Friday, July 11, 2008

Office Sabotage

In one office I used to work in, I kept a small mirror on my desk. Vanity? Oh no. It was there to keep an eye on a coworker who used to spy on me. Like Roz in 9 to 5, she fed every tidbit that might possibly make me look bad to the boss. (I suspect it was because I was more efficient than she was, and she felt threatened.) It was a real relief when the office was redone and she was given her own cubicle office and I got moved further away.

But I am not alone in this experience. According to a recent survey in the Boston Business Journal, coworker sabotage is fairly common, particularly among people in advertising and marketing. It happened to Zoe Cruz, who was sacrificed to keep Morgan Stanley afloat. Coworker sabotage ran rampant in the Devil Wears Prada. And according to Christopher Flett, that's how an Alpha Male works on a daily basis.

Sabotage is a terrible way to conduct yourself in the office, particularly one that relies on teamwork. How can you work effectively with someone you don't trust? I can say from experience that it breaks down a system of communication. You're much less likely to ask for help or assist someone that will more than likely try to make you look bad in front of the boss or a client.

Since my experience with an office of saboteurs, I tend to look out for potential bad apples when I'm interviewing for a position. I often ask, "how would you describe the people in your office?" and listen for words like "team oriented" from my interviewer. Other cues that an office has a healthy camaraderie are the tone of voice used between interviewers, general friendliness in basic office manners (do you see anyone dumping a copy job on the floor in order to do his own copy job?), and coworkers going for coffee together or pausing to say hi around the water cooler.

4 responses:

IT Pilgrim said...

That is hilarious. There is actually a market in monitor mirrors, curved mirrors you put on your monitor or shelf so you can see who is walking up behind you. I have two ;)

KEHutchinson said...

I considered getting one of those, and then I thought it might be too obvious and my coworker might tell on me for that too. I had a pretty little round mirror on a stand that looked like a compact mirror.

90 said...

Well, there is only one problem with asking the question, "how would you describe the people in your office?", and that is that if they want to hire you, they will tell you the employees are "team oriented" whether they are or not. It's the fly in the ointment!!

Fletti said...

Thanks for mentioning the book Kate.



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