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Identifying the Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

Beware of these traits among colleagues in the workplace.

We all have that one person at work who comes in every day with a different mask on, and we never know who or what to expect. These individuals are sometimes called fake or phony, but I prefer to identify them as wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Wikipedia  identifies wolves in sheep’s clothing as “an idiom of biblical origin used to describe those playing a role contrary to their real character with whom contact is dangerous, particularly false teachers. Much later, the idiom has been applied by zoologists to varying kinds of predatory behavior.”

Some common traits of the wolves in sheep’s clothing:

  • They come across as very narcissistic, seek power and have a strong sense of themselves. They come first and are the most important and need to be in control.
  • They lack empathy or a sense of caring and do not put other’s feelings first.
  • They act differently when around you and others — they wear many masks (e.g., two-faced, phony, fake).
  • They have a strong sense of entitlement as well as a strong desire to be recognized and praised — needing the spotlight and feeling superior to others.
  • They may “stab you in the back” and then turn it around like they are the victim — needing confirmation/ validation.

The wolves in sheep’s clothing can be covert or overt narcissists, and they can suck the life and energy out of the office and those they work with. You can effectively deal with these individuals by doing the following:

  • Determine how important the person is to you. Are they important enough to invest any more time or energy in/on?
  • Determine if the person is crying out for help. Is outside professional assistance needed?
  • Stop giving them any power. Step up, speak out and address the issue head-on if you are able to and to take away their power.
  • Set clear and well-defined boundaries, if possible, and insist on immediate action — seeking results, not empty or broken promises.

Remember, above all else, your mental well-being is important, and you need to take care of our own needs first. If you find you are unsuccessful in dealing with the wolves in sheep’s clothing, you should seek out professional help through your human resources department, supervisor or someone who is better equipped to handle such toxic situations.

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