The Ides of March: How to Handle Backstabbing at Work

By William Peacock, Esq. on March 14, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Do you know what tomorrow is?

It's the Roman New Year. "Beware the Ides of March," a soothsayer once said. The warning, unfortunately for Julius Caesar, was ignored. It's been 2,058 years since that fateful day, but things haven't changed all that much. Treachery and betrayal live eternal in the hearts of ambitious men and women, nowhere more than a law firm.

At your firm, are you the assassin, Marcus Brutus, or the assassinated, Julius Caesar? Let's talk backstabbing and betrayal.

Julius Caesar: Ignoring the Warning Signs

His wife had premonitions in her dreams, as did a soothsayer. Rumors swirled about the planned assassination attempt. In the end, per the perfectly accurate historical record that is Wikipedia (sarcasm intended), Caesar was swayed by the assurances of his dear friend, Brutus, who he had previously pardoned, and who had fought against Caesar under the command of Pompey.

Sign, after sign, after sign. Gossip and rumors. Don't be naive like Caesar and get shanked on the Senate floor -- use law firm Roman gossip to your advantage. Watch for the signs. Is Partner Pompey no longer speaking to the other partners? Something's up -- or more likely -- out.

Marcus Brutus: Nobody Likes a Backstabber

He won. He stabbed Caesar in the back (literally). The Senate then granted amnesty to him, and the other assassins, for the murder.

Except, even with amnesty, everybody in Rome hated him. He fled to the outer reaches of the empire for a bit, until the eventual emperor Octavian declared him a murderer and hunted him down. Things didn't end well for Brutus, despite his lateral move to another firm Crete. He off'd himself after his army was defeated by Octavian, et al.

Neither: Work Smarter or Work Harder

What do we learn from the Ides of March and its aftermath?

1. Plotting rarely works out.

You may win initially, and defeat the guy who has fought his way to the top with deception and a sharp knife, but who's going to trust you? And does the fallen man have friends? Watch your back.

2. You can't be both ambitious and oblivious.

Caesar defeated Pompey and others, spent some time in Egypt, then came back to Rome and was basically named Emperor of what was formerly a Democracy. He then missed the obvious plot by a guy who he had pardoned a few years earlier. Oblivious = oblivion.

In the End

You can shine, and work your way up to the top through cunning and/or hard work. But the more shortcuts you take, and people you anger, the more you'll have to keep your ear to the streets to prevent the proverbial shanking.

So how to avoid the backstabbing? Do the work, do The Golden Rule and watch the signs. Hey, it can't hurt.

Disclaimer: all historical facts were crudely adopted from either Wikipedia or HBO's "Rome." (A mighty fine series.) No attempt, whatsoever, was made to be accurate. After all, accuracy really wasn't the point, was it? It's just a metaphor ...

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