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Deal With the Office Backstabber

We all have them. Those annoying, manipulative backstabbing colleagues. We normally label them as the ‘office psychopath’ or give them some other unflattering label.

These people often have a superficial charm and excessive sense of self-worth, can control themselves but just don’t bother to do so, have a glib outlook, generally have short term relationships, a parasitic lifestyle, don’t accept any responsibility for their actions, are impulsive, don’t have any long term goals. They’re also the types who would rather steal a Rolex than save up for one. It’s bad enough working with one of these types but imagine working for one?

You as a manager will, have or are facing some people such as these. What is the best way to handle such people? While there are no easy answers, what can work is a straightforward approach to reinforce their good skills and punish the bad ones. But the best plan is to educate employees about how they operate, and engage them in team building and life coaching to add to the the self-esteem of those around the errant employee. To do that, there are some easy methods you can try next time this type of person surfaces in your work place.

1. Back stabbing types love to put others down while elevating themselves. The best way to counter this is to build up your allies in the office, put a stop to any rumors started by these people and hold them accountable. Ask them some very direct questions such as “where did you hear that from, I need names.”

2. Bullies are always fed on fear. Once they have a person in their sights and they sense intimidation, they strike. The best deflection is humor. Put it back on them and turn the joke on them. Walking away is often the best one and say something like, “I’ll talk with you once you show a bit more respect”.

3. For the constant whiners in your office: don’t give them the attention they are looking for when they do that. By listening to their negativity and letting them go on and on, you are making it worse. Instead, try asking some very direct questions after you have heard their complaint. Maybe something like, ” I don’t understand but tell me more so that I can understand”, or “what do you suggest we can do about that” or even, “if we do X Y or Z, would that help”? Listen to their complaint by all means but take control of the conversation once you know what the issues are and suggest a solution straight away. By doing this to people that love to whinge and whine, they will eventually get the message that you don’t want to focus on the problem but rather the solution.

4. Control freaks feel that there is only one way to do things and that’s theirs. All other ways are wrong. When they start telling you this then respond with a simple phrase like, “I want you to….” Give them a direction. There’s nothing wrong with listening to someones point of view on another way of doing something but people like this wont listen so don’t even engage them in a conversation about it.

5. And lastly for all those lazy and avoiding type members of your staff. These people generally need very active management from you. When engaging them in a project or task, tell them exactly what you need them to do and how long they have to complete it. You might even need to send them reminders through emails, text messages from time to time to keep them on track. However, don’t mother them as this will make them even more lazy and not take any responsibility for themselves as they know someone else will.

If you are ever faced with these types of people and believe me, if you haven’t already, you inevitably will, try out those simple methods in dealing with them. I have tried them all in places I have worked at as well as in other day to day situations where I have had to deal with other people. Handling the office psychopath is a challenge, but with the right tools at your disposal, you can stop them from making your life as a manager a total misery.