If you should become the subject of a smear campaign, you may find the following practices to be helpful in reducing or eliminating the damage.
1. Immediately discontinue speaking to the smear campaigner.
If you can’t possibly do this because it’s a work situation, limit the time spent talking to this person alone as much as humanly possible. Abusers lie and manipulate, and prefer to have all their conversations with their victims when the victim is without the benefit of witnesses. Abusive people don’t like witnesses, so avoid being alone with them at all cost. That’s when the abuse will be at its worst, and that’s when you’ll say the things they will cruelly twist into lies later. Deliberately approach them to have any unavoidable conversations in public, while standing in line at the water cooler, in a busy hall, while in a vehicle with others, or in a packed elevator. They may attempt to weasel out of the conversation by suggesting you have it later, in their office, at their house, or another isolated environment. Avoid this by cutting comments down into very small pieces. For instance, don’t ask what the plan is for the big sales project while flying by their door. That’s a conversation for later, when the two of you will be sitting down alongside Jane (surprise!) whom you thoughtfully arranged to have join you to help take notes. Right now, as you race by their office, you just need to know “one quick thing”. If you’re invited into a more lengthy discussion, let them know you’re rushing and you’ll get back to them. Then carefully plan that interaction, too, or they’ll take the upper hand.
2. Put things in writing.
One of the great benefits of the electronic age is, we can have an instant and verified copy of every piece of correspondence we send. If you absolutely must speak to the smear campaigner and you have the option of saying whatever you need to say in writing, do it. Having a record of exactly what has been said by you is invaluable protection against distortions and misrepresentation. Blind Carbon Copy (BCC) what you send to the smear campaigner to a third party whenever possible. When writing the content of the correspondence, do not say anything you would not want everyone to read. If you do, it’s guaranteed that everyone will soon be reading it (or what’s left of it after the smear campaigner’s creative “editing” work).
3. Know the lay of the land, and act accordingly.
If the abuser is a coworker, you have two options: sit down with management or leave the position. If the abuser is a supervisor, you can approach senior management, however you may still have to leave the employer (or at least that particular role). If the abuser is a family member, your options are similar: approach others to see if you can get support, and stop seeing abusive/unsupportive members. Unfortunately, the great majority of families in which there is an abuser are not at all supportive of members who demand that the abuse stop, and members of these families often turn against the abused member. Dysfunctional families are irrational and incapable of meeting requests for healthy boundaries, and no contact with some or all of the family may be your only option. If your work environment is similarly dysfunctional and the abuse is not seen through, not looked into, or you’re not taken seriously, then the problem, like with abusive families, is a deeper and more systemic one, and leaving will be your best option, no matter how much you may have wanted to keep the job otherwise.
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For information about workplace bullying, visit bullyonline.org