Knowing when you are being played

Being played (taken advantage of) happens in business. Unfortunately, many people leave themselves open to it. Are you one of them?

In all levels of business, the competition can be rough. The larger the corporation, the more bureaucratic it becomes. The higher-level positions are vied for, and only the unwise doesn’t watch their back. The higher the climb to the top and the increased need for the company to earn a profit, the more stressful it can become for the employee. The increased need to perform can cause people to sink to pathetically desperate levels. Just a few examples:

  • Stealing your idea and calling it their own.
  • Trying to make you look bad.
  • Attempting to get your help/experience without giving you the job (ie: extra work, no promotion).
  • Unfair treatment of women in the workplace.
  • Someone making a promise and not coming through.
  • People saying negative (or untrue) things behind your back to suit their own agenda.
  • Knowing someone is purposely trying to stop you from being hired or promoted.

I could add to the list all day long. Of course these things happen in small businesses too. Actually, the opportunity for these things to happen can be higher in small business because the appropriate measures to attempt to prevent these things from happening are not in place. There is a larger opportunity for people to let their agendas, egos, fears and insecurities creep into business.

Be realistic: it will happen to you eventually

No matter what you do, how loyal you are, or how hard you work, someone will purposely betray you eventually. When I say purposely, the person is aware of what they are doing, perform the actions to make it happen, and will most likely attempt to be goody-goody and friendly to you while they are stabbing you in the back. If they are caught, they will give some sort of weak excuse for their behavior. Do not be surprised if the person ends up being someone you thought was a friend or trusted. It is easier for the people close to you to betray you because they know you well.

There are people who think they are exempt from malicious behavior and they pay a high price for it. They never let their guard down, they are always suspicious, and watchful. The only way to be “exempt” is to notice it and stop it before it happens. There are also people who are very trusting and naive and feel being a “good” person stops purposely malicious behavior from happening. Both theories are inaccurate. Eventually, you will be betrayed and usually, it is by someone you thought you could trust. As humans, we have different personalities and traits. Unfortunately, even if there are rules in place, there are people who, driven by those negative emotions, make horrible decisions. In small businesses, this happens often because many small businesses have no rules in place to ward off this type of behavior.

The betrayal and the lovely stab in the back will happen eventually.

What do you do if you realize you are being played?

Unfortunately, there is not a right answer for this due to the many scenarios it can take place. Sometimes it is best to nip the situation in the bud and avoid the person as much as possible. There are other situations where you can flip the situation to your advantage, which I’ve done in the past. Dealing with betrayal is very similar to the playground fights we experienced as kids. When another kid snatched your toy did you let them get away with it or did you stand up for yourself? Are you one to avoid confrontations or do you deal with issues straight on as they happen? The optimal solution is to tactically do what is necessary to spin the situation in your favor. Unfortunately, some people are literally unable to do that. They don’t have the personality to do it. This is why it is hard to give blanket advice on this issue.

The important thing is for people to realize when they are being taken advantage of and to not think there is an exemption to malicious behavior. Your intuition will often give you a sign that something is wrong. You’ll feel it in your gut and just “know” you’re being screwed over. This is where the ability to detach business and personal feelings come in handy. Do not allow your personal feelings (ie: hurt) to get in the way. This is business. It might be your friend stabbing you in the back but don’t let their betrayal of you personally take you out of the game. Realize what is happening, try to find out as much information as you can (is the person working alone or is the situation more dire with multiple people working together?), then make an informed decision that will hopefully lead to an optimal solution.

If you play someone, you will eventually get caught

Just as people think malicious behavior won’t happen to them there are people who believe they can do malicious acts and they are so smooth and skilled, they will not get caught. The stupidity in this mode of thinking is that the more the person does it, the higher the chances of getting caught. The odds decrease for being able to get away with it. Ego can be damning because their ego causes them to think they can get away with it, especially if they have gotten away with it previously. An amusing situation to me is when someone knows they are busted and continue to perform the malicious behavior. I find that fascinating and amusing when I notice it because it is a cat and mouse game.

Realize that if you are one to take advantage of others the more popular you become, the higher the odds you’ll be busted, publicly. We see examples of this all the time and those people initially thought they would not get caught. They also, at some point, knew they were busted and continued the malicious behavior (or increased it trying to fix the mess).

In the end

It is what it is. One of the keys to having a successful life is being able to jump over the hurdles that come up. Some hurdles are good, for example having to upgrade your servers because of an increase in traffic. Some are bad, for example, unexpected illness. In the end, one has to deal with them all in one form or another. People treat you the way you allow them.

If you allow yourself to be played, you will continue to be played until you make it stop.

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