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Research shows that if you are a rising or top performer, regardless of gender, at any level in the organization, you are at risk of being targeted in today’s workplace. 

The key is to educate yourself before the situation occurs. Preparedness is always the hallmark of a top performer, and this is no exception. 

But what is the one other thing that will determine your success if you find yourself being targeted?


And it’s the one thing that most forget while dealing with a targeting situation. Yet it is the most powerful remedy that can turn your desperation into empowerment—and continued career success. 

How do you prepare yourself to become empowered in a difficult situation like workplace targeting and leverage the power of choice?

You practice mental agility. 

Mental agility is becoming as important a skill as strategic agility in today’s workplaces, especially for women. 

Today, men are more comfortable with conflict, having candid conversations, and moving on. Women are not, especially if they are the target. 

Women are innately conditioned to be empathetic, problem solvers, givers, and embody natural strategic execution abilities. And, when targeted, studies show they ruminate on the other’s behavior. 

They typically begin their internal conversation blaming themselves and questioning what they did to ignite such behavior.  Women become immobilized with fear and, worst-case scenarios, start to replay in their minds, creating a downward spiral and inability to think of the next steps, let alone that they have a choice. 

To be clear, for most women, this is unchartered territory. They’ve never experienced a situation, and they are learning as they go as adults. The stakes are higher, especially when it involves financial responsibility and a reputation.

Yet, now that you know you will most likely be targeted at one point in your career, are aware of the tactics used, and how to mitigate them (Part 1 and Part 2), your next step is to practice mental agility and the power of choice.

Here’s how:

Get strategic about yourself. 

There is a tool used in strategic planning called ‘scenario’ options. 

Companies use it to plan ahead by identifying scenarios or the most likely possibilities that could happen. You can also use it for your career.

As your targeting situation begins to unfold, dedicate some time to plan ahead by writing the three most likely ending scenarios in your journal. 

For example, scenario one could be, ‘I learned a great deal through this process about myself, what I’m willing to tolerate, and validated I am a rising performer. But I’m not willing to remain someone’s target.’ 

Write your scenarios on the right-hand side of your page and attribute each a likely percentage it will happen (see example in chart below).

Then list three choices to the left of your most likely scenario (working backward on your page). 

Choice one should be the safest option—for example, you choose to pursue a different role in another part of the organization. 

Choice two should contain a situation that leaves the person in their job (unfortunately, that is the typical scenario), and your resignation, particularly if HR’s hands are tied, and have little power to remedy the situation. 

Choice three is to think bigger. Choose a vision for yourself using this situation to propel you into something completely different.

For example, this situation could be just what you needed to choose to pursue your dream job to start your own business. Whatever your choices are, write them down.

This exercise should give you an immediate sense of calm, empowerment, and the beginnings of a solution at work.

Then attribute an educated guess on the likely percentage each choice could happen. Mark the option with a star (*) that received the highest percentage.

This option is where you will focus your time on next steps.

For the starred choice that received the highest percentage, list three steps you will take to progress forward and assign dates or timeframes when each will be completed (these are found on the left side of your paper). 

For all others, list one step. That way, if the percentages change at any point, you have already thought through step one.

how to overcome targeting in the workplace infographic
An example of a strategic planning tool called ‘scenario’ options. 

This exercise will do two things for you: 

  1. Remind you that in every situation, you have a lot of choices on next steps and you are in control even if everything around you is not.
  2. It helps you use this inflection point as a period of growth for yourself by planning ahead and envisioning success.

But keep in mind most individuals (you included) may not like forced growth or growth at another’s hands. Yet change is essential for you to continue to progress in life—both professionally and personally. 

The targeting can also help you find a deeper meaning in your work, possibly helping others who have become the target. Or you could become the hero who works with HR to update your employee handbook to address targeting, so it doesn’t happen to another person in your workplace.

Make the choice and use it for good—for yourself and others.

Wisdom will eventually show you that it didn’t matter what caused the inflection point, but rather that it happened, what you learned from it, how you used it, and how it set you on a new, enlightened, successful path. 

When you use these situations to your advantage, they become centers of powerful change—both personally and professionally.

And always remember, coming out of the situation and creating more success is the best possible outcome. So, continue to focus on your growth and your success, and leave everything (and everyone) else in its rightful place: 

In your past. 

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By Berta Aldrich

Berta Aldrich is the author of “Winning the Talent Shift: Three Steps to Unleashing the New High-Performance Workplace,” rated #1 book to buy on Company Culture and #3 on Customer Experience by Bookauthority. As an award-winning C-suite executive leader turned coach, keynote speaker, and author, she teaches executives at the most highly regarded companies how to turn their unique strategy and purpose into tangible outperformance. Find more on her website.