Remember Shakespeare’s Othello? Iago is envious of Cassio, who has recently been appointed as Othello’s lieutenant. Iago then plants “evidence” of an affair between Cassio and Othello’s love, Desdemona. In the end, people get killed, suicides occur, and the plot is exposed. Your basic Shakespearean tragedy, as it were.
From the start, Iago tries to convince the audience that he loves Othello. So it is of this saga that I am reminded as I enter into a meeting with “Lt. Iago”. His need for a meeting revolves around his concern about how personnel might be losing respect for “Lt. Cassio”. Of course, Iago brings this situation to MY attention because he is “genuinely worried for him”. To say I am skeptical would be a gross understatement.
While Lt. Iago’s discussion has ever the slightest hint of merit, I sense the underlying reason for the issue being brought up in the first place: envy. Iago wants to be in that rock star category like Cassio is. Iago doesn’t have any hope of this because people don’t like to work with him. You want to know the reason why? Because of moments like these. If you screw up, it’s not a learning moment, it’s a chance for Iago to prove how good he is and what a dumbass you are.
You see, Iago is a star performer in his own right. He’s smart and driven. Although ambition is a good thing, stomping on the fingers of everyone you are climbing over doesn’t earn you any sympathy when you fall. Occasionally even, someone reaches up and yanks you down as well. Iago simply doesn’t know when to rely on his own record of accomplishments rather than to resort to innuendo and plotting. Iago, hero to us all, brings the problem forth in the name of “upholding our high standards”. While I have much bigger issues to worry about, Iago has saved the day from the trivial. His subtlety is truck-like in its dimensions.
Envy is characterized as a resentment of circumstances, an emotional and behavioral response toward a perceived relational threat. Jealousy and envy have over the ages gone hand in hand. Often, the words describing the two feelings are interchangeable. But while jealousy is a protective reaction to a perceived threat (to a valued relationship), envy is better characterized as ill will toward someone who has something the other wants, but feels that because of unfair circumstances, they do not have. Thus, Iago and Cassio.
Iago wants what Cassio has; respect. Cassio has respect from the masses because he is hard working, dedicated, and knowledgeable. Cassio also has his own issues, but he addresses his issues and deals with them. Faced with issues, Iago assumes that everyone else is an idiot. Cassio solves problems; Iago points out the weaknesses of others. Of course, I could fall prey to the temptation to tell Iago, “Hey look, Cassio has problems too”. I would hope you realize this isn’t a good idea, even though it could illustrate that yes, on the face of it Cassio is a superstar, but we all have our own issues.
How do you deal with someone like this? The first order of business is to not give in to it. While you must listen yet filter out the crap, the time that is spent listening to Iago is worthless from the standpoint of convincing him to get with the program. He needs to get re-focused on doing what he is good at and spend less time worrying about what everyone else is doing.
If Iago is simply venting, it is one thing, but if he is actively spreading rumors or creating problems, as the supervisor it is imperative to deal with facts and to get the rumors out of play. Short of keeping Iago at arm’s length, I don’t know what else you can do other than to watch out for him. Today it’s Cassio, tomorrow it could be you. Unless you’re like me and wouldn’t mind going back to the truck company, it’s hard to maintain objectivity when you know someone is gunning for you, especially someone like this.
My best advice, don’t be like this person and stand clear of anyone like him. Always treat them fairly, but suspiciously. Never give them an opportunity to stick it to you, no matter how tempted you might be. Iago isn’t your drinking buddy, he is a man of opportunity. If you provide the moment, don’t be surprised if your chip gets cashed unexpectedly and you’re left holding the bag.