Somehow I think you will need something better than the talents of St Patrick, The absence of snakes in Ireland gave rise to the legend that they had all been banished by St. Patrick chasing them into the sea after they attacked him during a 40-day fast he was undertaking on top of a hill.
So, how can you pick out the office snake; I know I have he was my partner in HSE and was very toxic indeed – the one seeking to undermine and sabotage you, your reputation and your career at every turn – the one spreading rumors about you – the one putting you down to your boss behind your back – the one stealing credit for your ideas – and how can you deal with the situation before it gets out of control? Snakes in the business world are people who don’t hide under rocks or dead trees, but they slither around from meeting to meeting, water cooler to lunch room, office to office, cubicle to cubicle, all the while bashing the boss, cursing customers, slamming suppliers, undermining legitimate business strategies and actions, and poisoning attitudes everywhere.
See? Right now, I know you’re thinking of the snakes in your company, those that have left or at least a few that are suspects.
· You should fear your snakes even more than the shoulder-less creatures found in Mother Nature, because they are squelching the growth and innovation of your top performers. Even though there may only be a few, their negative impact is huge. They resist change, tear at team-building, create silos, turf wars and political upheaval.
· These snakes are users, and like real snakes, they are cowardly most of the time. They strike when startled, reacting in an attempt to protect “their” people, “their” department, “their” job, and produce little, if any significant results.
It’s a big problem: People problems are at the core of almost all workplace complaints. When we feel alienated or betrayed, we are more anxious, fearful and stressed. Our focus shifts to finding the source of the problem or figuring out how to deal with the person we think is sabotaging us and as a result, we are less productive. Just because you’re not paranoid doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to get you. Okay, maybe that’s a little too cynical. But would you agree that at some point in your career you are likely to have an “enemy”—someone who doesn’t agree with you, doesn’t like you and someone who might even like to inject a little poison into your career?
If you’re lucky, it will never happen to you but don’t be naïve, it happens to most of us. Snakes come in many shapes and sizes and some are more dangerous than others. I’ve had a few snake attacks during my own career. In one case, it was simply a matter of jealousy. It was easy to fix. I just outperformed him and the more he criticized the dumber he looked. In another case, a peer tried to destroy my credibility when I backed him into a corner for an ethical violation. The truth prevailed but his career was irreparably damaged.
Sometimes it’s worth extending a hand; other times you may need to use a stick. In any event, snakes are best ignored, since they usually reveal their true natures over time and do themselves in. If you understand the person’s motivation, it helps to dodge a bite. For instance, if the person is jealous about your promotion, you may be in a position to compliment that person’s work in front of a senior manager. If the person has a different philosophy than yours, ask more questions about their perspective, so you can understand it. If they are critical of your work or ideas, solicit their input (even if you don’t use it, you need to hear it). Give their ideas your full attention and avoid the temptation to pin him to the floor with a forked stick. Draw out the poison, so you can understand it and deal with it.
It’s always about someone else: the annoying coworker, the difficult boss, the mean-spirited or competitive colleague. It’s people who push our buttons and make our lives miserable. If the snake is your boss, you’re a dead duck. If it’s your boss’s boss, you’re only safe as long as your boss continues to defend you. If your boss doesn’t have the influence and interest to help you, or leaves, you’re still a dead duck. In this case, the best strategy is to approach the person and ask for direct feedback and advice on significant projects and on your performance. Forget getting defensive—it will only provoke an attack.
Peer vipers can be dangerous, too. They criticize from the sidelines and can do damage if they are poisoning your reputation with others. These are people we tend to ignore and hope they leave us alone. Don’t be so sure. Your best bet is to solicit their input on projects that affect them and be proactive in communicating with them. Keep them in your sites on important issues, or they may sneak up on you to derail your work when you least expect it.
Employees can be snakes in the grass, as well. While they can be easier to corner and catch they can still do a tremendous amount of morale harm. Rather than accuse an employee of bad mouthing, you’re better off asking the person to be honest about what the problems are and try to work together to resolve them.
It can be difficult – it’s not always specific. Sometimes it’s a “gut feeling.” You might hear rumors being spread about you, you might feel tension with others, or it could be as blatant as someone purposely withholding information, ignoring you, belittling you, or blaming you for something you didn’t do.
Categories these problems fall under:
a) The backstabber: Watch out for this one – he might appear to be on your side, but behind your back he will bad mouth you, lie about you and may be out to destroy you. The backstabber tries to make himself look good at your expense – by making you look bad. Pay attention to how you feel around this person and what you hear; seek clarification if you’re getting mixed signals.
b) The gossiper: Keep in mind that those who gossip to you will gossip about you. It doesn’t hurt to listen to what you hear – just don’t participate in the conversation. Often, the industry grapevine is true, but the gossiper tends to exaggerate, so beware. Some people feel they’ll make themselves look better by spreading information, especially about someone else. The good news is that most people catch on to this tactic, but not always before damage is done.
c) The credit-robber: There are people who take credit for other people’s ideas in order to shine the light on themselves, no matter whom they steal from to do it. The credit-robber usually steals the spotlight when you least suspect it, and in front of others. Being caught off-guard makes it difficult to know how to respond and, by the time you catch your breath, you’ve lost your moment.
d) The unsupportive supervisor (who has it in for you): This is a tough one: When you don’t have your supervisor on your side, you’re on your own. Many supervisors feel threatened by their staff; some thrive on the power they feel from making others feel small. You must be very careful when the problem is your supervisor – as with any negative scenario, you need to take a step back to evaluate the situation and do everything you can to protect yourself.
Often like “Snakes on a Plane” it’s often best to find a way to get rid of ‘snakes in your company’. But there are alternatives. One of the best is confronting them and hire a coach – hint, hint – to help modify their behavior. Many of them can change – some don’t want to. Remember, people as snakes is really a figure of speech. But don’t let them surprise you, or you may get bitten.Boxing and controlling the toxic snake co-workers?
1. Take Ownership: We’re often quick to point fingers, but sometimes the problem is within; look to yourself first and ask, “How might I be contributing to this?”
2. Confront the source: It doesn’t do any good to talk to everyone about a problem you have with someone else. Approach the person you are troubled by, but don’t be accusatory. Speak in terms of “I,” rather than pointing fingers. Seek clarification; ask questions rather than making accusations. Avoid putting the other person on the defensive.
3. Document the information: When you are having ongoing problems with someone, it’s important to document what’s taking place. Keep a journal/notes of conversations and keep copies of e-mails, voice mails, or any other communication should you need to prove your case in the future.
4. Choose your battles wisely: Some things aren’t worth challenging. Save your battles for the important issues – those that affect your reputation, and your livelihood.
5. Finally, know when to walk away: When you’ve tried everything, but the problem persists, sometimes the best thing to do is to walk away. If you dread going to work, you resent your boss and the company you’re working for, and you aren’t performing to your capacity, you’re probably better off leaving, and trusting that you learned from this and will find a better situation in the future.