4 Ways to Spot Backstabbers Before it’s Too Late


Vinod’s comment on the Leadership Freak blog, “Sweet Backstabbers,” set my mind a buzz.  He said, “How to identify such people (backstabbers) at the earliest to avoid excessive bleeding.”  Great comment.

Here’s the challenge.  Backstabbers seem to be your friend.  In reality, they live on the fringes of social protocol; manipulating information for their own advantage.  In the process, they damage others out of; self-protection, revenge, or enjoyment.  They are hard to identify, it’s usually too late.

My gut response to Vinod was, “You can’t identify a back stabber until you’re cut and covered in your own blood.”  That didn’t seem like a good answer so I discussed it with my wife and then went around the office asking questions.  Here’s the result.

Four suggestions for spotting stabbers

  1. Backstabbers know office gossip.  Slicing someone requires inside information and they have it.
  2. Backstabbers whisper.  Be careful with this one.  Not all whisperers are backstabbers. However, backstabber-whispering reflects a desire to hear tasty morsels of secret information.
  3. Backstabbers flatter.  Flattery is smooth speech that inflates someone’s ego.  Once they’re inflated,  they’re easy prey. For example, a backstabber might compliment your ability to create strategy. They follow this by a request for strategic advice.  In your puffed up state you freely give it. The backstabber takes the advice and if the project fails, it becomes your idea.
  4. Backstabbers cut others off at the knees.  If they cut others, they’ll cut you.

How would you spot a backstabber before it’s too late?