Is There A Saboteur in Your Business Midst?

Washington DC indicted informant Linda Tripp’s widely documented actions earn her the title of poster girl for sabotage and betrayal for the decade. Tripp is not an isolated situation–she’s not alone. Women like her are everywhere–your workplace, community, even a kid’s play group. Trippers can poison the well of your workplace with her sabotaging and manipulative behavior. 

For co-workers, the fear of potential harm from a saboteur to them personally or professionally creates an environment that is highly stressful and toxic. That means they are less productive, morale takes a dive, and common goals within the organization suffer. Key employees start looking for a new job–the toxicity isn’t worth it–no matter how much they get paid. 

Whether you are a manager or an employee, ignorance isn’t bliss. You’ve got to deal with sabotage and undermining activities in your workplace. If you don’t, you can lose big–your reputation, your position, and your bottom line. Money.

Sabotage is the act of undermining or destroying personal or professional integrity; it creates mayhem in personal or professional lives; and it damages personal and professional credibility. Sabotage can be done intentionally or unintentionally and it can be delivered overtly or covertly.

Women don’t own the art of sabotage, men do it too. Women are different in their targets and methodology. They are more inclined to be covert (tape recording without permission even when told its illegal a la Tripp) and discriminating (women target other women more than they target men). In contrast, men don’t care-either gender is target material. Men are more likely to be overt when they do it, even letting you know the day and time. It’s the difference between backstabbing and front stabbing. In one case, you’re unsure who caused the action; in the other, the perpetrator is blatant and bold.

Because of the distinct differences in sabotaging behaviors of men and women, it’s wise to know how to identify a saboteur in your workplace midst. Ask a few questions–

  • Does anyone encourage gossip? Saboteurs are superb messengers and can hardly wait to pass on discrediting information.
  • Does anyone keep a tally sheet? Saboteurs keep track of your mistakes and share them with everyone.
  • Does information pass you by? Are you out of the loop? Saboteurs isolate their targets from regular communication links.
  • Is anyone’s job in jeopardy? The nineties have been an incredible breeding ground for change. Crossing into the new millennium will only accurate it. When change occurs, anxiety and fear become its companion. Either creates a breeding ground for sabotage.
  • Have new coalitions formed within your team or department? Saboteurs switch friends and allies continually. . .this week an employee seems close to another, the next week, only dust is left in their trail of friendship.
  • Does anyone routinely take the credit of others or discount them (or yours)? Saboteurs don’t bravo anyone else’s contribution to a project or idea. The only thing that really counts is that they get credit, who cares if they did the work or not.
  • Is anyone too, too helpful? Saboteurs will actually help others to the extent that their own work is not completed, yet visually it appears that they have time to spare to help someone who can’t complete their own.

The work place is a breeding ground for saboteurs. Men and women at all levels must learn to recognize, confront and then dump them. Not everyone lands in the national press when set up. But feelings of personal betrayal are no less devastating. My latest national study reveals that being sabotaged by a co-worker was identified within the top three problems women are encountering in today’s work place. The glass ceiling and sexual harassment issues–not even in the top ten.

Managers routinely ignore this problem, more out of fear for charges of sexism than anything else. The question becomes, “Why?” Businesses have initiated programs on sexual harassment, yet few men charge “sexism” when they are the primary target/beneficiary of any training. Men are more likely to sexually harass women, not women sexually harassing men. Women are more likely to sabotage other women, not men sabotaging women. It’s a form of gender harassment. Why should women be treated any different? Both problems are significant factors to the bottom line and must be addressed.

American businesses lose billions of dollars each year in lost productivity because of its unwillingness to deal with this issue. Can your department or company afford it?