Who can forget the line uttered by Julius Caesar, ‘E tu Brutus’?
His shock and anguish at the back stabbing by a trusted friend is very visible in the line.
Though Caesar was literally stabbed, at the modern workplace, you can find many who do that figuratively. They may badmouth you or break your trust. They may even try to spread a gossip about you on something that you must have shared personally.
Backstabbing co-workers are a reality in all kinds of work spaces. The more efficient or the more you are liked in your office, the more are the number of backstabbers.
While it is wise not to fight them often, it is important to handle them well. Here’s how you can do it:
Ways to Handle Backstabbing Colleagues:
1. Do not share your heart:
At the workplace, beware what you are talking about or what information you are sharing.
When a co-worker shows too much interest in your personal matter or your opinion about another colleague at work, refrain from being honest. In fact, avoid such questions with a smile.
2. Keep ideas and plans to yourself:
Take care not to divulge any ideas that you have about a project you are handling with a colleague who is a backstabber.
Disclose your ideas only in the presence of a superior. You can even request your boss to divide project responsibilities, so that you get the credit for what you have put in.
3. Be alert during changes:
When there is a sudden change in the office or there are rumours about firing some, be extra alert because it is during such situations that people try to pull down others just to protect their position.
At such times, just avoid talking too many personal or professional matters with anyone.
4. Do not let them pull you into the gossip pool:
The first stage utilised by backstabbers is essentially the sweet one. They may try to befriend you and say nasty stories about a colleague that you dislike.
Do not encourage such sessions and just do not add fuel to the fire. Whatever you may say can be used to get back at you.
5. Avoid backstabbers:
Whatever happens or whatever way, the backstabbers might try to incite you, so remain calm. Avoid them as far as possible.
They may whisper into each other’s ears looking at you or they will smile sarcastically while you are passing. Remember by doing all these, they want you to react and attack them. Don’t fall into their trap.
6. Don’t give in:
Giving away physically or emotionally won’t solve your problems. Talk to your family or close friends about the situation. Their words of support will act as armour against bullies.
Remind yourself that you are talented and a valued employee and that is the reason why these backstabbers are behaving the way they do. So smile and keep your distance.
7. Hang out with supportive co-workers:
Have caring co-workers at your side. Talk to them on all topics but never broach any topic concerning the backstabbers. Talk about fun things, laugh and have fun.
Backstabbers will automatically retreat when they see that you are not intimidated but are having fun.
8. Select your battles with caution:
React only when a problem escalates and that too in a way that is calm and restrained.
When you become aggressive, lose temper and shout at the backstabbers, you are also becoming a part of the problem and you will not be able to sort out the situation.
Hence when you confront, do so with dignity and self-restraint.
9. Be a better employee:
No matter how much some backstabbing co-workers are trying to belittle you or are spreading rumours about you, you should focus on your work and try to become better at your job.
Go beyond the call of duty and put in your best. Just concentrating on your work will be able to put the stress and such people away.
10. Make it a habit to document:
Whenever you have to communicate to such co-workers, instead of verbal communication, send e-mails. If they are rude to you in any work matters, tell them to send the details and reasons by mail rather than informing you verbally.
Keep note of all your work, your project details and meetings. Be extra careful and cautious so that whenever any allegation is made against you, you have evidence to prove that they are wrong.
11. Do not appear to be ‘holier than thou’:
Though you should not be a part of office politics, you should know what is going around. The key here is to listen to gossips but do not spread them.
Maintaining a ‘holier than thou’ attitude only makes you more distant even from others, which will give the backstabbers an upper hand.
12. Be a good friend to everyone:
If you get a chance to help someone or guide a newbie, do that. Even if one of the backstabbing colleagues come asking for a help, try to help them out.
These helping gestures will put you in a favourable situation and secure from any harm that these people might try to impose.
13. Learn to read people:
This is a trait that will come only with practice. Learn to read non-verbal communication and study people.
When you are good at reading people, you will automatically save yourself from backstabbers.
14. Stick to one-liners with the backstabbers:
Be it professional matters or personal matters, when you communicate with backstabbing co-workers, then stick to either single words or one-liners. In this way, neither are you snapping at them nor are you encouraging them.
15. Learn to be shrewd:
Whenever you are dealing with such colleagues professionally, be shrewd and extra cautious. Check and do follow-ups.
For example, if you have to hand over important files to them, then take a receipt note from them, or hand it at the presence of a witness. If you have to email an important note, send a Cc to another colleague in the department.
16. Do not be weak or rather expose your softer side:
Be strong in front of the backstabbers. Even if you feel bad about what’s happening or you feel anxious about how the next day would be, do not express it.
Display a stronger exterior and go about your work quietly and more effectively whenever possible.
17. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst:
Try to find information on the activities of the backstabbers discreetly and gather all the evidences you need one by one, so that when things go out of control, and you need to stand up to these bullies, you are prepared and you have the proof ready.
18. Create a group around you:
Gather whoever you can around you. Let these people be those who you trust well. Give them an idea about what’s happening.
Hence when lies or rumours are spread about you, these people will know the truth and they will be of help.
19. Beware of the backstabber:
The backstabbers are not easy people, they know all the tricks of the trade. Most of them have deep issues. Never underestimate them.
Do not take their actions lightly and be aware of them at every step. Know what they are up to and devise ways to be on the safer side.
20. Try to put the record straight:
If the backstabber is spreading rumours about you or has told some colleague that you do not like him or her, then go to the person directly and try to talk it out.
Also confront the rumours and if anything can be amended, do it. And the ones which you can’t help, ignore.
21. Do not pay back in their own coin:
Sometimes you may get tempted to badmouth about backstabbers to others or try to do nasty things to them.
If you will resort to these things, what will be the difference between you and them? Hold your dignity and go about your work, with a smile and a cheerful attitude.
22. Backstabbers are not aliens:
Anybody can be a backstabber. Nobody is born with such an attitude. A person ready to stab you in the back can be the sweet intern or the person who diligently wishes you every morning or even the one sitting next to you with whom you share lunch and jokes.
The moral is not to trust anyone completely and consider only those as friends who you have tried and tested.
23. Confront the right way:
Confrontation is not all about fighting it out physically. You can confront a wrong doer in a non-violent way too.
If you have all the evidence with you, then you can take your boss or a HR representative with you. Put the proof before him and ask him politely the reason of his behaviour.
24. Talk to your boss – the last remedy:
Take the matter to your boss only when all other solutions do not work. But before you present the matter to your boss, try out all the above points.
Keep proof ready and also see if any colleagues who know the truth, will speak in support.
Tell your boss that you regard this as a small matter, you still want an amicable situation. You should create an impression that you are not complaining but since you need a cordial working atmosphere, this issue should be resolved in a friendly manner.
25. At the end of the day, do what you think is right:
If the boss do not stand by you, and the backstabbers succeed, don’t sit back blaming yourself.
You know you were right so why bother? Start looking for a new job and say good bye cordially with dignity. Good things definitely happen to right people, believe that.
You will find unethical people in all walks of life and especially at work, backstabbing co-workers are a reality. It is of no use, running away because the problem is going to persist.
Hence it is important to learn to handle these backstabbers in an intelligent and smart manner. These steps will help you handle backstabbers in a dignified manner, a method that does not hurt but is impactful.