February 17, 2012
How to deal with backstabbers at work
Let's face it: Backstabbing happens at work all the time.
Backstabbers engage in underhanded tactics that make you look bad. Their actions-- such as turning the boss against someone -- can be vindictive, deceitful, sneaky, vengeful, nasty, conniving.
Sometimes backstabbers can be passive-aggressive. For example, someone tells you he’ll do something, but he never quite gets around to it. Or a co-worker says, “Sure, I’ll let the boss know you did most of the work on that project,” and then never does.
Generally, people engage in back-stabbing behaviors to gain something for themselves and gain power over you. Perhaps they are insecure or jealous of your success. They want to be noticed and think that you need to look bad or inept in order for them to look better.
When dealing with backstabbers, it’s important to maintain your positive sense of self
and don’t turn into a backstabber yourself. Some tips:
Assess the situation carefully. Don’t overreact or react too quickly before thinking through your response. Take time to write down what the person is saying and what you actually did. For example, if the backstabber says you didn’t spend much time on a project, then document the time you did spend.
Don’t underestimate a backstabber’s power. Don’t ignore the behavior or laugh it off, and don’t offend the person more.
Try calmly confronting the backstabber about his or her passive-aggressive behavior or negative comments. This is very tricky. Practice what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. Use a style that will work with the person without escalating the situation.
This could be an approach that starts with: “I really value our working relationship. Can you help me understand .” Perhaps letting the person know you are aware of what he is doing is enough to get him to stop. Just be prepared for denials.
You might need to calmly share evidence that he or she has engaged in these behaviors, what the impact has been and what the consequences will be if they continue. It is important to keep a calm tone and demeanor and good eye contact.
Another option would be to calmly confront the backstabber in a public forum. For example, suppose he told you he supported your idea but then trashed it in a meeting. In the public meeting, you could (calmly and coolly) say something like: “I’m surprised to hear that you are not in favor of this idea since last week you told me you supported it.” Generally, backstabbers like to look good in public.
Make sure that others in the organization, particularly those at higher levels, know about your “real” accomplishments. It is important to spend a little more time networking or having lunch with superiors or other colleagues.
If the backstabber has told you that someone in the office doesn’t want to work with you, go to that person directly. Many times, a backstabber is making things up.
Seek the counsel of your mentor (if you have one), but be careful about what you say about the backstabber. Don’t overly trash the person. This is also a good opportunity to spend a little more time networking or having lunch with superiors or other colleagues.
Continue to demonstrate high levels of work performance.
Try befriending the backstabber and those who support him. It may seem like the last thing you would want to do, but it actually helps. People are less likely to engage in tactics against you if you are friends with them.
Take the high road. Don’t let it escalate to the point where both parties are seriously hurt, and no one wins. Fostering all that anger, frustration and vindictive behavior sucks up a lot of personal energy. It can be more damaging than the initial behaviors of the backstabber. Stay positive and confident for your own well-being.
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