We will all face the issue of criticism and character assassination at work, but there are ways to manage the problem and hopefully come out the other side with our head held high.
Believe it or not, when people start to talk about you, perhaps even criticize, it can be a sign that you are progressing or doing something different.
Aristotle once said, “Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing”.
These are indeed wise words, and he is referring to the fact that you are doing something different from others. So you can take criticism as proof of growth, and ignore the haters.
Discuss it with your Boss
If the gossip and bad-mouthing are bordering is becoming unbearable, then one option is to discuss the situation with your manager. A great manager will always seek to actively stop the type of political backstabbing that can occur in work environments. If you work in a professional office environment this type of behavior is always completely unacceptable. Suggest to your manager that they discuss the general topic of gossip and rumor in the team meeting and that they should be clear it is not acceptable.
If you are feeling brave then you could try tackling the issue head-on by having a discussion with those involved. This is a higher risk solution as fundamentally people do not like to admit they have done anything wrong and generally we accept no blame for anything.
If you choose this route, then it would be wise to tackle the culprits on a one to one basis, not in groups. This way you can adopt a friendly demeanor and have a discussion as opposed to tackling a group of people in a confrontational stand-off.
Report it to your Ethics Department
If you believe that the bad-mouthing is breaking any standards of business conduct, then most companies usually have business ethics or HR department that you can approach. Standards of Business Conduct is usually a formalization of a set of ethical principles such as fairness, accountability, trust, honesty, equality, and respect. So breaking these principles can lead those involved in disciplinary procedures.
Keep Your Enemies Close
It could be that those involved in talking behind your back, feel threatened by you, or do not know you well enough to realize what a great person you are. If you have the stomach for it, you could try to befriend them. This route is not guaranteed to work, not even a long shot, but it did work out for me early in my career.
Fresh out of University I started working in an I.T. department. I was inexperienced but I had a great resume and background. There were a few contractors in the team that were twice my age and relentless in their humor towards me. I thought they must feel threatened that I may be taking their jobs.
After a few weeks, we had a company Christmas party, and I made a point of sitting with them. After many beers and laughs it turned out we all got on really well. 26 years later, we are still in touch and I still think back to the great time I had working with them.
Only You Can Decide
Only you can decide which of these options is right for you, it depends on your personality and what you feel comfortable doing, if you are facing this problem, be strong, do not show weakness and take action.