Backstabbing in the workplace is always a power grab (and sometimes cowardice as well). A co-worker friend demands the boss write you up despite no actual wrongdoing. A supervisor repeatedly confirms that he will give you a “stellar” performance evaluation but then pulls surprise sucker punches in the actual meeting. Your boss takes credit for your successful project when he had absolutely nothing to do with it and may have even tried to undermine it.
They smile to your face but wait for the right moment to pounce. They want to make themselves feel better. They want to advance themselves by making you look bad. They are dirty fighters. They are insecure. Like Julius Caesar who was stabbed 23 times in the back by his closest friends and co-workers on that famous day — Beware the Ides of March! — he was in disbelief that such close companions could betray him. Et tu, Brute? And you too, my friend?
What are you to do?
Choose your battles wisely. There will always be trials and tribulations at work and in life. Littlefinger may have told Sansa to “fight every battle, everywhere, always” in Game of Thrones, but there are times when walking away is the best strategy. Consider fighting the essential battles, not the non-essential ones. You don’t owe every stone thrower your time and energy. Also, not every conflict or disagreement can be won with evidence and data. If your words or the facts will not be considered, then consider not wasting your time.
Certainly, there are times to engage in the battle. There are times to stand and fight. When the battle matters to you. When the battle is essential to your good name and human dignity. When it is a case of serious gravity against your reputation. When the honor of your family is being threatened. When grave scandal is involved.
Think carefully before you act. How do you dive off a cliff? Safely! “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” so don’t jump in the water headfirst. Check the bottom first and know the depth of what you are entering beforehand. Stay streamline so you don’t get hit or thrown off balance on your way down. Wear protection to avoid getting cut or bruised at the bottom. Don’t jump or swim by yourself, and know how to swim. Don’t panic if you experience pressure underwater. Stay calm and regulate your breathing. The jump (in and of itself) is often risky, but if you do so while of impaired mind, it is reckless, and the outdoor warning sirens indicate something life-threatening
Prove them wrong. Gather the evidence and all the facts, and organize it in a coherent manner. Make your case. If you need assistance in compiling and presenting the facts (and officers often do in big cases), then reach out to your union rep, your legal counsel or co-worker witnesses for collateral information about how you were treated, your department or EAP police psychologist for emotional validation and problem-solving assistance, or even your trusted work partner or your spouse to help fill in the timeline gaps.
Work harder than ever before. Go above and beyond — every day. From before your shift starts (meaning you could show up early). During your shift (meaning do not cut corners on anything; dot every “I” and cross every “T”). Even after your shift is over (meaning you could stay late). Take every possible argument away from them. Lock it down. Airtight. Prove yourself through your actions and the sweat of your brow. You know who you are, and (hopefully) they will begin to see the light.
Keep your friends close but your enemies closer. Know thy enemy. Know them well. To do this, consider treating your enemy like you treat your friends, and perhaps even better. Then, if your enemy does not know that they are your enemy, perhaps they will stop behaving as your enemy.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” — Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Leave for a better place if necessary. Disinterested in battle? Weary from battle even if triumphant? Want to remove yourself from the environment for peace of mind or overall wellness? Perhaps you just need a vacation or some time off, but leaving for a better place is always an option. Everyone wants to be treated fairly and with respect. Everyone deserves validation and support. Most officers want a chance to make their corner of the world a better place. And we salute you.