How To Protect Your IT Career From Sabotage

by drjim on November 21, 2008

Your Career Is Being Threatened By Backstabbers - Do You Know What To Do?

Your Career Is Being Threatened By Backstabbers – Do You Know What To Do?

They really are out to get you, you know. All those schemers who want your job, your promotion, your bonus are even as you read this sitting at their desk scheming how best to make you look bad, take credit for your work, or even how to get you fired. In this down economy, those who have it in for you are even more likely to take action because so many firms are in the process of trimming headcount that they want to save their jobs by taking yours. What’s an IT leader to do?

Your career sabotage problems begin when you detect that someone is out to get you. Once you are aware that something is going on, it’s going to bug the heck out of you. You are now officially in a bind: if you complain, then there is a good chance that you are going to be viewed as “… not being a team player”, if you ignore it and do nothing, then you can pretty much kiss any future promotions goodbye.

So just what kind of actions do backstabbers take to bring you down? Here’s a quick list – let’s see how many of them you recognize as having been done to you either now or in the past:

  • Taking Credit For Your Work: this is a classic. The backstabber talks with you to find all about work that you have been doing and then represents that work to others as having been done by them. Sometimes they will even tell you that you’ve done a poor job and ask you to not talk about it so that you don’t look foolish – and so they can take credit for it.
  • Spreading Rumors About You: this can be a sneaky one because it can go on for a long time without you knowing about it. If you have a good network, somebody besides you will probably hear about the rumors before you do and tell you. Otherwise you’re just going to have to keep your ears open and detect what people seem to be saying about you.
  • Project Sabotage: In this case, the saboteur realizes that your career advancement depends on the project that you are in charge of being a success. Once they know this, they will be willing to work very hard to cause your project to fail. Withholding needed resources or providing needed information late are two easy ways to drill holes in your project boat.

It sure seems like it will be easy for others to sneak in to our rooms in the middle of the night and make off with our careers. Is there anything that we can do? It turns out that yes, there are things that you can do to protect yourself and your career. They aren’t easy and they don’t always work, but they sure are better than sitting around and waiting for the axe to fall on you because of the actions of others. Here are some thoughts:

  1. Keep your cool: the last thing that you want to do is to flip out. If you let your temper get the better of you, then you’ll have fewer options for solving the sabotage problem.
  2. No Direct Confrontation: Look, if they’ve been clever enough to try to get you out of their way, then they’ve probably not left any evidence lying around. Even if you could get all CSI on them, you are in a workplace and nobody really cares about that piece of hair that you found that clearly shows that your saboteur was the one that spread the rumor that you were hard to get along with.
  3. Make Sure The Rumors Are Not Correct: So this is just a bit awkward, is there a possibility that the rumors could be right? Take a moment to look in the mirror and do some hard thinking. If the stories are correct, then you’ve got other problems to solve.
  4. Love Those Timestamps: people can only take credit for your work if nobody else knows that you did the work first (first come, first served). What this means is that email can be your new best friend. When you are reporting on results or completed work, send out an email telling as many people as possible. This way the world will know that you did the work and when you did it. This can stop a saboteur in his / her tracks.
  5. Talk To Your Boss: At the end of the day, your boss is the one who really has control over your career. You need to have a talk with him/her and let them know what’s going on and ask for their help in resolving it. After all, this is just the kind of personnel thing that bosses are there to take care of.
  6. Talk To Your Boss’ Boss: Of course, if it’s your boss that is doing the backstabbing, you really need to get some outside help. Talking with his/her boss is one way to do this. Another way is to talk with someone else at that same level and ask them to intervene.

Of course, if it turns out that it’s your boss that is doing your career in, you’ve got a real problem. There is a very good chance that in the end it’s going to be either you or him/her once you start to put a stop to the sabotage. Make sure that your resume is up-to-date because there is a good chance that you just might be needing it soon…

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where someone was trying to sabotage your career? How did you find out about it? What did you do to stop the sabotage? In the end were you able to save your career? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Guy Battaglia July 6, 2009 at 1:03 pm

Keeping it real. In today’s economic chaos there is very little that can be done to save, salvage or even navigate the Career Waters.
These WATERS have become more then just shark infested. Between the Red Tide that is destroying the environment where technologists work and grow, it seems as if the overall organization is doing itself more harm then good.

Team Ship is becoming less and less an option these days since a majority of your hard line, back office support has been farmed out to overseas services that are now in the middle of their own demands and stabilization issues. But with your off shore group, you have no allies that are local, vocal or even capable of being supportive, even if they wanted to.

The collective geniuses that have been instrumental in the micro managing and devolution of IT in the corporate regimes are much less effective today then they were at the beginning of the Millennium.

Businesses from every walk of life have been adversely affected and that is causing a spiral in business ethics and morality.
For example, if you still have your IT job today, you are doing the work of, at least 3- 5 people that have been RIF’d (reduction in force).
Keeping employed, working harder instead of smarter and then having to galvanize your back from the perils of the knife wielding co-worker, boss or even consultant, these will only add to greater stresses and eventual break downs in service, process and information.
Will the next class of professional astigmatisms be a greater numbers of work place shootings? I certainly hope not. But in the likelihood that becoming more aggressive, duly assertive and even becoming paranoid and over protective will work against you in ways that you may not even be familiar with.

Lets face it, there is no place in an IT resume for survival skills or even ‘What I learned to stay alive’.

A great way to manage your career and your prospects is to always have a working resume on file. Keep those contacts alive and working. I have personally recommended that IT professionals that do not have great exposure should join associations and vendor boards so they can get external exposure, practice speaking to large groups of like minded technologist and peers and of course, have continuous dialog with your contemporaries from various industries and technical, business practices.

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Dr. Jim Anderson July 9, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Guy: Wow – great reply. In summary, everyone needs to keep learning new skills all the time. If you don’t, then there is a good chance that you’ll end up being left behind – and nobody wants that…!

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