Gossip, cliques and other toxic office cultures can turn a workplace into high school for grownups. In those types of atmospheres, employees must be alert and vigilant against sandbagging – being openly or covertly undermined, talked down upon or disparaged in any other way – by their own colleagues.
Coworkers are motivated to engage in these behaviors for a number of reasons: jealousy over perceived “special treatment” of another, competition for career advancement or to deflect attention away from their own weaknesses and insecurities.
To protect your reputation and career from these types of menacing attacks, you must first know how to detect if it’s happening in the first place. Here are five signs you’re likely being sandbagged by a colleague…
They Talk Behind Other People’s Backs
If a colleague talks behind other people’s backs in your presence, there’s a good chance they talk about you when you’re not around.
They Are Dismissive Or Hostile Towards Your Input At Meetings
Sandbaggers will try to use meetings or other gatherings to take you down a notch in front of the team.
They Immediately Stop Whispering, Smiling Or Laughing When You Enter A Room
Dead giveaway for covert sandbaggers.
They Change Their Tone Of Voice When Talking About You
With this insidious move, they use a disappointed, frustrated or mocking tone when they talk about you.
They Distance Themselves From You
If they are someone you used to regularly interact with, but have since avoided or rejected those interactions, they could very well be sandbagging.
If you catch a colleague sandbagging you, I recommend taking a direct approach. If they are doing it in private, pull them aside, tell them your observations and ask for an explanation. This will open the dialogue necessary to put a stop to their actions. And if they do it in front of a group, don’t let it go unacknowledged. For example, you could say in front of the group, “Bob, I noticed you rolling your eyes while I was talking about our upcoming project. Is there something you’d like to say out loud?”
If it still persists, talk to a trusted supervisor who can help remedy the situation. If they are unable or unwilling to resolve it, you deserve better, and at that point, it’s time to jump ship for a more positive, productive and professional work environment.