Beware of Crab Mentality in the Workplace

Crab Mentality

The crab mentality can best be summed up by the phrase “If I can’t have it, neither can you.” The term comes from the fact that when you have live crabs in a bucket, and a crab tries to climb out and escape, the other crabs will pull it back down. The crabs seem to prefer collective demise to one crab being successful.

In this sense, the crab mentality refers to the human tendency to wish for the downfall of others who are succeeding in some way. This kind of mentality can prove extremely toxic in the workplace. It’s important to be conscious of people who have a crab mentality, as they can trip you up when it comes to your career.

The Crab Mentality in the Workplace

In the workplace, the crab mentality rears its ugly head when people try to chip away at the self-confidence of any colleague who is achieving more success than other colleagues. They may make cynical, judgemental, snide, or belittling remarks about others’ success, usually out of spite, resentment, or envy. People do this even though it can lead to a collective demise in the workplace. A team isn’t going to achieve collective success if all its members are dragging each other down.

Crab Mentality Workplace

The neuroscientist Tara Swart states:

So if we see a crab escaping, I guess which is like someone getting a promotion, that makes us think that we’re not favored or we’re not successful, and it stimulates this fear of change […] as the other crab that makes us feel fear, shame, disgust, sadness and even anger.

The crab mentality is often borne out of people’s personal insecurities about their own careers. Someone may feel stuck, miserable, or unfulfilled in their job. Their job may also be a source of low self-esteem. These unpleasant feelings can be heightened when another person they know is successful and happy in their career. So in an attempt to feel better about themselves, the person who is miserable in their job will try to diminish the other person’s success or character in any way they can.

How to Deal with People Who Have a Crab Mentality

The crab mentality is common, but you don’t have to fall prey to it. There are different ways you can deal with people who have a crab mentality. First of all, recognize the crab mentality when it arises. It’s vital to notice when someone is trying to aid your career success or hinder it. If you take every negative comment about yourself and your success as truth, then this can sow the seeds of self doubt and sabotage your career success.

Also, do your best to avoid or ignore people with a crab mentality. But if avoiding or ignoring them proves difficult, then be friendly with them. This can be extremely challenging, of course. However, by treating them well, you can show them that you’re not deserving of all the hate. By understanding and forgiving their mentality, they may change their mindset and the way they interact with you.

Crab Mentality People

Another key step to take is to surround yourself with people who wish for your success and motivate you to do better. This will help you to stay positive and focused, even when you encounter people who try to pull you down.

We’re all susceptible to the crab mentality, so if you ever feel that you want others to fail in their career, realize that this is due to your own issues that need resolving. The failure of others won’t help you succeed. And it certainly won’t help a company as a whole to grow. This is why we need to be mindful of the crab mentality and challenge it. We would all be better off if we could view the success of others as a source of inspiration and motivation, rather than bitterness and low self-esteem.

Sam Woolfe

Sam Woolfe is a freelance writer with more than 8 years' experience writing and blogging. His main areas of interest include mental health and psychology and using the insights from these fields to better inform his writing on productivity. You can find more of his work at