In August 1972 – that’s 41 years ago – ‘Backstabbers’ by the O’Jays was a hit single. Although the song was about a guys friends all trying to take his woman away from him while pretending to be his friend, think about the lyrics below as pertaining to getting a job or getting ahead.

A few of your buddies they sure look shady
Blades are long, clenched tight in their fist
Aimin’ straight at your back
And I don’t think they’ll miss
(What they do!)
(They smile in your face)
All the time they want to take your place
The back stabbers (back stabbers)

I’m writing about backstabbing because over this past weekend, six different people spoke with me about incidents where they had been figuratively stabbed in the back by colleagues, friends and family. It must be relevant today and perhaps this problem resonates with you.

Some people have reputations of course for backstabbing others and those same people rationalize their behaviour usually by telling themselves it’s a dog-eats-dog kind of world and there’s no time to be nice, it’s about getting ahead. However, I’d counter by saying getting ahead by intentionally sabotaging others and moving them behind you isn’t the only way. In fact, I’d argue that the best way to get ahead is to put others needs ahead of your own, credit others when the success is theirs, and in so doing, attract the very best to yourself.

Look at things physically for a moment. In order to be stabbed in the back, you have to have your back turned to the other person. Two reasons then only would occur; you are taken unawares by a stranger or someone you expected and trusted to guard your back instead drives the dagger home. Really it’s only the second of the two that’s ‘backstabbing’ in the sense most people mean; a betrayal from a trusted source.

Thankfully we’re only talking figuratively here and not literally and almost all of us can recover from this kind of backstabbing! If you have been betrayed and stabbed in the back, you can’t really do much to prevent it – it’s already happened. However, what you do have control over is your reaction and your future behaviour.

People who back stab others reveal more about their own character then perhaps they first intend, and while it can come as a shock and severe disappointment for us if we are the victim, the one thing we always have over them is our integrity and dignity. Blowing the whistle on someone who is profiting from stabbing us in the back, revealing them for stealing an idea, taking credit where credit is not due, seizing some kind of advantage when it wasn’t theirs to take is usually welcomed by those in higher positions, but you’d better have proof to back up your claims or it’s just sour grapes.

Once betrayed, it isn’t all that uncommon to refrain from trusting someone whose back-stabbed you. Kind of a ‘fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me’ mentality. Hard to give someone the benefit of the doubt in the future, and why should you? If you did, you would be saying that what happened before is okay and you’re in a position to have it happen again. So it’s ironic that people are sometimes stabbed in the back not just once but several times.

This happens I think because of the trusting nature that some of us have that would have us believe in the good of others and get burned from time-to-time rather than the alternative of distrusting everyone and missing out on wonderful opportunities most of the time because we are jaded towards people. And that’s the crux of the sadness in this whole backstabbing thing. What a shame when someone becomes a victim and then makes a conscious decision to grow a thicker skin, a tougher exterior and a less-trusting disposition. Essentially the victim is victimized twice; once by the backstabber and once by themselves.

Have you been the victim of backstabbing? What was your experience and did it change you or what did you learn from it? Were you the backstabber and how did it profit you or do you now regret it?

I’d be interested and I think others could benefit from hearing some of those stories. Call it therapeutic if you will. As has been said elsewhere and by many, it is the sharing of our experiences; the good and the bad, that makes the internet such a useful tool as we educate each other.

And for pure entertainment, check out the O’Jays here:


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