Bullying at Work: Dealing with Stanley the Schemer

Bullying at work: Dealing with Stan the Schemer
Joe Burroughs

Joe Burroughs

Many people are frustrated by uncertainty and complexity in their jobs. I use Agile principles to provide clear and simple strategies so that you can win at work!

Workplace bullies come in many forms. Some like Carl the Critic operate in the open, while others like Fran the Freezer and Stanley the Schemer tend to be more subtle and crawl under the radar. 

Stanley’s typical behavior falls into one or more of a few common patterns:

  1. Stanley is friendly one-on-one and asks questions about your work once you have let your guard down. Stanley then uses any information he gets to report back on you to others casting you in as bad a light as is possible.
  2. Stanley often jumps to conclusions quickly and makes up his mind at which point it is all but impossible to engage in logical conversation with him.
  3. Stanley typically has a favorite manager or supervisor he shares his gossip and negative opinions with and in some cases Stanley gets rewarded for this behavior by that authority figure.
  4. Stanley likely plays a central role in an office clique that alienates non-members or creates an us against them mentality.
  5. Stanley is typically very concerned with anything he perceives to threaten his position or role.

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When confronted about their behavior Stanley tends to suggest his rumors, gossip, and exclusion of others is the result of a mistake or misperception. He claims innocence and even mild astonishment at the very accusation of misbehavior. That can make it challenging to expose a Stanley and truly enact meaningful change. The concern here is that outing Stanley the Schemer may become a full-time pursuit at the expense of your other duties and responsibilities. If that becomes the case you are really no better than Stanley is… after all you would then be spending your time at work orchestrating a vendetta. 

So, how does one deal with a Stanley the Schemer at work? Here are three simple steps:

  1. Avoid engaging with Stanley in one-on-one communication. Instead include others in your emails, meetings, and chats. This keeps all information above board and in the open where it has little value to Stanley since it can’t easily be twisted for misuse.
  2. When Stanley does something well or helpful for your or your team praise him publicly. This is what he craves to begin with and if you can give him validation when he does the right thing he may do that more often.
  3. Most importantly stop worrying about what Stanley may or may not be saying about you behind your back. This is easy to say/type and far harder to live, but it is the best tip in this article. Everyone has an opinion of you, but your own opinion of you is the only one you have any right to know about. Your opinion is also the only one that matters!


Joe Burroughs

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