Heads Up! Your Co-worker May Be Out to Get You

According to America Workplace Insights produced by the recruitment firm Adecco, the workplace is being riled by internecine battles, the nasty kind that lessen productivity and ruin reputations.

Good news! You escaped the last head count reduction. Whew!


Bad news! You have a bigger workload. Ugh!

More bad news! You may be asked to give up one to five days
of month in work and pay. Gulp.

Even more bad news! Your co-worker may be out to get you.


According to America Workplace Insights produced by the
recruitment firm Adecco in March 2009, the workplace is being riled by
internecine battles, the nasty kind that lessen productivity and ruin
reputations. More than a quarter (28%) of employees surveyed said they would
resort to “do something dishonest” to save their jobs, including “blaming
co-workers for mistakes, blackmail and even flirting with a superior.” The
study drew a bead on Generation Y workers born after 1982; four in ten would
engage in “dishonest behavior” to keep their jobs.

Disgraceful, yes, but not unexpected. While the Adecco
survey is now 18 months old, the tough economy may still be provoking “dog eat
dog” behaviors. Therefore, it falls to managers to be vigilant of such
behaviors. Sometimes managers tune out these signals because they want to get
the work done. That is understandable, but management is not about putting on
blinders; it is about looking for answers. Here are things to watch for.

Ask questions.
Consider why an employee would say something negative about a co-worker. What
does the accuser have to gain? Most often, employees do not go out of their way
to tell on their colleagues. When they do, one of two things has occurred. One,
the accused employee is truly harming the organization; two, the accused employee
is being framed (or blackmailed) by the accuser. Investigate by asking questions of the accused and accuser.
If you don’t get a straight story, go to other colleagues.


Monitor the pulse of
the team.
As you investigate consider the reactions of the accused’s
colleagues. Typically when someone who is disruptive to team cohesion is
removed, the mood of the team elevates. People feel better about their work and
themselves. When a good performer is removed, especially for the wrong reasons,
the mood sours. People feel discouraged and productivity plateaus or plummets.

Evaluate the
If an accused employee has made a mistake in his work, have a
conversation about how to fix it. Work toward improvement. However, if an
employee is making false accusations, find out why. The person may feel
threatened by others, or insecure in his job. Make it clear that you will not
tolerate employees sabotaging a colleague or a colleague’s work. Insist that
the accuser apologize to the person he has accused as well as to the entire
team. Make it clear that you will have the person removed from your team if you
learn of a second occurrence.

Failure to supervise is an invitation to trouble, not simply
in declining productivity but also in rising levels of employee dishonestly.
Managing in a tough economy demands paying attention not simply to the bottom
line but also the climate in which people work.


The good news is that the majority of employees, even
younger ones, are not thinking about or resorting to dishonesty. They are
coming to work on time and working required hours, maybe longer. And they are
putting up with more to get less in compensation. These are the folks that are
helping your organization survive. Treat them with the respect they deserve by
protecting them from the miscreants who would sabotage their futures.

John Baldoni is an
internationally recognized leadership development consultant, executive coach,
author, and speaker. In 2010 Top Leadership Gurus named John one of the world’s
top 25 leadership experts. John’s new book is
Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up (Amacom 2009). Readers are welcome to visit John’s