How to Manage Workplace Backstabbing

Keep your nose clean; petty infighting harms your whole workplace.

Keep your nose clean; petty infighting harms your whole workplace.

When workplace backstabbing is all around you, you may be tempted to pick up a knife. It's hard enough to survive in the workplace with looming deadlines, concerns about layoffs, and your personal life creeping in -- so those treacherous backstabbing co-workers may just be the last straw. But before you resort to stooping to their low, remember that you don't have to live by the adage, "turnabout is fair play."

Avoid the gossip machine. If you're not already the target of backstabbing in the office, talking about people's troubles behind their backs could eventually make you a target. And if you are already a target, it can be tempting to snipe about the person you know who is trying to sabotage you, but it's only going to make the problem worse. These things tend to snowball; hover above the fray and just stay out of it.

Keep your ears open at the same time. While you don't want to be the source of the workplace gossip that can turn friends into enemies, it doesn't hurt to be aware of what others are saying. This can help you stay abreast of possible designs against you. Pay attention to what others are saying in the lunch room, at break time or in quiet conversations at their desks -- then use the information to devise a plan to combat ploys against co-workers or yourself.

Talk to the backstabber directly. If you are already the target of treachery, you may get some traction by confronting the backstabber about it. Let her know that you are aware of her game; in some cases it could make her back off. Be as respectful as you can, and let her know you want to find a way to work out your differences. In the best scenario, she'll stop backstabbing; in the worst, you'll be right back where you started.

Remain humble when you get a promotion or special perks at work. If you're doing a good job and moving up the ladder, chances are other people are going to be envious and may try to take steps to stab you in the back. Obviously, the bosses think you're doing something right, so continue to stay out of the gossip machine and keep doing the good job you're doing without gloating or making others feel bad.

Know your allies. In any workplace, it's a good idea to make nice with a superior who may be able to help you move up the chain, but it's also helpful to have a good working relationship with your peers and subordinates. You don't have to be best friends, but having a friendly conversation once in a while and letting those people know you care can mean they'll be more likely to do the same for you. If things get really bad and you've become the victim of some serious treachery, those allies may be able to help.

Tip

  • If the backstabbing is getting out of control and it's starting to affect productivity, it may be time to talk to your supervisor to ask for a mediated solution between you and the backstabber. Some offices will opt to bring in a business coach or mediator to help solve serious conflicts. If the supervisor doesn't support your efforts to work it out, it may be because the workplace is one that supports unhealthy competition. In that case, it may be time to look for a new job.
 

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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