Dealing with Crab Mentality in the Workplace


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In psychology, the term, ‘The Crab Mentality’ is used to illustrate the selfish, harmful, and jealous mindset of people who will constantly try to undermine and halt the progress of better-performing people in a group. 

There’s a story behind the origin of this term. A man once sat on a fishing dock and observed a bunch of live crabs in a bucket. Every now and then, a crab would crawl up in an effort to reach the top and escape. And each time it almost made closer to the top, a crab from below would reach up and pull it all the way to the bottom. Again, another crab would try to climb out, and again, another crab from the bottom would pull it back down. While a crab can easily escape when placed alone in a bucket, when placed with other crabs, they will pull them back to their misery and the group’s collective device.

Likewise, in the workplace, crab mentality manifests in people who wish for the downfall of others who are succeeding. This kind of mentality is extremely toxic in the workplace and you need to be very conscious of such people as they can easily trip you up and your career.

The crab mentality is very common in the workplace but there are different ways to treat people with such mentality. As a leader, recognizing crab mentality is the first step to addressing it. If you find any evidence of this phenomenon on your team, try chasing the problem to its root. Try to identify the culprit and talk to them confidently one on one and try to get to the bottom of the issue.

With your authority as a leader, you can rearrange or split team works and use all the tactics and make it clear to your team that crab mentality won’t be tolerated in the workplace. Try to help your team members see the big picture and make clear that success isn’t a zero-sum game where a person winning doesn’t mean that someone else has to lose. Set an example by recognizing and calling out others’ successes and showing that you’re happy for them while addressing shortcomings in private, one on one.

The main problem with crab mentality is people don’t take responsibility for their own life. Instead of making necessary changes in their own life to succeed, the people with crab mentality try to bring others down and avoid any self-development, thus ensuring the demise of the collective. 

We are all adults and responsible for our own choices we make and make the best out of life, whether it is education, money, career, money, or opportunities it is up to us to make those changes. Being jealous is normal, but to use that negatively or positively is upon us.

There are many leadership development programs that help leaders recognize systematic problems like crab mentality and help leaders develop techniques to deal with them. The leadership program can also help leaders address issues like awareness of corporate culture and how to identify corporate problems before they can grow and become unwieldy.

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