The ‘Enemy Within Your Company’ Syndrome

Look for ones around you

I am not sure if you have faced this syndrome. I have faced this myself wherever I have worked and even when I started my own firm. What I found was people like these – whom I call ‘Enemy within the Company’ – who pass-on their insecurity or doubts to people who are working around them. There may be little truth or half-truths or even full truths about what they have been seeing or hearing – be it restructuring or M&A,  be it a new manager who is struggling to do their job, some rumours about a client and doubts about the client taking away the business from company or a product/service that is not being built right or about to be released or about a colleague who is probably being encouraged or about indecisive management etc. They imagine things the way they would like to interpret them, keep talking about them without checking for the veracity of the information they may have picked-up and soon this turns into a toxic environment in the company. 

I also believe people are people at the end of the day. How social media algorithms are built to help you see more of what you have seen, the ‘Enemy Within’ algorithm starts to gain momentum. Ultimately, what these people end-up doing is chasing the good ones who are believers away from the company and soon enough these people too leave the company. What was interesting for me was to watch them or  when I tracked them closely after they have moved, the story of ‘Enemy within the company’  syndrome in them continued in the new company with a new set of people and for a new set of issues!! 

How do we kill this ‘Enemy within the Company’ syndrome?

Here are few tactics I suggest: 

  1. If you are the one who’s got the doubt, be specific and clarify it with somebody who you trust within the company. Just don’t jump to conclusions. 
  2. Know whom and when to speak up rather than just chatter about it in the corridors and cafeteria. If you are a mid-senior profile, you have to be more careful about this than others. 
  3. Think how you can help solve this issue, if there is an iota of truth, after all you are being paid by the company. 
  4. Give it time and be patient which is the most difficult.  It happens in every company – not all acquisitions or restructuring of departments have worked, not all products are built right or successful, not all clients are fair, not all new hires make a difference, not all business models are right. So, respect the intent and do not deride the process or outcome. 
  5. Finally, if you don’t believe what’s happening in the company is right, don’t talk around, just walk out. I have seen companies continuing to be successful in their own way and most often you don’t know the whole story. 
  6. If you are somebody listening to the ‘Enemy Within’, don’t get influenced and be sure to make your own judgements. 
  7. Don’t join the chatter without verifying the details and do what it takes to arrest it or break the chain rather than join the chatter. 
  8. 8. Don’t allow the ‘Enemy Within’ to spread their wings. There is nothing called a perfect company and you will find these people complaining about the next company too! 
  9. Always give the benefit of doubt to the company and don’t assume leaders or the company knows it all. They too are in a continuous learning mode.
  10. The ‘Enemy Within’ dies a natural death when they cannot spread their wings. Do your bit for it everyday till you are employed with the firm. 

So, remember companies are not perfect ecosystems. It is a living being that learns and improves from every mistake or success. You are a part of that ecosystem and you carry every responsibility to help it improve in spite of bottlenecks and challenges. Don’t be an ‘Enemy Within’ but be a ‘Positive Advocate’. 

(Note: This post was originally published on sivaramanswaminathan.com)

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