The other day, I was off on a bike ride around the city, pedaling away and minding my own business. It was a beautiful day and I was passing by some wetlands that I hadn’t been past before.
All of a sudden, something hit my helmet with such force that I thought that I had been attacked from behind by a bad guy.
Freaking out, I looked behind and didn’t see a soul. Puzzled, I swung my head around and immediately connected the hit with a blackbird that just landed on a nearby post and was glaring at me.
At first, my defensive hackles were up; on alert for more trouble, but once I realized the source, I let my guard down. A little, but not too much… Just in case Mr. Attack Bird decided to come in for a second dive-bomb run on me.
But in reality, this incident seems eerily similar to being attacked completely out of the blue at work. You never see it coming and it leaves you completely off-balance as you struggle to understand exactly why it happened.
While sitting in my bike saddle, I put two and two together about my current route past the wetlands. I realized that the likely underlying motivator for this bird to attack me was that it was likely defending a nearby nest.
When someone attacks you at work, they usually feel threatened as well. The trick to understanding those motivations is to analyze what might make them feel threatened to hopefully cut them off at the pass.
Are you excelling to a point where your performance is making them look bad by comparison?
Are you stepping on their toes?
Are your actions threatening their authority or autonomy?
Have you been treating them fairly and respectfully?
Do you have something that they want?
Are you standing in the way of what they want to have?
No one can ever predict the precise reason as to why some people dive into the dark side of office politics and make the workplace a melodrama filled with conniving, back-stabbing tactics.
But the key is to always remember what the motivating factors are, and start working from there to erase those defensive tendencies. By acting as a shared knowledge base and a conduit helping everyone use the means to the end rather than a resolute silo, you might just avert an unforeseen attack and instead, win their trust.*Photograph By Andreas Trepte via Wikimedia Commons