When I was a creative director in advertising, I used to joke that I was surprised I could drink a cup of morning coffee without having it spurt out the knife holes in my back. It was a very dangerous, politically corrupt work environment.
Now I not only write books for a living, I career coach business people in a vast range of businesses -- all of them rife with scary stories about people behaving badly.
Below are some helpful tips to ensure you're prepared to deal with -- and perhaps even avoid -- the backlash of backstabbing.
1. Never wear your heart on your business shirt sleeve. Know: anything said "in private" can easily be taken public. In fact, backstabbers often try to gather personal secrets and controversial professional views -- so as to stock up undermining ammo. Saying less will protect you more.
2. If your firm is undergoing big changes, keep an extra look-out in your rearview mirror. Desperation brings out latent backstabbing tendencies. A normally kind colleague might suddenly bend over backstabbing-wards, so as to hold onto their job or receive necessary resources.
3. Those who walk softly and confidently, can still carry a big knife. Translation: Supervisors can backstab as frequently as colleagues. Be on the alert: your boss might be kissing up the ladder while attacking you down below.
4. Don't remove yourself from the grapevine. Become a fellow grape. If the backstabber knows you keep your ears and eyes open to office politics, they may think twice before stabbing you.
5. Good deeds can actually help you go un-punished. If you become known for doing favors for people, you'll add to "Your Political Capital" -- plus, create a more positive place to work.
6. Love thy neighbor -- and try to pick thy neighborhood. Okay, admittedly, you can't always pick who you work with -- but whenever possible, try to surround yourself with the people you most trust.
7. Make sure you have friends not ONLY in HIGH places. Don't just work to create good relationships with your boss and colleagues, but also with secretaries, assistants -- even janitors. You never know who knows -- and says -- what.
8. If stabbed, quickly bring the offending "knife" to the backstabber -- and get them to fess up. Say something like: "If you have a problem with me, let's resolve it now, because we need to work together in a healthy way to create the most productive work environment. So together let's figure out how to ensure this problem doesn't repeat itself." If the backstabber is your boss, demand you create "clarification procedures" for fixing the problem that are put on record somewhere. If the backstabber is a colleague, not only confront the offender, but request a private meeting with your boss -- and show them the offending "knife evidence" in a calm, rational way. Ask your boss for advice on how to become a member of "The Backstabbed Protection Program," so as to get your boss involved in putting your complaint on record.
In summary: If you've been backstabbed, know that a combo of "the bright light of clarity" along with "the spotlight of public record" can help melt most knives.