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What Does Backstabbing Do to a Team of Co-Workers?

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When colleagues turn against each other, trust is obliterated and the effectiveness of the group as a whole can be greatly diminished. Backstabbing, underhanded or deceptive behavior among co-workers has the potential to negatively impact an entire department or even undermine the foundation of an entire company.

Derailed Productivity

Backstabbing behavior rarely enhances the productivity of the group. The act of turning on a colleague and attempting to discredit him or his work takes the focus away from the tasks at hand and pulls people away from productive collaboration. Time is spent mediating the conflict, with non-feuding team members attempting to maintain the status quo, often covering projects not attended to by fighting colleagues to ensure work is completed on schedule. Time taken away from professional responsibilities can lead to missed deadlines, cost overruns and poor levels of service.

Inner-Group Conflict

A backstabber often attempts to draw the support of others in his group, creating a division within the team. Rather than working as an effective unit, the team is divided into different factions, each with competing interests. A lack of trust is likely to develop in the group, which makes it challenging to effectively work together toward common goals. Infighting can lead to poor work performance, mistakes and low job satisfaction.

Negative Morale

Backstabbing that leads to ongoing conflict can make the office a miserable place to be. Colleagues may resent one another, take extra personal or sick days to avoid the conflict and otherwise be stressed about their jobs. This can lead to higher levels of turnover, which in turn, is costly to the employer who is tasked with hiring for and filling vacant positions.

Conflict Spillover

While work groups often feel the brunt of backstabbing backlash, the ill will has the potential to spill over into other teams as well. Dissention among the ranks can lead to rumor circulation, concerns about the company’s reputation and work product. Severe circumstances can even lead to creation of a hostile work environment.

Diminished Team Effectiveness

Unless incidents of malicious backstabbing are addressed and handled by a manager, a department or team may never regain its effectiveness. Lingering resentment and trust issues can hurt the way co-workers perform with each other. Teams that are unable to communicate professionally with one another are not as effective as cohesive groups that support one another and collective work efforts. Affected staffers may also resent management for not taking an active role in managing problem employees or mediating disputes.


Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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