SUMMARY POINTS

  • Backstabbers don’t have real skills or discipline so they resort to conniving tactics to get ahead
  • Don’t fly off the handle, be calm and professional to work through situations
  • Don’t play their game but instead be smart and leverage their weaknesses to gain the upper hand
It's the D-day of your biggest professional presentation ever and you're super excited.

If you nail this, you'll be getting that massive bonus, a chance at a promotion, plus the respect and recognition that you deserve.

You've been working on this project for three months. Actually, six months, if you count the first three months you spent preparing yourself to be chosen for the project.

You’ve been in the zone, kicking ass and cranking away at this for a good long time.

And so, just as you walk into the office feeling buzzed even though the presentation isn't till afternoon, you notice something.

Everyone's excited and chatting about something.

You know it's irrational, but you feel a little bit of dread as you approach the nearest person to ask what's up.

Only for them to tell you all about this amazing project that one of your coworkers worked on - and it is exactly yours.

Motherfucker.

Somebody is swiping your glory. You feel dazed. Sick to your stomach.

And to make matters worse, rumors say that you screwed up the project and that it was turned around by that backstabber.

Six months of your hard work flash before your eyes. And you just want to die. Right there. Right then.

Why Do Coworkers Backstab Anyway?

This is one of the first thoughts that come to mind and you stand there shocked and wondering what the fuck to do now that you have so many stab wounds in your back.

The thing is, not everyone was raised the same way as you. Not everyone shares your values, beliefs, or even decency. And it has absolutely nothing to do with you.

It has more to do with their lack of self-worth, capabilities and awareness.

1) They Feel Intimidated

Your shock is probably as good as ours. If people feel intimidated, why not just confront it head-on, right?

Well, no. Not for everyone. And particularly not for the backstabbers.

For them, the easiest way to deal with this is to remove the source of that intimidation - which could be you.

It doesn't matter that they haven't treated the true source of their problem and they will still always be intimidated by the next person who happens to be smarter, happier prettier, more intelligent, or more successful.

So they do what they think is best by sabotaging another person. It’s the only way they know how to stay ahead of others.

2) It Makes Them Feel Better

As horrible as it sounds, some people derive an unimaginable joy from seeing others suffering and frustrated, particularly when they feel they won't be caught for it.

Call it the God-complex or just straight-up sadism. They don't care. They feel invincible.

This study from Nova Southeastern University explains this as a Machiavellian value. A way for people to grab power.

Damn. Talk about prehistoric.

4) They Believe They're Justified

You see, some people believe that whatever they do to reach their success is justified.

It’s the whole “the end justifies the means” thing - again, the Machiavellian reasoning.

And like all humans, those backstabbing office assholes take it out of context or put too much emphasis on it just so that they get what they want - no matter what it takes and who it may hurt.

5) They Don't Even Know It

We all have that one friend who is nasty but doesn't seem to know it. It just comes naturally to them. They’re just not self-aware - kinda like clueless executives.

Maybe there's an underlying cause but they sure don't know it. It's as easy and natural for them as breathing.

It's the same way with some of these backstabbers.

They do it because it's fun and don't even know how distressing it is for others - and it's most likely because they got away with it in the past since their victims never spoke up about it.

Some of these may seem like very irrational reasons, but then so is backstabbing. No rational person should do that but unfortunately, work jerks are an inevitable part of office life.

Spotting Backstabbers At Work

There are key traits that are exhibited by backstabbing coworkers. You wouldn't be able to know all of them because some are very, very good actors.

But there are tell-tale signs that they still show every now and then or even every day.

Even if they haven't backstabbed you yet, to the best of your knowledge, they potentially could.

And we always preach to be better safe than sorry.

Here are some red flags to watch out for that indicate a potential backstabber.

They Make Condescending Jokes And Comments 

Some people are blessed with deprecating humor that they are able to joke about everyone including themselves in a harmless way that's still funny.

Backstabbers are the exact opposite.

They make sure to comment on the most common things about others in the meanest way and expect you to laugh about it. Bonus points if they giggle and say, “it was just a joke - relax” when they notice others aren't laughing or they went too far.

In truth, they always go too far and end up pissing you off big time. This is you need to draw the line and call them out on it.

Be careful though. If they laugh about others to you, they're definitely laughing about you to others - guaranteed.

They're Envious & Resentful

All backstabbers are envious so it's a major red flag when a coworker shows signs of envy for the smallest of things.

You should be able to pick up on this especially if you sit close to them as a lot of them don’t have cubicle etiquette.

They won't necessarily turn green in the face (though that'd be a nice red flag there) but when they start complaining about another person's success when they clearly deserved it, that's a huge flag.

And when you get your own success, you won't be spared the envy. You might just get a few evil jealous stares.

They're Quick To Spread Malicious Gossip

A little positive office gossip here and there is natural. “Did ‘cha hear that we might get this Friday off?”

It makes the office fun and more enjoyable.

However, it becomes unsettling though when a coworker constantly spreads negative rumors about others. It's even more unsettling when they do so and then confidently laugh with the victim of the gossip.

They usually start with, “This may not be true…” and they most likely know it may not be true but still tell it to as many people that will listen, even those who are not close to them.

This is why it’s best to avoid the gossip trap at work.

They Always Blame Others

It's almost the same logic backstabbers have for when they're envious.

If they're ready to envy another person's success while hating to do the work that comes with it, then they're ready to blame others when they can't do the work they're supposed to do or do it badly.

They can't find it in themselves to be an adult at work and take responsibility for their actions, mistakes and/or lack of effort so they're ready to throw the next person under the bus to save their own ass.

They're even ready to blame the most ridiculous things such as the weather for their fuck-ups.

“The rain caused a major delay during this morning’s commute so I wasn’t able to get here on time and send out the report.”

They're The Best Ass Kissers

Nobody kisses ass better than a backstabber and it's easy to see why.

They usually can't take responsibility for anything and hate to do the work themselves so they kiss ass as best as they can so that they stay in the good graces of their bosses and just cyberloaf all fucking day.

It's even worse when they gossip about the very people they suck up to.

It's crazy, we know. But you can't change them and can only deal with them and gain an upper hand.

How To Deal With Backstabbers

You may have come here thinking to see just one thing in this section: Beat the shit outta them and get revenge.

But that's going to hurt you as well, and we don't want that at all.

There are other ways to deal with backstabbers that will leave you feeling even better than beating them will. The rush of adrenaline from a fight is good, but have you tried these?

Feel, But Don't Act On Your Emotions

It's okay to be angry and upset. It’s natural. Whatever you feel is definitely valid. Seriously, you're human.

But don't act on it. Don't.

You may feel righteous indignation, the “WTF?!” type and if you let it get the better of you, you will do and say things that you'll regret.

It may even make you look like the guilty party while the backstabber plays the part of the innocent confused angel.

Guess who gets the blame then?

You.

Remember, these backstabbers are relying on your knee-jerk reaction to make you look worse and oftentimes, they already have things in place to make you look even more guilty and unprofessional.

Feel what you have to feel and get the emotions out in a productive way. It’s the best course of action for when a coworker fucking pisses you off.

This could be screaming inside your car, hitting the punching bag at the gym, throwing balled-up socks against the wall at home or maybe more simply venting to your furry four-legged bestie at home.

Any of these options are great ways to manage the work stress and anxiety that comes from all of this.

After you “feel it to heal it” and work through the anger, then you’ll have a much clearer head to think things through and address the issue.

Politely And Professionally Discuss With Them

Schedule a time with them to discuss the issue.

Don't attack them at lunch or corner them in the restroom.

Send a meeting invite and explain you'll need a few minutes to discuss some important work issues.

Once you meet up, talk to them about what happened and try to get their side of the story.

Remember to keep calm throughout this because it keeps you looking professional and it makes them flustered.

They could break down and tell you everything, or they could deny it all.

Whatever it is, they would definitely not try it again because they know you're not having it.

Also, make sure to tell them to remedy what they have done. No threats or anything like that. Just explain to them that you have proof and that they need to set the record straight and correct their wrongs.

This way, they clean up their mess, they won't bother you anymore, and other backstabbers wouldn't look twice at your back.

Discuss With Your Trusted Teammates

In times like these, you need people you trust and who have your back.

Explain the current situation to your work BFF and teammates whom you may have told about what you were doing before the backstabbing started.

For example, you may have told someone about the project you were working on before some other person took credit for your work.

Now, you have some other people to vouch for you against just the word of the backstabber.

Also, there’s a good chance that you’re not the only victim here. Ask around and you might find out that others got hit too. You can then form alliances and rally together to confront the asshole. There’s strength in numbers.

Discuss It With Your Boss

You may not want to seem like a tattletale, but there are some things you brush off and some things to take seriously.

The level of backstabbing should determine if you should speak to your boss.

This doesn't mean you should just brush everything under the rug because it doesn't seem big enough.

Taking credit for your work, spreading lies that could hurt your image, or even repeatedly undermining your abilities in front of everyone should not be taken lightly.

Some are personal attacks that you should discuss with the person while others need more weight because they could result in you not getting that promotion or not being trusted with more responsibilities.

Explain the situation to your boss using facts and without malice. Show as much evidence as you can: emails, texts, etc between the backstabber, you, and others, confirm your innocence.

Most likely, your boss already knows your capabilities and will understand that something else was at play there.

Other times, this may not be the case and you'll need to enlist the voices of other coworkers who will vouch for you or others that were also victimized.

It's also at this time that you'd need to get support from your executive sponsors and peer mentors, clear your name, and make sure none of that shit ever repeats itself.

Whatever you do, it's important that this doesn't affect your work and that you keep kicking ass as usual. It'll keep them busy with envy but too scared to backstab again because they can see you're not a pushover anymore.

Maintain Professionalism

In every single step, you take from the points above, maintain professionalism throughout.

This is because your personal brand, reputation and career could also be on the line if you react badly.

So not only will the damage done by the backstabber continue, you'll have added whatever damage your actions caused to that. Double trouble.

It's easy for you to say you want to give them a taste of their own medicine, and believe us, we'd want nothing more than that.

But you can't afford to do that so drop it.

And anyway, every other success plus your impeccable reputation will be the ultimate ongoing payback. That's punishment enough if you ask us.

Gaining The Upper Hand Against Backstabbers

Now, it's not enough to just deal with backstabbers, especially when you're not prepared enough. You need to be able to gain the upper hand should any sleazy fucker try to backstab and undermine you.

Don't even give them a single chance of ever making you look bad. Show them who's boss.

Granted, you can't control every rude ass email, snarky comment or even hateful looks. Those ones shouldn't bother you as they add and remove nothing from you or your career.

What we're concerned about are the intellectual-property-stealing, career-success-manipulating, promotion-hurdling, appreciation-starved sons of bitches who could hurt your career.

So here are some of the ways to gain that upper hand.

Always, Always Document As Much As Possible

Emails, texts, voicemails. These are some ways to document as much as you can.

This is especially good if you're in a new environment and don't know who to trust.

As much as possible, try to send an email if it'll be better served than a call.

And if you're suspecting somebody in particular, try copying your boss or a trusted teammate in the email.

Make it as innocent as possible by explaining to the person that you're copying another person in the email because you'd like them to share their input in the project. It’s one of the great tactics of using cc in emails.

If they reply without copying the other coworker, put their reply in the thread under yours and reply to the original email. They should get the memo.

If some things can't be documented, write it down somewhere together with the date and time.

You can also tell someone else about each conversation if you couldn't document it.

And lastly, take better notes of any non-recorded meeting in an email including major highlights and any other points you feel should be included.

Be On Good Terms With Your Boss

Being on good terms with your boss automatically nullifies every stupid shit your backstabber does.

This is because your boss trusts you and your capabilities enough not to believe any of that shit or they like you enough to wave the bullshit away, true or not.

This may feel like using the backstabber's game against them because they're most oftentimes the ass kissers, but there you are creating positivity at work without even kissing any ass and still getting your flowers.

You get it now?

So try to be on good terms with your boss and if they're an asshole boss, be on good terms with your boss's boss and any other boss you can.

Maintain Your Office Network

This is for the obvious reason of having people vouch for you. But it's not for that only.

You need to maintain your network of relationships at the office so that you know what's going on about you. It’s having extra sets of eyes-n-ears out there.

It’s important that you learn how to navigate office politics to stay in the loop.

In this way, people who try to do hurtful things without your knowledge won't get far because you'll know soon enough and nip it in the bud.

And those that have your back will defend you even when you’re not physically there at that moment - that’s office politics at work.

Be Cautious Of What You Say And To Whom

Steer clear of office gossip, particularly in large groups. A little one here and there with work besties can help to keep things fun at work but never let it get too far or malicious. And don't engage in it with the wrong people.

Avoid controversial topics. Yes, you're passionate about some things and can't keep quiet about it but don't argue over it.

If you can't help people knowing where you stand about a particular topic, don't use that as a means of debate or argument unless you just don't give a shit about what anyone does again.

If you just don't care about the job, tanking your rep and being fired. Then, sure.

Otherwise, don't do it. Don't even fall for the bait - and there will be plenty of bait for you to bite.

Talk about it when you get home or on unload on Reddit. But not at work, least of all with the wrong people.

Trust Your Gut

There's a reason we humans have been able to last so long: our instincts. Your instincts have probably never failed you so why ignore it?

Sometimes, our instincts just spark up around some people. We get the gut feeling about something being off about them. It’s the spidey-sense.

The way their smile never meets their eyes, their body language, their too-loud laugh.
This could be them being awkward, but more often than not, it could be them being sketchy.

Whatever it is, if your gut is telling you that something is off with this person, set solid boundaries and keep your distance until you get a better feel for things.

Two Can Play This Game, Biotch!

As you’re watching your colleagues congratulate the two-faced piece of shit who stole your work, the knot in your stomach eases.

You realize the knot was only there reflexively, just because you weren't sure something like this could happen.

But unknown to that scumbag, you've had the upper hand the whole time.

So you smile and walk to your boss's office and show them your own work. You show them all the emails you sent with this colleague because, even though you showed them the work, your instinct told you to document it. And you did.

Your boss is livid and approaches the thieving coworker to set the record straight. The coworker reads the boss's face and is already scared.

Right then and there they confess - blubbering and stuttering the whole time.

And everyone's confused but you're so calm. You’re giving yourself a mental high-five and celebrating small victories. You're just the epitome of professionalism as you go about your day.

And when you finally make the presentation, everyone's impressed because you obviously know your shit inside and out.

But they're also impressed by your professional handling of the situation.

And when this happens, guess what?

You’ve won.

In a professional way, of course.

Feel Better,
[Cubicle|Therapy]

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