Are There StaboteursTM in Your (Workplace) Midst? In a Nutshell, Yes
... My health deteriorated to the point I was seeing pain specialists because I was having serious physical side effects. Survey Respondent #14
Imagine yourself faced with a problem that won’t go away. A problem that didn’t even have a name until just a few years ago. The problem keeps growing, threatening to destroy your workplace. If not resolved, you may lose your job, or key individuals will quit, or the word will spread that no one who is in her right mind wants to work with your team.
The problem mushrooms. In your most recent evaluation, you are criticized for not dealing with the hostility and tension in your group. Everything that you learned in your post-degree classes seems for naught—nothing ever addressed the issues you are experiencing in the types of covert activities when women work with other women. Your self-doubts are building; you begin to feel paranoid. Is someone trying to cut your job out from under you?
One day, after a series of events, you do lose your coveted job. The woman you had mentored the past year had given incorrect information to your manager. Folders and files have mysteriously disappeared from your computer. What you thought was a perfect workplace life is not so perfect. In fact, it’s a mess.
You are now plagued by recurring nightmares, nightmares that are so horrible that you don’t want to remember anything about them in the morning. When you wake, you feel as though you are choking to death. You’ve concluded that the business world is the pits and wonder why you ever left your first love of teaching history.
You feel like an emotional and physical wreck. You seek professional help, yet nothing works. Your friends are worried. So are you.
You are not alone. Others echo your experiences. Both your sisters work in health care. One’s an administrator in a hospital in the South, the other is a critical care nurse in a large hospital in the city where you live and work. Each has reported the same phenomenon in their workplace. When you hear them say, “Nurses eat their young,” you tell them, “It’s not just nurses, it’s women in general who eat their young. If I had my druthers, I would rather work with men.
I used to call this phenomenon sabotage—this was a problem among women in the workplace first identified in my book, Woman to Woman: From Sabotage to Support in 1987. Now I call it “stabotageTM.” It’s much worse.
How naïve I was 20 plus years ago to think that all I had to do to fix this mess was to report that women were undermining each other in the workplace, supply the study to support the research data and write and publish the first book on the topic. Woven with painful and telling stories, it ended with a laundry list of solutions.
My expectation was that women would read it, talk about it and implement my recommendations ... and viola, they would stop undermining each other.
Fast-forward to this century. With nine studies and six additional books later covering the topic (GenderTraps, Woman to Woman 2000, The SeXX Factor (co-written with Mary Lou Ryder),The Briles Report on Women in Health Care, Zapping Conflict in the Health Care Workplace and now Stabotage!), the storyline continues. Books have also been written by others and added to the dialogue; they are mostly anecdotal.
Unfortunately, sabotage in the workplace is alive and well. The results of the current study are not good. In a nutshell, women (and men) are still undermining each other, and in many ways; we are doing it so much better with the communication capabilities we have available today.
It’s now time to add a new word to our lexicon: stabotage. There’s a fine line between sabotage and stabotage, but it’s an important one....
Stabotage is the mayhem, destruction, backstabbing, frontstabbing, betrayal, treachery, seduction and damage that women (and men) encounter in their personal and professional lives that are intentionally generated by another. It leads to loss of credibility, confidence and reputation with yourself as well as with others. In contrast, sabotage can be unintentional, as well as intentional.
Once again, it’s time to put on my researcher and interviewer hats and head back to the writing desk.
You’ll learn what’s new (and old) in the wide world of undermining and betrayal, learn to weigh out the damage that the staboteur does, and come away with practical tools that you can use to deal with these destructive forces—the Pit Bulls, Skunks, Snakes, Scorpions and Slugs in your workplace.
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