You don't need military experience for the words "friendly fire" to send a chilling and angry awareness through your spine. Someone was harmed but it wasn't by our enemy - it was by someone on our own side, someone who was supposed to be fighting with us, not against us.
Friendly fire happens in business too. Someone on your team throws you under the bus. Someone on your team undermines you. Someone you trusted stole from you. Someone you partnered with is lying about you. Someone who reports to you just took advantage of your relationship.
Whether intentional or not, why does friendly fire occur in the workplace?
- Stress. Maybe we are under a lot of stress, so we lash out to those who are closest to us. We feel safe to let our raw feelings show, even when it's to those who are fighting for and with us.
- Jealousy. Maybe we try to hurt those who are getting more attention or promotions. We don't like where we're at in life, so we try to drag down those who we perceive are in a better place.
- Selfish Ambition. Maybe we worry about another person taking our place. Maybe we fight to hold onto information because it makes us feel more powerful when others have to ask us for help.
- Bitterness. Maybe we've been wronged so we want to get back somehow. We want the other person or team to fail because they hurt us in the past.
- Counterfeit. Maybe we're faking our value, and someone else's honest and hard work is compromising our plan for gain.
Have you been the recipient of or witness to friendly fire?
If so, here are some tips on how to deal with it:
- If you're tempted to fire on your own teammates, stop when you feel that first twinge to do so. Resist the temptation to protect yourself and instead be open and vulnerable. That first step is the hardest part.
- If you're a leader, you cannot tolerate friendly fire. The intentional (or unintentional) attacks on one's own teammates should violate your standards and non-negotiables. Have a critical conversation, point out the friendly fire, explain how it is harming the team and what must be done about it.
- If you're a teammate under fire, talk to your peer. Explain your perception of friendly fire and reiterate that you're both working on the same team. Make a pact to work together and find common ground so you can both move forward.
- If you're experiencing friendly fire with a client, gather your data and sit down to make sure you level set the relationship and get clarity on expectations. It shouldn't be a blame game. There is a goal that you and the client need to obtain, so fight together for that goal. When you fall short, own it.