Workplace Backstabbing: An Overview

It is most common to hear destructive comments from a co-worker against another co-worker. Why is it so? Competitive workplaces are full of backstabbing co-workers looking to succeed at a colleague's expense. Workplace backstabbing is a virulent cause of distress among workers. It affects worker's productivity, creates employee conflict and damages the bottom line.

Backstabbing and rumor-mongering among employees are just symptoms of bigger problems.  There is something more fundamentally wrong with a team that cannot work together in JOY and HARMONY.

An example of a simple scenario goes something like this.You are called for a meeting participated by department heads and the company President. You are about to present an idea and someone among the participants disagreed with you or doesn't think your plan will work. The guy gives several explanations and told you that your co-worker told him that you are not capable of making your plan a realization or somewhat like that you lack the proper skills and knowledge to implement the plan. This is a simple backstabbing incident to make the backstabber look good to the top management.

You will surely get fumed and will likely confront that person why he betrayed you or to explain his own point of view regarding your plan. You feel you need a breather or take a cup of coffee to ease yourself. You wanna scream aloud to let others know that you have the best idea and why this backstabber made a fuss out of it. What you need to do is find out WHY this employee is not contributing to your productivity and harmony.

Psychologist and professor Kathleena dela Rosa says to confirm you heard it right before acting on anything. “Communication is always key. State up front what you heard and ask if he/she really said all those things about you,” she suggests. “But of course, you have to make sure of your sources. No need to be hysterical, though. Just ask if they did say it and what prompted them to do so.”

As with disease, prevention is the best medicine. For employers, it is best to hire people by using objective, scientific assessments of personality, behavior and attitudes. Conduct regular, periodic workplace reviews to identify and treat early warning signs. And if a problem does arise post-hiring, have a system in place to fix it before damage spreads. 

"One saying is that people hire based on experience, background and education," says Lloyd Gottman, CEO and chief synergist of Littleton-based Synergetic Systems LLC. "They fire because of lack of fit with the job and company. That can include backstabbing."

"You're looking for an employee who can do the job well, whose behaviors fit well, and motivations to do it well fit for the long term," Gottman says. "This will lead to a person who will stay longer, produce more, consume less management resources and be more profitable." 

Dealing with employee conflict is estimated to consume from 30 percent to 42 percent of a manager's work day.

"In advertising or marketing -- as with any competitive field -- it's not uncommon for people to promote themselves at the expense of others," Megan Slabinski, executive director of The Creative Group, said in a statement. Yet, she warned that in a cutthroat industry, a heavy-handed response can carry its own implications.

"Saying the wrong thing can make a bad situation worse," she said.

How to minimize backstabbing in the workplace

Gottman recommends an "Assess, Address, Remediate" system. Elements are the following:
  • Assess job candidates thoroughly and accurately.
    • This doesn't mean a good gut-level feel or hiring based on charm or affability. Get past credentials and experience to see how well someone will play in your organization.
  • Address the entire workplace culture.
    • Companies will develop vision and mission statements, but most neglect to establish a clear culture framework that employees buy into and are expected to live by. Bob Liebhauser, certified business coach at Denver-based ActionCOACH, recommends that companies develop a culture statement that "sets the rules of the road."
  • Remediate immediately any acute backstabbing issues, often signified by disagreement or excessive work gossiping about specific employees or the company itself.
    • Don't waste time or effort trying to analyze the backstabber's motives. Much energy is expended trying to psychoanalyze, then "cure" the problem. Backstabbers often act out of habit or because these bad behaviors have worked for them in the past. 
      Instead, investigate the situation and what needs to be done to remedy it. Best case, this takes the form of intracompany intervention and resolution along the lines of Liebhauser's approach. If necessary, look at some form of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation or arbitration.

For me, the best thing to do is just ignore them, or else you would find yourself just doing the same thing. Better to concentrate on the work at hand and deliver what it is required of you, and this in turn will get positive feedback on you. From where you sit, there are people who are watching how you work especially when you still are a newcomer.

Are you a victim of backstabbing? Please share your thoughts at the comment box below.

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About lamberto inquig, jr.

a simple and yet full of sense of humor guy who loves to travel and learn more knowledge in the ICT
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