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How to Deal with a Backstabbing Co-Worker

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A good co-worker is an asset. He can serve as an ally, a mentor and a trainer. A co-worker who is a longtime employee has a wealth of knowledge and can show you the ropes as you navigate a new position. However, a backstabbing co-worker is a negative distraction and wants to sabotage your efforts. Dealing with a backstabbing co-worker takes patience, finesse and the desire to rise above a bad situation.

Deal With It

If a backstabber is successful, she will most likely continue to attack. It is important to deal with the first incident head on to establish the stance that you will not be bullied. Be professional and discreet. In a private venue, ask the culprit the reason for the attack and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. By standing your ground, the backstabbing co-worker knows right from the beginning that you are not a pushover. Although turning the other cheek is sometimes viewed as the smarter move, in this case, it can invite more damaging actions if it appears there will be no repercussions.

Remain Professional

It is a natural human reaction to want to fight fire with fire. In the case of a backstabbing co-worker, that fire can burn you. Do not allow yourself to stoop to the same level as the backstabber. Continue to perform your duties with the utmost professionalism, even when working alongside the culprit. Refrain from drawing other co-workers into the drama; it can only escalate the situation. In this instance, cooler heads will prevail.

Use the Proper Channels

Human resource departments deal with employee situations every day. Guidelines are in place to handle conflicts and difficulties among co-workers. Ask for a meeting with your supervisor, HR department or union representative. Be prepared to state your case by documenting the incident in detail. Making a complaint based on an unfounded rumor is not a wise decision. Bring substantiated proof and remain calm when presenting your case. If you have serious concerns for your safety, job security or future success, discuss a department transfer or similar action.

Stay Focused

Being blindsided at work is distracting, worrisome, irritating and looms large like a giant black cloud. Take a deep breath and remember that your focus must remain on the tasks at hand. The backstabber is hoping to derail your energies, waiting on the sidelines for you to screw up. Don't give him the ammunition to make you look bad in front of your peers and superiors. Continue to work to your fullest potential, and your achievements will speak on your behalf.

Throw in the Towel

If you are unable to halt the actions of a backstabbing co-worker no matter what attempts you make, the time may come to throw in the towel. If the work situation becomes unbearable and there are no more options, consider a job change. Update your resume, secure letters of recommendation and move forward with a positive attitude.


Cindy Phillips began writing feature articles in 2007 with her work appearing in several regional newspapers. With more than 30 years experience in the corporate arena, her business expertise includes all aspects of marketing and management. Phillips earned a Bachelor of Arts in English education from SUNY New Paltz.

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