How To Deal With Backstabbers At Work And Office Politics In General
Your office probably has at least one Frank Underwood type. This means you should arm yourself against office politics.
Most people hate office politics, but if we want to move up the chain in an organization, we have to learn how to deal with people who have bad intentions.
Everyone who has worked long enough in an organization has been the victim of individuals who are conniving, manipulative, and evil. No matter what our rank is, when we work in an organization with more than 2 people, we need to be aware of politics.
I’m not saying you should play along, but you also shouldn’t be naïve to think that everyone wants the best for you. People can be jealous, defensive, and nasty for many reasons — they might have been victims themselves, they might be insecure.
Why exactly people do bad things is not significant. It’s more important to understand that these people exist. Marcus Aurelius put it best:
“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own — not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural.”
Everyone who performs well in an organization will sooner or later become a target. It might be that someone gets jealous or doesn’t like you. But most of the time it’s survival instinct. If you are successful, people in your team will see you as competition.
This is mostly true for people who see the office place as a zero-sum game. If you win, that means they lose, and they cannot afford losing. People have families, mortgages, debt, and most off all, their ego is at stake. People hate to lose face.
The truth is that the world isn’t zero-sum at all. I believe that we live in an abundant world — everyone can have a slice of the pie. Unfortunately, not everyone believes that.
Even though you might be against political games and screwing people over, you cannot pretend these things don’t happen.
When dealing with office politics, I think it is better to prevent possible attacks — this is the best strategy. Robert Greene’s 48 Laws Of Power gives valuable advice about this strategy: conceal your intentions, pose as a friend, never put too much trust in friends, and never outshine the master. I’ve broken some of these laws myself — it didn’t end well for me.
It is easy to become a target if you’re ambitious or if you strive for change. One of the biggest mistakes we make in our career is to assume that everyone likes progress. This is not true — many are content with the status quo and will defend it with their life.
Change brings uncertainty — that is why it is dangerous for people who prefer to stay where they are. If you endanger the status quo, you are automatically a foe.
While office politics is very real, we shouldn’t let it completely change our behavior. We have to respect human behavior, group dynamic, company culture, and even the status quo. Ignoring these aspects of life can have negative consequences for our career. If you want to achieve results, you can’t ignore these human characteristics.
For example: if you attack people who don’t like change, they will try everything to stop you. Instead, conceal your intentions and attempt to achieve your goal in another way (one that doesn’t require changing people who don’t want to change).
But we also shouldn’t become Frank Underwood. People don’t start their career as political masterminds—they grow into political monsters over time. Just because other people in your team or department play politics, it doesn’t mean you should play along.
Politics is as old as human civilization — it is a part of human nature. We can’t say whether it’s good or bad. We can only acknowledge it and always try to do the right thing. Sometimes we can change a situation where people play games, sometimes we can’t. As long as we do the right thing and focus on what we should do: help each other and work together, so we can grow.