Crabs in the Barrel – Part 2

Posted by on Oct 1, 2004 in Success!Ezine For You


How to Move Up When People Try to Keep You Down

E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Original Copyright © 2004

There may be no greater frustration than to work hard to get ahead, only to have others undermine your efforts and try to pull you down. Known as “crabs in the barrel,” people can envy your success and go out of their way to do things to hold you back. While this is depressing and aggravating, it should not keep you from striving to move forward in your life, so regain your focus and learn how to climb out of the barrel in spite of all the claws that may be snapping at you.

  • Don’t Become Obsessed With Competitors

You need to keep your eye on rivals, but don’t let yourself become preoccupied with them. You know they’re up to no good and there may be a sneak attack around the corner, but try not to spend every waking moment worrying about this. Since you’re probably not as devious and plotting as your competitors, it’s hard to anticipate what they may do next, so expect something, but wait until it plays out before giving it any real attention. Becoming obsessed with rivals and what they’re doing is a real energy drain and takes its greatest toll on you. It’s your concentration that will suffer and your sleep that will be lost, so conserve your resources so you can stay on top of your game. Competition is a fact of life, keeps you sharp and, though some don’t play fairly because of their own feelings of inadequacy, you can still win.

  • Remember Where You’re Headed

It’s easy to get off track and to become sidelined by the antics of people who are trying to prevent you from getting ahead. But, it’s essential for you to remember where you’re going. You can’t get there if you lose sight of where you’re headed, so keep the goal clearly in your sight. Most importantly, get a concrete grasp of the skills, attitudes, and behaviors necessary to take on the new job or assignment you’re interested in. Make sure that you’ve done your homework and that you’re actively preparing yourself to successfully handle the new responsibilities if an opportunity becomes available. Carefully study those who already occupy these positions so that you understand what has made them successful. “Adopt” them as mentors by observing and reading about them from afar if you’re not fortunate enough to have direct contact with them. You must have a very clear roadmap of where you’re trying to get to if you intend to make it there.

  • But, Keep Your Plans to Yourself

While it’s essential for you to know where you’re headed, you don’t have to broadcast it to the whole world. Be selective and strategic with whom you discuss your plans. Sometimes crabs have so much to work with because you’re talking too much about the next job you’re applying for or the next perk you’re going after. Keep this to yourself. Avoid the break room or the coffee klatch altogether if you’re such a talker that you can’t help yourself. Get into therapy if you must. Only those who are devoted to your advancement have a need to know, and if one of them turns out to be a crab in disguise – you’ll learn from this and will know better next time.

  • Get Better at Playing Office Politics

You can’t be naïve about the need to play office politics. Yes, you were raised to believe that if you worked hard you would be rewarded with recognition and promotions, but it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes people advance for reasons other than the quality of the job they’re doing and you have to understand the rules that underlie advancement in your workplace. If advancement requires volunteering to work on the company family day or quality improvement committee, then be the first to sign up. If it means making your boss’s life easier by staying late to ensure the on-time completion of a critical project, then make arrangements in your personal life so that you are free to pitch in. Don’t get bogged down in resentment that some people are getting ahead by unfair means. That’s the way it is and you have to learn to deal with this. Master the game and play to win.

  • Document Your Successes and Let People Know About Them

The “crabs” around you can’t make you look bad if you document your successes and ensure that others know about them. Many people have difficulty tooting their own horn because we’re taught not to brag and show off, but management can’t extol your virtues and reward you for them if they’re not aware of all the great things you’re doing. Those in all industries are stretched so thin these days that they hardly have time to keep up with what they have to do each day. Unfortunately, many don’t have much time to reflect upon the positive things that may be going on around them. So, let them know. They are likely to be most impressed with accomplishments that add to the financial bottom line and contribute to company prosperity and success in meeting contractual objectives. Tell them how your work is making this possible, as well as anything else that is perceived of value in your company. Whether you like it or not, you have to stick with those activities and accomplishments that matter in your workplace, not those that you may enjoy but that do not add value to your organization – in management’s opinion.

  • Cultivate Your Success Entourage

Just as celebrities have fans, you have a fan club too as a part of your Success Entourage –your success team that helps you get ahead in life. There are many “fans” around you who are rooting for your success and who are more than happy to praise you and your accomplishments. They may be coworkers, superiors, customers, even friends and family members. This helps to counter the crabs who are trying to put you down. Think about the people who are most interested in what you’re doing both inside and outside your organization. Let them know about your triumphs and give them permission to tell others about them too. Spheres of influence outside your company can have a very positive impact, so cultivate relationships and add these movers and shakers to your Success Entourage.

  • You Have the Power to Win

It is possible to defeat the crabs in the barrel who strive to keep you down. Keep your focus, remember where you’re headed, and keep doing those things that have gotten you this far in life. Don’t be daunted and subdued by the crabs. You’re a winner, so keep climbing up until you reach the top!

About the Author:

Dr. E. Carol Webster is a clinical psychologist consultant in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
She is author of the book for those dealing with the stress of success ―
Success Management: How to Get to the Top and Keep Your Sanity Once You Get There,

The Fear of Success: Stop It From Stopping You! ―
the book to help you overcome fears that may be holding you back in your life and career
The Private Practice of Clinical Psychology in: Voices of Historical & Contemporary Black American Pioneers
To contact Dr. Webster visit online at or call 954.797.9766.

E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychology Consulting
Mailing Address: 7027 West Broward Boulevard, #262  Fort Lauderdale, FL 33317

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