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I work in a niche field, which is normally full of people who mostly collaborate, rather than compete with each other. Lots of small organizations, government entities, and individual freelancers involved. In general I would say this is a nice industry with a lot of well-meaning people.

Unfortunately, there is one toxic individual who combines charisma, defamation, and manipulation very well. I have witnessed him praising people when in their vicinity, and tearing them down when not around. I've seen him take credit of other people's work. He cozies up to people of authority and then runs interference with projects and people he doesn't like through these relationships.

There are two ways in which this affects me. Firstly, ever since I called him out on something, me and my own small organization are now on his blacklist, and I know he's been spreading misinformation to discredit us and our work. This seriously affects our reputation and has the potential to cause severe damage. Secondly, he is really destroying the spirit of collaboration and volunteerism that exists in our community. He pits people against each other, and it is really sad to see how this affects the overall community.

How to best deal with this? He is a freelancer and I have my own organization, and we have no formal authority governing us both in a professional context (other than local government that we both work with as external partners). The main problem I see is his charisma and cunning manipulation skills. A lot of the things he does are under the radar, and carry the risk of "he says she says" dirt throwing. He has already burned himself with a number of people in the field, and there are others who have seen his tricks. However, there are also key people that he is very friendly with who easily take his side. Furthermore, he interacts with a broader public and (at times through lies and misappropriation of work) he carries some traction and is seen as someone "in the know". So again this makes it difficult to start some sort of a campaign to bring out what he has been doing.

What would be a good approach?

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  • Sure but he has authority figures wrapped around his fingers, allowing him to damage our reputation. I have already seen very capable people being cast aside after his interference. There is a real risk of this affecting our operations if we let him move ahead unchecked. – user874222 Jun 16 '20 at 18:48
  • Reads like a post on here a while back... – Solar Mike Jun 16 '20 at 18:57
  • Could you provide a link @Solar – user874222 Jun 16 '20 at 19:06
  • Either ignore it because you don't want to create waves or make him and his 'key' people into targets. They'll happily support him if there is no comeback on them for doing so, the minute that changes...... – Kilisi Jun 16 '20 at 19:19
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    @SolarMike can you perhaps give some keywords or a tip on how to find it? Did it have useful answers? I am not able to dig this up, perhaps not using the right search terms. Should I use the internal search or Google? I don't have any luck with either so far. – user874222 Jun 17 '20 at 5:40
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You won't win if you just go head to head at war with this guy. You need to actively positively invest to counter his defamatory remarks.

I know he's been spreading misinformation to discredit us and our work. This seriously affects our reputation and has the potential to cause severe damage

Counter this by posting good reviews, user stories, case studies etc. of satisfied customers that used your products & services and had a great experience. Even better if they're big, well-known customers. Work with those customers if possible to produce a great piece of marketing that benefits you both - for example:

https://www.mulesoft.com/case-studies/api/asics

Similarly, and more generally, you can invest in advertising, marketing, stands at relevant conferences / trade shows etc. to boost your standing in the area you're in. It won't get rid of him throwing shade around, but it certainly puts doubt in the mind of anyone listening (hey, they can't be so bad if x, y & z all had great experiences and are prepared to shout about it.) This has a net effect of both increasing your standing, and potentially making him less believable too.

Secondly, he is really destroying the spirit of collaboration and volunteerism that exists in our community.

Counter this by providing those opportunities yourself, as a part of your organisation! I'm not sure what field you're in, but in the technical / development field it's very common to have conferences, hackathons, meetups etc. that are often sponsored & hosted by organisations. It can just be something as simple as a monthly meetup where you provide a meeting room & ample pizza.

Finally:

A lot of the things he does are under the radar, and carry the risk of "he says she says" dirt throwing.

Never get involved with this. If anyone starts asking you about the guy - just say something akin to "Afraid we haven't worked with him enough to form a judgement" or similar.

If you use some of these positive approaches, over time people will likely see your company in a better light as a result, and therefore believe this individual less.

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  • Thanks for this, sounds like a very balanced approach. Will try! – user874222 Jun 19 '20 at 5:22

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