Trolls in the Workplace

The best lines, hands down, that Professor Quirinus Quirrell ever had in Harry Potter were: Troll! There’s a troll in the dungeon. Thought you ought to know.” Shame he then fainted. Yes, there’s a troll in the dungeon, there are trolls online and there are trolls in the workplace. While trolls online can be very vicious, spouting horrible comments on blogs, articles, etc., they can also be vicious and hard to tolerate at work. They are the co-workers and bosses who damn you with faint praise, who back-stab you, who are the naysayers. They undermine your work, or claim it as their own. They cast doubt on your abilities to do your work just to see your confidence falter. These work trolls constantly find fault with your work even when there is none. Why do they do this? To take the scrutiny off themselves and their own poor work.

A recent famous example of trolls at work took place during a Cecilia Bartoli concert at La Scala last December. La Scala audiences have a longstanding tradition of  being the harshest critics of their beloved opera singers. However, just because it is tradition does not make it right. There is a group of opera “buffs” (I’d like to say buffoons) calling themselves “Grisi” after a famous opera singer. They organize and take it upon themselves to catcall and boo opera singers off the La Scala stage. However, when they booed La Ceci, she returned to the stage for an encore that bowled them over. Read more about it here. (Thanks, Gramilano!)

How did La Ceci triumph over these trolls? She has worked hard during her long career to “brand” herself as a talented coloratura mezzo-soprano. She is professional and prepared to perform onstage. She is known as a hard worker with a sunny personality. Cecilia has patiently developed a rapport with audiences through her sense of humor and facial expressions, by engaging them, pulling them into the performance and then not letting go. This is what carried her through a less than optimal experience at La Scala and left her career unscathed. This is what keeps audiences demanding encore after encore from the great La Ceci.

You can deal with the trolls at your workplace by defining your “brand,” who your work persona is. Who are you going to be? Are you that guy who ALWAYS comes in early, develops engaging presentations which are ready days beforehand, who knows the birthdays of every co-worker in the place? If that is going to be you, then you have to deliver. Every time. Be consistent. Be a true, professional diva, rather than a fainting Quirrell. That is the way to get those trolls to shut up and go away.


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