By Renae Sanders
Office saboteurs run amuck in nearly every organization. Like spies, saboteurs feign friendship and support, while working double time to destroy your efforts or that of the team to achieve specified goals. According to the dictionary, a saboteur is “one who intentionally causes destruction – in order to hinder the efforts of his/her enemy”. Unlike hole-finders, saboteurs are often subversive and covert. It’s harder to determine the identity of this rogue operative.
Saboteurs may be your lunch buddies, coffee partners, project team members, and the like. These office mates are often so close you never see them as the ‘internal mole’. But many times, the saboteur is so emotionally charged they do not hide their disdain for their self-imposed enemy. The target of their rage: the new manager hired or promoted over the saboteur; the manager’s sacred cow (i.e., office pet); the coworker who just completed a master’s program; the only female or person of color on the team; the person with the foreign accent; the employee who just dresses too well; the person with all the bright ideas; in short, the target of the saboteur is the person perceived to be a threat the work wrecker.
The Best Offense is a Good Defense
Coping with an Office Saboteur can be frustrating and an effort to expose the saboteur often backfires. An undercover coworker’s ultimate goal is cause unhappiness and to shatter others’ belief in your trustworthiness. The best strategies for dealing with saboteurs are basic professional activities and behaviors:
- Speak positively publicly and to others about the saboteur. The old adage says, “kill them with kindness” or “you can get more bees with honey” holds true. Public acknowledgement of the saboteur’s productive work makes him/her appear petty. Make nice, but honest comments about the saboteur.
- You must stay on your game. The saboteur uses any misuse of company time and resources in his or her crusade against you. Be on time to work and meetings; do not abuse lunch hours; or spend too much time on personal calls.
- Maintain your emotional distance from the detractor. Of course, you must remain pleasant and professional; just keep in mind that for the moment you are in the crosshairs of someone who perceives you as the enemy.
- Avoid attempts to draw the saboteur into the open. While this strategy works in espionage stories, focusing on them means you aren’t focused on the work at hand. At best, make sure to communicate your achievements and successes and the accomplishments of your team.
The workplace is known for supplying its share of workplace fodder for soap operas; but there is also no dearth of suspense, drama, and other covert affairs to maneuver. It’s all in a days work.
Renae Sanders is the Managing Director at KRS Consulting, LLC, a management consulting firm specializing in organizational relationships. Believing people are the link between strategy and success, Renae works with organizations, leaders, and managers to strengthen internal relationships. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.