Career sabotage is recognised as a form of workplace bullying by the WorkCover Authority of NSW. It includes undue criticism, intentionally damaging a person’s work, deliberately withholding crucial information and excluding an individual from social networks.
According to Stacey Ashley, career coach and founder of Ashley Coaching & Consulting, there are a range of likely culprits to watch out for. “Team members wanting your job or harbouring a dislike, peers due to competition or jealousy, and even your manager might see you as a threat or a scapegoat in order to deflect blame from them,” she says.
But Ashley says it’s workplace culture that ultimately plays a big part in allowing such behaviour to occur, including just how far the saboteur can go in affecting a colleague’s career. Open cultures, which encourage direct conversations between employees and accurate measures for achieving success, are likely to discourage saboteurs.
How do you know if a colleague is out to get you? Ashley says common examples of sabotage include not being given crucial information that’s given to everyone else, your boss bypassing you for information and going to your direct reports, your ideas being shot down consistently in public by one person, being left off the invitation list for key meetings, rumours about what you may have said or done, and being allocated tasks that affect your job performance or are impossible to achieve.
Dealing with sabotage
Ashley believes career saboteurs shouldn’t be ignored. Instead, try and create a connection with your saboteur – talk to them without being confrontational or accusing. Although this may feel difficult, Ashley recommends open dialogue to find their motivating factors and then assessing what you can change or ways in which you can help. Meanwhile, a mentor or champion can be a great sounding board for these types of situations.
It’s important to distinguish career sabotage from a co-worker ignoring you just because they’re having a bad day – sabotage occurs on a regular basis not during once-off events. Taking notes of situations and saving relevant emails will help your argument if you decide to raise it with HR or management. “Don’t gossip or play the blame game which might hurt your case, instead just stick to the facts and write down examples of what happened,” says Ashley.
So how can you mitigate sabotage? The following tips should help:
- Don’t accept it – take control of the situation.
- Develop a strategy to deal with it.
- Speak with a mentor or trusted colleague.
- Keep a log of the events.
- Continue to be proactive and perform in your job.