Your work nemesis 

There might be more to it than a personality clash


According to a survey carried out by the recruitment firm Totaljobs 20% of people have experienced an enemy at work to such an extent that they have called in sick because they couldn’t face seeing their nemesis. Most of us will have come across a colleague who just rubs you up the wrong way, some one who seems to disagree with everything you say just for the sake of it and someone you suspect criticises you behind your back. 

It may be a personality clash or may be there is more to it. 


We were both pleasant and friendly in a formal way towards each other. But I was always a little cautious in their presence. I had made some slight passing comment about the boss’s well know habit of misplacing papers/reports. There was something about his response that made me make a note to be more guarded in the future. 

As far as I was concerned he was a colleague, I thought him young, ambitious and good at his job. I didn’t have a lot of contact with him, I didn’t manage that side of the   business.

I didn’t realise he wanted my job. This didn’t occur to me as he had only recently been promoted to his current post. A post for which I helped him prepare for the interview. Come to think of it he was rather dismissive of my advice.


I thought him a good appointment and was genuinely pleased when he was confirmed in the post. All this changed about 12 months later. 

My loyal and extremely able PA was temporarily seconded to the director when his long serving PA retired. In this capacity she overheard my colleague running me down to the director. When she told me I was surprised because I had never known her be indiscreet. I played it down but she was clearly upset by what she had overheard. She said this was not the first occasion and that the director seemed to be encouraging this gossiping which she said had now become planning a senior management team restructuring with the sole intent of moving me out of my post and moving this person in.


Not long after this the director announced to the senior management team that he intended to make changes to refresh the set up and make the work load more evenly balanced. Details yet to be worked out. We all recognised that the structure had become distorted being pulled one way by the move to focused on localities and another to facilitate increased specialisation. We were asked to go away and come back with ideas on how we could square this circle. Everyone seemed up for it, we had all covered different aspects of the business before and felt comfortable with assuming different responsibilities. 


Shortly afterwards the director called me in to talk about the new structure. He had a plan and I was to be moved to another role as yet unclear. Following discussions the others would remain in their current posts with some minor changes in reporting arrangements. He had some one in mind for my old post! 


I wasn’t being made redundant. I would retain my current salary but it would be on a new temporary contact. This would,” give me plenty of time to find another post after all I had made it clear I thought I was ready for a more senior post”. 


It was obvious to me that the fact that redundancy was not being proposed  ment that non of this had been agreed with the chief executive or the leader who might have asked awkward questions. I was being pushed out but on the quiet.


I could have raise my concerns with the cabinet member but I didn’t feel our relationship was strong enough. Any way it’s generally considered inappropriate to involve members in conflicts between officers. I could have appealed directly to the chief executive but this would be risky because as far as I knew he had no concerns about the directors management style so he would be unlikely to do anything more than raise the matter informally in their next one to one. And I would risk being seen as disloyal and acquiring some negative labels. I could have approached  the corporate head of HR for advice, their position would make them, in theory , impartial. However I knew from experience their advice would be to submit a formal grievance against the director for bulling and harassment if I had hard evidence, witness statements and emails, of which there were non. Which left find another job. Which is what I did.


A few months later I got my more senior post in another Authority. My nemesis got my post . There was no restructuring. But that wasn’t an end to the story. Most people were surprised when the director took early retirement and guess who got his job! 


Blair Mcpherson former Director ,author and blogger 



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