In an ideal world, we’d rock up to work to be greeted by a team of smiling faces, all of whom have our back at all times and want the best for us. They’d be like family members (the likeable kind); they would lift us up when we’re feeling down and say positive things to keep us inspired. They’d share their wisdom with us and we’d gladly impart ours on them, too. They’d vouch for us to senior management and sing our praises to clients. We’d be able to grab lunch with them and have a laugh. That, right there, is the dream.
I say dream, because, while it is based on some kind of reality and totally possible in large parts, that kind of certainty does not exist in the workplace. Sure, most of us probably like our colleagues, but we can never rest on our laurels that a wolf in sheep’s clothing won’t join and bring our operation down from the inside. Sound dramatic and negative? Well, wherever your wellbeing and career is concerned, you’ve got to be wary.
Some people, whether out of jealousy, insecurities, laze, general apathy or something more sinister will bring some pretty questionable agendas to the workplace. You’ll soon be able to spot these people (let’s call them ‘snakes’) because they tend to talk about people behind their backs, suck up to senior management, take credit for other people’s work and do just generally shifty things. They tend to turn people against each other, are quick to point the finger and are just downright scheming. They might appear friendly and hard-working at surface level, but when you delve a little deeper, you’ll find they’re most certainly not your friend and they definitely are not hard-working. Often, they slowly bring people down, trying to push themselves up. Think you’ve identified one in your office? Here’s how to avoid being bitten by them:
Keep your distance
Don’t become all buddy-buddy with them, thinking if you’re best mates they’ll spare you their venom. Some office snakes are really charming, funny and enigmatic. They can be quite intimidating and try to pull as many people close as possible, only to use them to get what they want at any price. They are NOT loyal friends. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
Don’t trust them
Remember that these people can be very manipulative. They can make you forget that they have ulterior motives. They will use you for information and use it against you. Don’t give them what they want; do not trust them and always keep them at arm’s length. Be vague with personal information and definitely don’t put anything to them in writing that you wouldn’t want broadcast on national television.
Don’t fall into their trap
It’s amazing how people’s attitudes rub off on those around them. If they are bickering or gossiping about another colleague, don’t fall into the trap of playing along. Don’t engage with their questionable behaviours. Remove yourself from the situation where possible, as early as you can. You don’t want to be associated with the snake.
Expect them to attack
You don’t want to be paranoid, but constantly being alert and ready for them to do something two-faced or back-stabbing will constantly remind you not to reveal too much to them, or make yourself an easy target.
Stand your ground
If you feel you’ve already been lightly bitten by them, don’t let them get away with it without an explanation. Make sure you find a way to let them know that you are not someone to be crossed. You do not want to get aggressive, and you might have to kill them with kindness, but do not admit defeat and become someone they can walk over.
Don’t rely on them for anything
Never give them the benefit of the doubt and never ‘hope for the best’. Do not ask any favours of them and try to detach yourself from their operations as much as possible. The more separate you keep your work, the better.
Enlist the right support
While it’s not always the answer, seeking some advice from other relevant professionals (boss or HR) might be necessary if you spot someone who appears to be dangerous. It’s likely you aren’t the only one with your concerns. Always seek professional advice if you genuinely don’t know how to avoid getting bitten!
You an choose your friend, but you can’t choose your colleagues. In most circumstances, you’ll be working with like-minded people who share the same values as you. Some of the best friendships and relationships start at work, and that’s what we all hope for! But don’t be naive to different personality types and the snakes that slither their way through their careers. Don’t let yourself be bitten!