(Editor’s note: I originally wrote this for The Walnut, the satirical business site I operated back in blogging’s stone age: 2002. Unfortunately, it still works with the slightest of updates. Mueller’s still even the FBI director).
WASHINGTON — Signaling a troubling rise in metaphorical violence, the Federal Bureau of Investigation last week reported a dramatic surge in the number of backstabbings — the first time in more than a decade that crime category has experienced an increase.
According to statistics compiled by the FBI, more than 337,000 backstabbings were reported to law enforcement authorities during the second half of 2008, a 49% increase from 2007. Of those, more than 185,000 were aggravated backstabbings, requiring the victim to seek treatment at a bar during work or even stay home the following day.
“This is the first increase in backstabbings since the height of the last recession in 2001, so there is little doubt that the economy is to blame,” FBI Director Robert Mueller said at a recent press conference. “In desperate times people will do anything to get ahead, often kissing the asses of people they never dreamed of kissing in the past. Unfortunately, that means no one in the halls of corporate America is safe.”
Firms employing 100 people or more are particularly dangerous havens for backstabbers, according to Anton Waxman, a professor of office politics at Emory University in Atlanta. Journalists, entertainment executives and attorneys are most vulnerable to attacks. “These people can’t get out of bed in the morning without having to watch their backs,” he said. “That probably explains why they’re so damned cranky.”
Mr. Mueller noted that backstabbing is a particularly despicable crime, because few victims are unaware it has been perpetrated on them until severe career damage has been inflicted. Moreover, their peers are typically unsympathetic, often believing they invited the attack upon themselves. Thousands of such crimes go unreported every year as a result.
“This leaves the backstabbed feeling like they’ve been victimized twice,” the FBI’s Mr. Mueller said. “That’s no doubt borne out by the horrible feelings I’ve had every time I committed such an act myself.”
To deter such crimes, professor Wexler suggests avoiding workplace situations that appear dark and murky. He also recommends eschewing eye-contact with other employees at all times, and never entrusting them with valuable personal information.
“Back-stabbings will happen no matter what, but you can reduce their probability of occurrence by interacting with other human beings as little as possible,” he said. “Take your cue from your supervisor.”