Is There A Saboteur in Your Midst?

Last month, I broached the topic of sabotage in today’s workplace. Since then, I’ve had several e-mails and phone calls from readers wanting more info, especially on how to identify covert saboteurs. We authors always like to say (or at least, we think it)-get the book for the real how-tos– Woman to Woman 2000-Becoming Sabotage Savvy in the New Millennium. But we don’t. So, for this column, and the next, I’m going to walk you through the steps to identify the culprits and then techniques to confront them.

Since my contacts with readers are saying “help,” it’s obvious that they are aware that something is amiss. That’s the first step. The next is to figure out who is doing what to whom (you), and it’s always a plus if you can figure out why. To zero in on potential saboteurs–those sharks and snakes of life, I’ve identified twelve scenarios where a saboteur may be in your midst. Ask,

  1. Does anyone feel that her (or his) job is in jeopardy?
    Any time there is reorganizing, jobs may be at risk. Saboteurs will do just about anything to protect their turf.
  2. Does anyone routinely deny involvement in certain activities, yet know all the details?
    Saboteurs are chameleons-they know everything about everyone, yet claim non-involvement.
  3. Does anyone constantly realign their friendships?
    This week, you are the best friend; next week, you’re out, someone else is the new best friend
  4. Does anyone encourage gossip?
    The most common method to sabotage another is to spread gossip. Saboteurs gossip about everyone, including his or her “good” friends.
  5. Does anyone keep a tally sheet?
    Saboteurs keep track of who does what to whom.
  6. Does information pass you by?
    Saboteurs strive to keep you out-of-the-loop and away from any pertinent or vital information.
  7. Is anyone on your team excessively helpful?
    Being helpful is great, being too helpful may be a strategy to make you look incompetent or to actually gather “inside” information about you to be used at a later date.
  8. Does anyone stand to profit by another’s mistake?
    Profits come from enhanced reputations, getting undeserved credit, raises, bonuses, and yes, your job.
  9. Does anyone bypass your authority or go over your head?
    Saboteurs are masters at discrediting others, including co-workers and supervisors. They think nothing of bad-mouthing another if it can lessen management’s or co-workers opinions.
  10. Does anyone encourage others to take on tasks that appear impossible?
    Saboteurs love it when another fails. They will openly encourage others to stick their necks out when mission impossible surfaces. Why?-because they look “smart” in declining the task.
  11. Does anyone take another’s credit for work done?
    Saboteurs routinely boast that they are the creators/originators of work and projects that the rarely or minimally have had input on.
  12. Does anyone discount another’s contributions?
    Leave it to a saboteur to downplay someone’s participation-it’s very difficult to send kudos to anyone beside themselves.
    If you scored 3 or more yes’s, it indicates that you should exercise extreme caution when dealing with this person. 

    Once you have identified a saboteur, it’s important to sidestep her games. Being a saboteur takes lots of time and commitment. Over time, your saboteur will be less productive with her work. The longer her game goes on, the more likely she is to be exposed by others. You are rarely alone.

    In the workplace, it would be terrific if you could simply ignore a shark. This rarely works. You need to go the next step. Now that you are fairly certain who it is, it’s time to start documentation. Write it down-what happened, was anyone else involved, and how did it (whatever it is) impact you. 

    After identifying your issues, it’s time for the big “C”-confrontation. If you don’t speak up and speak out, you become invisible. A factor that doesn’t work in today’s workplace.