even know you were taking them?” Instead of saying “I don’t know,” I told her that my coworker might have said something. Now I feel like a total backstabber and I’m really mad at myself for saying that. I do this kind of stuff.

I don’t know if I should go to my coworker and apologize and tell her that I ratted her out. I don’t want to hurt her but I already did the wrong thing by her. If someone came to me and told me something like that I wouldn’t be able to trust them. I feel really untrustworthy, even though I do consider myself to be a very nice, kind, generous person, I do find that in times where I feel I need to protect myself or when I don’t want people to be mad at me I am not loyal and I hate myself for this.

A: Before we talk about all the things you think are wrong, let’s first identify all the good things that you’ve been doing. You spontaneously wanted to take your students to the game and were willing to do this for the sake of your students. Your coworker is the person who had the concern, not you. When your coworker spoke to the other teachers it was not on your behalf, it had to do more with the idea that your coworker was upset, not that you were.

You told the truth and it’s time to follow that up with the truth about your feelings. My recommendation would be to write about this feeling, your reactions, first so that you can clarify them. Then go to your coworker and tell him or her how you felt — and that you didn’t mean to be throwing him/her under the bus. This will add to your trustworthiness, not take away from it. This was your coworker’s issue, not yours.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 Mar 2014

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2014). I Backstabbed a Coworker. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/03/26/i-backstabbed-a-coworker/