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Dealing With Enemies In The Workplace

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Someone has been talking smack about you.

Someone will talk about you in the future, too, and they won't always say nice things.

If you're under the misguided belief that no one has ever said anything bad about you behind your back, you're naïve. Sometimes it's even the people you consider friends who will stab you in the back.

There are some things you can do to minimize the harmful effects a backstabber will have on you.

1. Try not to take it personally. Even though it may feel like it, it's actually not about you. When someone is talking smack about 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.

"You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do."
― Eleanor Roosevelt

2. 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.

I learned long ago never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.
―George Bernard Shaw

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.

If you do need to confront your backstabber, check out my previous article here

3. Be smarter than they are. That means you won't be giving them a knife to stick in your back ever 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 learn to 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.

4. Act your age. Don't respond like a child. Don't go running to all your friends at work and complain to them about what is happening. If you do, you are being 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. Make sure you have documentation about who, what, where, when, and how the backstabbing happened.

There will be times when you do need to go to your boss, or someone higher, and let them know what's going on. Don't be a tattletale; instead, be a prepared professional. Don't focus on how it makes you feel, but focus on the negative consequences to the company and your department.

5. 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, about what I do and how I got where I am, then I'll confront them. That type of backstabbing is potentially dangerous to my professional reputation and my career, and it needs to be stopped.

However, before I confront the person I will make sure that I've cooled down. I won't confront anyone when I'm upset and angry. I'll also speak to my boss or HR to be sure of the route they want me to take. And, I'll make sure that I've documented what I want to say, and prepared for the confrontation to ensure that 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 that someone is talking smack about you, either because caught him or her at it or because someone told you, follow the advice above.

Dealing with enemies is never easy. Remember that they do 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!

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