Her name was Dee, and she didn’t like me for some reason. I think she was “threatened” by my role in the organization. It made no sense to me, but I felt like she was constantly trying to throw me “under the bus” by pointing out every mistake I made or trying to discredit me at every opportunity. She clearly didn’t like me and wanted me gone. I could feel the knife in my back regularly.
I know she talked about me behind my back because other people told me. I had no idea what to do and felt paralyzed, thinking she was destroying my reputation and I wasn’t doing anything about it.
Since I know what to do, it wouldn’t happen now, but back then, I felt she was trying to get me fired and was “out to get me!” It was a real feeling, and I wish I knew now what I knew then.
While you may not have shared this scenario, you probably have felt that someone else at work was talking about you. Many can relate to working with a coworker who stabs us in the back.
Here are things you can do some things to minimize the harmful effects a backstabber will have on you.
Try not to take it personally. Even though it may feel like it, it’s actually not about you. When someone is trying to discredit you, it’s because they either feel threatened by you or they feel there is something to be gained. So stop taking it personally because it’s about the other person—not you.
With age comes wisdom, and the older me realizes Dee was showing her insecurities by trying to discredit me. By making me look bad, she thought she was making herself look good. The goal was always to make herself look good.
Hindsight is also 20/20, and we all know that people who stab others in the back always make themselves look bad.
Choose your battles. This is not your cue to fight back. It may be tempting to give your backstabber that stare that lasts a few seconds too long or to walk right up to them and say, “Game on!” But while it’s tempting, it’s not smart; don’t do it.
Your backstabber is probably better at this than you are, so you’re bound to come out of the exchange worse off. Plus, what will it say about you when you stoop to their level? It will say a lot of negative things about you, so don’t do it.
There may be times when you need to confront your backstabber (as a last resort: See #5), so take the high road and don’t give anyone a reason to think that perhaps the backstabber is right and you are an awful person, after all.
George Bernard Shaw said, “I learned long ago never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” Sometimes our backstabber does try to bait us to make us look bad. Don’t let them. You are better than that.
Be smarter than they are. That means you won’t give them a knife to stick in your back again. You need to pay attention to what you say, what comments you make, the opinions you share, and the fact they are probably looking to catch you doing or saying something you shouldn’t. Don’t give them the opportunity. Learn to be evasive or stop talking when they’re around. Choose your words and actions wisely. Be on the defensive, and stay at least one step ahead of your backstabber.
Act your age. Don’t respond like a child. Don’t run to all your friends at work and complain about what is happening. If you do, you are a backstabber right back.
You need to document what is going on. It may start as a simple issue, but perhaps what you are dealing with is a bully in training. Ensure you have documentation about who, what, where, when, and how the backstabbing happened.
Sometimes, you must go to your manager or someone higher and let them know what’s happening. Don’t be a tattletale; instead, be a prepared professional. Don’t focus on how it makes you feel but the negative consequences for the company and your department.
Confront, if needed. I mentioned earlier that there are times when you should confront your backstabber.
If someone is talking smack about my spending habits, my car, my shoes, or my personal life, I don’t think twice about it. To me, that is clearly jealousy, and if it makes the other person feel better to talk smack about me because of their jealousy, I can live with that.
If you struggle with it, go back to tip number one.
But if someone is talking smack about me professionally, and it affects my reputation, then I’ll confront them. That type of backstabbing is potentially dangerous to my professional reputation and career and needs to be stopped.
However, I will ensure I’ve cooled down before confronting the person. I won’t confront anyone when I’m upset and angry. I’ll also speak to my manager or HR to be sure of the route they want me to take. And I’ll make sure I’ve documented what I want to say and prepared for the confrontation to ensure I do what I need to do. I need to respond to the person’s words and get them to stop, not react emotionally.
If you hear someone talking smack about me, please tell me. If you know someone is talking smack about you, either because you caught them at it or because someone told you, follow the advice above.
Dealing with backstabbers can be challenging. Remember that they have an agenda; they are trying to get ahead at your expense. Deal with them professionally and consistently, and very quickly. They will learn not to mess with you!