How to Spot the Weasel in Your Office

long tailed weasel performing a flexible stretch to look behind

Everyone is talking these days about “Pokemon Go.” Nintendo’s augmented reality game is sending kids and grownups wandering into the streets searching for Pokestops. The game reveals virtual creatures — hidden to the real world and accessible only to players. 

But there is another hidden creature you should be on the lookout for — and this one is lurking around your work site.

Conflict at work is inevitable. And sometimes you do not see it coming. It often originates from a single source — a coworker who is quietly undermining your plans or threatening your success. I like to call this person the workplace weasel.

The pesky workplace weasel is not native to one type of job or place. It can be found stirring up trouble worldwide. But until someone comes up with a genius app that reveals nasty coworkers, we have to rely on our own primal instincts to spot them.

Here are five telltale signs that you are in the presence of a workplace weasel. These creatures are:

Scheming
This person may appear perfectly harmless, even sweet. (Well, to your face.) That is precisely why you must watch your back. They will say anything — and may even cozy up to you — before weaseling in and causing mischief. 

Greedy
The workplace weasel never learned to share, and carried that bad habit into their professional life. A notorious hoarder, they stockpile knowledge, resources, opportunities, and credit. If asked to collaborate, the weasel only does so begrudgingly.

Secretive
A mysterious, guarded creature, the weasel conceals true intentions and plans. If you have questions, you probably will not get a straight answer — at least, not right away. Be prepared to methodically probe for the truth. 

Meddlesome
Is there one colleague who seems to know and share all the workplace gossip? Weasels love digging up dirt on co-workers. Do not let your guard down. Password-locking your computer is always a best practice. With a weasel, it is critical to protect sensitive information from prying eyes — and to keep details of your personal life to yourself. 

Tenacious
Know anyone who exhaustively pursues pet ideas — even after everyone agrees on a different direction? Derailing meetings is classic weasel behavior. You might need to be patient until they run out of energy or someone grabs a broom to gently nudge the weasel away.

Most of the time you will encounter friendly and well-meaning people in the workplace. But you do have to watch out for the occasional weasel. 

They can sneak into any organization, despite the company’s best prevention efforts. Awareness is half the battle, as well as a sense of humor. If anything, having a workplace weasel running about will keep you on your toes.

What other kind of rascals have you encountered in the office? Identify — and share!

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product roadmap software — and the author of Lovability. His two previous startups were acquired by well-known public companies. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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Comments

  1. Crystina L. Hysell

    The weasel? HHMMMM? I read the article and understand completely, but it made me think a lot about whether I would be considered a weasel or not. My conclusion is NO. I realized after reading this that there is a difference between a weasel and someone who is trying to live up to company expectations and doing something right when something else is being done wrong. I have had past management experience and know that if something wrong has been reported that as a manager you are responsible for reporting this action. This does not mean that you are being a weasel this means that you are making sure that your business is being run properly in your companies eyes. On the other hand the company may not have the proper idea of how to run a business but you as a manager are still upholding your job per expectation. I personally have dealt with “weasel’s” as you call them, and know who’s word to take with a grain of salt and who to trust. Not every manager or boss may know how to though, and that goes back to your recent article about not playing favorites to some employees over others “Hey Boss This Job Is Making Me Sick”. If Managers or Employers paid more attention to their surroundings than favoritism and weasel’s, the workplace for many companies may change for the better. I want to compliment you on your creative and intuitive writing, and thank you for sharing your knowledge. If Knowledge is not shared to better the world it’s not worth knowing in my opinion. I enjoy Learning from your articles and hope to one day be able to help the work environment as much as I believe you are.

    Reply
  2. Jake T

    I think I’ve discovered a weasel at my workplace. They satisfy these of the criteria above:
    – scheming: appearing harmless and definitely sweet.
    – greedy: extremely territorial about their work projects, going all into a tizzy when anyone else works on anything related.
    – secretive: just found this out, after finding out they undermined a project of mine.
    – meddlesome: yeah, this person is always gossiping about bad reputations of other people; never heard anyone gossip so much, but all done as though they are the innocent, fearful victim.

    Of course, this person ingratiates themselves with figures of authority, and becomes the pet of the senior people at work, always volunteering for menial and administrative tasks. So despite having no personal record of producing much real work, this person somehow has been given all favors and status usually accorded to someone who has a much more concrete work record. At first I thought this was just a very nice, sweet person who had difficulty saying no to people. But it started to seem really odd when they would hastily try to insert somewhat useless input to inquiries on which they were cc’ed in emails, and “volunteer” to compile a report that was really someone else’s job who didn’t want to do it.
    Now they have weaseled their way into an area for which I am the established authority, but they have made themselves into a contact person for those who do not know better. Bit by bit, the examples of their usurping my work have accumulated, and now I see the pattern: first it was by “volunteering” for management roles I had which let this person do as they seemed so sweet and earnest; then by controlling instead of facilitating info within the group that was normally open such that people were unaware of each other’s projects until this person had insinuated their relationship into them and kept others out; then by commandeering again some work with a deadline that others were pushing to have done and waiting for the kind volunteer, who had no intention to do it at all, missing the deadline and causing a critical missed opportunity for others . Fascinating and appalling.

    The blog above did not provide advice on how to deal with such a person once they are spotted. Here’s what I am going to try to do: gradually extract myself from any kind of collaborations with this person, trust no pledge to help with anything, and heretofore share no information about my projects with that person. I guess now I have also to weasel my way into relationships where this person has cozied up to people in power, and ensure they are not influenced by any gossip by that person. This will be hard, because I am not by nature a weasel. If anyone else has successfully extracted from entanglement with a weasel, please post!
    The gossip mixed with the sweetness always made me queasy. Now I know why.

    Reply

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