I hear a lot of stories from colleagues and my website visitors about their work environment – relationships with managers and colleagues, work-life management, career aspirations, professional challenges. When I reviewed David St. Lawrence’s book, Danger Quicksand – Have a Nice Day, I was relieved that finally someone is telling the whole truth about the ugly side of corporate employment – backstabbing. When I wrote Rules for Professionals, backstabbing was a problem we cannot ignore.
I am convinced that backstabbing is the biggest driver of corporate cynicism and rot. Backstabbing can be subtle, hidden from view. Backstabbers aren’t always called out, they get away with backstabbing, which encourages them to use backstabbing as a viable method for career advancement.
A common form of backstabbing is between coworkers. For example, a professional has an issue that he wants to approach his manager. Before he approaches his manager, he decided to talk it over with his coworker to get that coworker’s perspective. The coworker then turned around and told the manager… and in this situation, we can only guess how the coworker portrayed the situation to the manager. The manager then storms into the professional’s office and demands to know what he was planning.
If you work with someone like this professional’s coworker, then you know that feeling of betrayal and disgust. If you don’t “call out” this person, he will continue to behave this way, especially when he thinks it is a great way to ingratiate himself with the manager and “earn” that manager’s trust.
Hold a meeting with both the coworker and the manager. Say that you want to prevent further misunderstanding, and tell the manager what you said to the coworker. Ask the coworker what he said to the manager. I guarantee this coworker will think twice before doing this to you or to another person in the future.
Dealing with backstabbers is like dealing with a festering wound under a bandaid that has become contaminated. You need to air out that wound and expose it. Then you need to clean it out. Ignoring backstabbing causes this behavior to fester and poison the organization.
Backstabbing can be stopped – one backstabber at a time.