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Your Office Coach

Working around the office manipulator

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Question: “I’m not sure whether to trust one of my co-workers. “Amy” is helpful and considerate to me. She provides useful information and makes friendly, encouraging comments. She seems like a good team player. However, some co-workers say Amy stabs people in the back because she wants to climb the corporate ladder. According to them, she shows off her knowledge, points out others’ mistakes and makes a big deal of her workload. Amy clearly has the trust and confidence of management, so apparently her other side is seen only by her peers. If Amy really is a skillful manipulator, how do I avoid being hurt by her tactics, especially when management thinks so highly of her?”  -- Cautious Co-worker

Marie’s Answer:
Your co-workers may be correct about Amy’s motives or they may simply be jealous. To balance friendliness with caution, consider the following suggestions:

•    Continue to respond in kind to Amy, since you have personally found her to be pleasant and helpful. Maintaining a good relationship with her is important, especially since she has a lot of influence. 

•    Nevertheless, given your co-workers’ warnings, avoid talking too freely with Amy. Don’t share any information that could come back to haunt you. 

•    Get to know the managers yourself, to guard against backstabbing. If they have a firsthand opinion of you, they will rely less on what they hear from others.

If your own career goals include a desire to be promoted, see what you can learn from Amy’s success. To move up, you will need to impress senior management, and Amy seems to have cracked that code. To assess your own leverage at work, see How Much Political Power Do You Have?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

An Uncautious Worker October 14, 2009 at 5:12 pm

Speaking from the perspective of a person that probably is thought of a so call “back stabber”. I come in every day wanting to do the best I can for the company I work for. No hidden motives, just good quality work. I try my hardest to not participate in gossip which pretty much keeps me away from the so call normal crowd, just never been my style. I find that those who probably think of me as a “back stabber” are the lazy workers who all they do is gossip and complain all day.

I am a very nice person, always smiles, never complains and try to be as positive as I can be. But I have suffered through depression personally because of how I work but just can’t change it. And I have figured out that no matter what I am doing more than most folks, so that means that I will get blame for than more folks, hence “back stabber”.

Yes I guess you can watch your back, but honestly, you are not in a battle ground. At the end of the day, all that matters is how well you did your work. If you have nothing to hide then you should be ok.


Teresa October 14, 2009 at 3:39 pm

I have two co-workers who fit that mold My advice, gained through experience and years of working with them, be friendly, but consider them coworkers, not FRIENDS. Keep your personal life to yourself, and stay out of their personal lives. They always have drama and you don’t need it. They can and will stab you in the back, it’s just part of who they are.


Surrounedbybackstabbers October 14, 2009 at 2:42 pm

I work with a girl EXACTLY like her and my office manager gives me the same sound advice… Hold her at arms length at ALL times!!


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