It’s crucial that you recognize duplicitous individuals in your workplace — they have the potential to damage your career.
You’re particularly at risk if you work in a low-trust environment.
Brandon Smith, a workplace therapist, consultant, and professor, writes on his blog that such work climates are distinguished by high-pressure competition among employees, bosses that play favorites, rampant gossip, a lack of cooperation, and frequent instances of food being stolen from the break room fridge (no, seriously).
Any of that sound familiar? Fortunately, there are ways to improve such a toxic climate.
“Have regular company meetings to make everyone is aware of business goals and any upcoming changes,” Carolyn Betts, founder and CEO of recruiting and talent firm Betts Recruiting, tells Business Insider. “Implement frequent opportunities for feedback. Giving people the chance to openly air their concerns and express praise will foster a positive working environment.”
However, in most cases, it will take a manager or another higher-up to diffuse a low-trust environment, as the behavior like comes from the top.
In the meantime, here are some clear warning signs you can’t trust your coworkers:
Watch out for anyone displaying signs of what’s been called the least fun of the seven deadly sins — envy — writes Dr. Neel Burton in Psychology Today.
Envy is a universal trait. However, if left unchecked in the workplace, it leads to problems. Envious people desire what their successful colleagues have, leading to resentment, shortsightedness, and toxic relationships.
Here’s a shocker: You can’t trust dishonest coworkers.
If you regularly catch a coworker lying, or they steal credit for your work, they’re probably a dishonest person. If you’re not sure, shifting details and defensive behavior are two red flags, writes PayScale’s Anne Holub.
Keep in mind, even if their lies don’t directly affect you, they’ve already proven themselves untrustworthy. You can’t depend on liars to keep your best interests at heart.
A little bit of workplace gossip among friends is normal. But it’s a bad sign when a colleague seems overly preoccupied with gossiping. Rumors can harm reputations and others’ feelings, so steer clear.
Plus, the old middle school adage applies here. If the person gossiping is talking to you about other people behind their backs, they’re probably talking to others behind yours.
According to Business Insider’s Lindsay Dodgson, the best way to deal with rumor-merchants is to put on a confident front and only approach the gossip or your supervisor after careful consideration.
“If you don’t find it too hurtful, you can try talking about the rumors as if it doesn’t bother you at all,” Dodgson writes. “If there is truth to the gossip, then you can admit to it, and make clear the problems have been rectified.”
They undermine people
Watch out for the conniving, undermining people in your office.
“Colleagues should hold themselves accountable for getting their work done, and should own up to their own mistakes,” Betts says. “Anything less than that indicates your colleagues may not be the most trustworthy.”
Writing for Salary.com, Aaron Gouveia notes that these types tend to start small:
“Did you discuss a great idea with a coworker only to see that person steal it and use it as their own? Are you missing meetings because your coworker leading a project keeps ‘forgetting’ to email you the invites?”
Maybe they’ve started messing with your work. Maybe you’ve noticed them taking credit for others’ ideas. Either way, you’ll want to stop them from bringing you down.
They suck up
A good relationship with your boss is crucial. However, some people take that too far, focusing on impressing the higher-ups rather than working hard and achieving results.
Even if they’re a favorite among the execs, don’t trust this kind of colleague to lift you up with them. The boss’ pet will do anything — other than work hard at their job — to maintain their top spot.
“Everyone knows that employee – the one who’s beloved by management and always says the right thing in every situation,” Vip Sandhir, the CEO and founder of employee-engagement platform HighGround, tells Business Insider. “And while this employee may be perfect on paper, there’s just something about them that comes off as disingenuous.”
“This coworker is extremely polished and will do whatever it takes to move up the corporate ladder, which can ultimately create severe trust issues among team members,” he says.
They’re overly dramatic
In your personal life, drama kings and queens might be somewhat amusing in small doses&;(if you’re fan of reality TV and human disasters).
At work, though, they’re toxic.
As “Shark Tank” star Barbara Corcoran tells Adam Bryant of The New York Times, she likes to weed out entrepreneurs and job candidates who play the victim and fire the complainers in her office.
“They’ll never succeed. Victims don’t succeed,” she says.
You don’t have time for their complaining, oversharing, and general victimhood. It’s best to avoid getting wrapped up in their manufactured drama.
They don’t care about your work-life balance
This type of untrustworthy colleague may not be gunning for your career, but they’re bad news nonetheless. This is the boss or coworker that always expects you to drop everything else in your life to accommodate work.
Of course, sometimes work will take precedence. But watch out for the unyielding people in your office who do not respect your work-life balance. Such people rarely have your personal or professional well-being in mind.
They disrespect you
If someone deems you unworthy of basic respect in the office, then you certainly shouldn’t trust them with anything else. Signs of fundamental disrespect include anything from threatening body language cues to stolen ideas to slander.
Just make sure to resist mirroring this terrible behavior.
“Other people’s shady behavior is no excuse for taking on some of your own,” Betts says. “Though it may be extremely difficult, handling toxic situations with grace and positivity will pay off in the end.”
They’ll do anything to get ahead
If you’re stuck in a workplace where anything goes, it’s probably best to not place your trust in any one person. You don’t want to be paranoid, but if an individual is determined to succeed at all costs, they won’t hesitate to throw you under the bus.
Fleming says that this sort of toxic environment will ultimately erode productivity in the workplace.
“It’s important that employees feel genuinely supported and able to be supportive most of the time,” Betts says. “Fostering a healthy environment will lead to a company’s success, and the lack thereof could be its demise.”
Their body language is all over the place
If you’re worried that your coworkers are lying to you, try watching their face. As Business Insider previously reported, tell-tale signs of dishonesty include rapid blinking, face touching, and excessive head shaking.
They thrive off your company’s toxic workplace culture
When it comes to untrustworthy coworkers, sometimes your colleagues are just a sign of a larger problem. Your company’s work culture might be encouraging a dog-eat-dog environment.
“Working with people who shift around blame, responsibility, and credit can be exhausting and is definitely toxic,” Betts says. “Teams should be collaborative.”