Backstabbers are everywhere. At your place of work, in your marketing department, in your accounting department, in your IT department, or for that matter, could be standing right next to your cubicle – pretending to be your best friend.
Backstabbing and double-talking is not just limited to highschool and college anymore. It has gone mainstream and is quite rampant at most companies. You may not know it, but right this very minute someone could be badmouthing you.
If for nothing else, reality television has taught us one thing: that how easy it is to sabotage someone’s relationship – be it business or personal. If you are on the receiving end of this, you know exactly how it goes. One day everything is fine and the next day people have qualms interacting with you. Worst of all, you have no idea what hit you! You keep asking yourself, “Did I do something wrong?“, “Did I say something I should not have?”
Believe it or not, the deed is done and now you have to salvage the relationship. Make sure you at least confront the individual who is at the receiving end of the rumors. Trust me, this will help. Your second step should be to talk to the person who has backstabbed you.
We can take a simple example of your coworker badmouthing you to your boss. Now let us go ahead and approach this from both sides – from your boss’ perspective and from your perspective.
If you are the boss who heard negative stuff about one of your staff member, from another subordinate, needless to say, you should be skeptical. Do not take it at face value. At the very least, talk to this individual or have them come and make their case. If you are uncomfortable in discussing this face-to-face, casually mention it in an email to this person. Ending with “Is it true you said/did that? I am skeptical and wanted to reach out to you directly.” Then give the other person a chance to explain. If you are bright enough, which you should be being a leader and mentor, you should be able to figure out the truth. As a manager, you should have apt judgment skills to identify right from wrong. Figuring out yourself first-hand is always better than feeding off from second-hand information, which can be contorted or misrepresented in many ways than one.
Here is what I recommend you do if you are on the receiving end of being backstabbed by your colleague, friend, co-worker or associate. You should be able to suspect foul play pretty soon in the game. Some classic examples are:
- Your boss has stopped reciprocating to your pleasantries.
- Your boss picks your colleague for most important tasks and totally sidelines you.
- Your boss promotes your colleague over you and forgets to fittingly justify their action.
- Your colleague, who used to go out for lunch/coffee/snacks with you, has discontinued doing so, rather abruptly.
- Your friend, who took your advice as the word of God, has discontinued asking for your guidance.
There can be countless other reasons that a sharp individual would be able to pick on. In such cases, the best you can do to level the playing field is to confront the person who backstabbed you. Again, if you are not comfortable doing this face-to-face, a quick email will do the task. At least it will let the backstabber know that you are on to them, and know what they are doing behind your back.
They may completely ignore your email, or sometimes comeback with “I don’t know what you are talking about.” Again, it comes down to your experience in subtly handing the situation and figuring out who the real culprit is. This is mostly true where you are surrounded by a number of jealous people and you need to hone out that one person who can lower themselves to the extent of badmouthing.
Tell them their actions were not suitable for an individual in their caliber and give them time to justify their deed. After they have explained their case, tell them you forgive them and would have never done this to anyone. Once things are said and done, explain the situation and circumstances to your boss. Email is most suitable way for this, as it gives your boss a chance to ponder and follow their own line of investigation.
Going forward, avoid negative people who like to focus on things that are off beam, and you are likely to stay more cheerful yourself. Naysayers, second-guessers and backstabbers are everywhere. You have to find, expose and weed them out. Instead of vehemently confronting them, try to take the higher path. Follow the righteous path of Gandhi and Mandela. Don’t kill them with vengeance; kill them with your kindness.
Reciprocating a backstabber by badmouthing them is not a prudent thing to do. You do not want to stoop down to their level. Keep your head high and believe in yourself. Mostly it is a case of misinformation, where the person backstabbing you may have heard negative things about you from someone else. Clarification is your best tool.
Backstabbers don’t come in special packages, shades of blue or the word “BACKSTABBER” tattooed on their foreheads. They can be the cute new intern at your office, or the good old jovial colleague who has worked with you over the years. When time is right, and they have to make a career move, they will backstab you to gain a competitive edge.
If someone has betrayed you once, the trust is gone – move on. Find new coworkers, friends or partners to network with.