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Cain and Abel at Work

How to Overcome Office Politics and the People Who Stand Between You and Success

Cain and Abel at Work by Gerry Lange
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Do you know a Cain at work?

The back-stabbing liar who steals credit for your ideas...

The a**-kissing co-worker who worries about "face time" while you stay late working hard...

The gossipy colleague who spreads rumors just to create drama in the office.

If any of these people sound familiar, watch out: a Cain is lurking, ready to sabotage your job, your promotion, and even your reputation at work.

Written by two veteran media and political strategists, Cain and Abel at Work will help you survive the ultimate political arena—the office—and prepare you for the real-world interpersonal dynamics they don't teach you in business school.

In the Old Testament story that serves as the beginning metaphor for this book, backstabbing Cain kills the honorable Abel out of jealousy, and despite being punished with banishment, he goes on to marry, have a son, and build a city around him. All of a sudden, Cain gets to be a father, real estate developer, and probably the first politician of his day, while Abel's life is over in a flash. Authors Gerry Lange and Todd Domke have discovered that this type of injustice is still alive and well in the modern competitive workplace. Together, they have decades of personal experience and first-hand encounters with scheming, calculating Cains, and now they're giving readers an invaluable guide for coping with and combating Cain at work.

Using real-life case studies to illustrate how Cains operate, Cain and Abel at Work will teach you how to:

Identify the Cains before they make you their victim

Recognize the tactics Cains use to gain status and power

Win out over Cains without stooping to their level

With compelling new insight into human behavior and competition developed from the authors' experience in the political, media, and business arenas, Cain and Abel at Work explains what motivates both Cains and Abels at work. Not only does this book explore and deplore the behavior of Cains, it also explains how the simple naïveté of Abels allows Cains to get away with their shenanigans.

If anyone has ever stolen an idea from you or grabbed credit for your work, if they've taken advantage of or walked all over you, you need this book. Cain and Abel at Work is an office survival guide no well-intentioned Abel should be without.

From the Hardcover edition.
The Crown Publishing Group; September 2001
240 pages; ISBN 9780767908894
Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: Cain and Abel at Work
Author: Gerry Lange; Todd Domke

Why Good Things Happen to Bad People

The Bible tells us that Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain, jealous because God seemed to favor his brother, "rose up against Abel . . . and slew him." As punishment, God banished Cain, so Cain "went out from the presence of the LORD and dwelt in the land of Nod on the East of Eden" where he married and had a son, Enoch.

The moral of the Cain and Abel story seems to be that evil will be discovered and punished. But that's not entirely convincing. After all, Abel was dead, but Cain survived. He not only survived but seems to have done pretty well for himself. He courted and caught a wife and had a son—a nice, supportive, traditional nuclear family—and he also "built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch."

So, it turns out that Cain was the first real estate developer, the Donald Trump of his time. And since Cain built a city and had the power to name it, we might also assume he ended up mayor of Enoch, making him also the first politician.

This unholy coalescing of business and politics by the Cains of this world is something that we have had ample opportunity to observe in our many years of experience in both fields. Over time, it has led us to ask a few simple questions about the way the world works—not how the world ought to work, not how religion and schools and motivational philosophies teach us the world should work, but how it all too often really works. Many business books have described what people do right to succeed; this book is about what people do wrong to succeed.

We use the names of the Old Testament characters Cain and Abel as a metaphor for the ongoing battle between cunning (Cain) and ability (Abel) in today’s workplace. But make no mistake: What we are talking about is no mere metaphor. There are real Cains in “the real world.” And, by the way, although we refer to Cains and Abels with only masculine pronouns—instead of saying “he or she” all the time—obviously we’re talking about both sexes.


Cains operate in every kind of organization—corporate, political, academic, military, even charitable. This book will help you spot these manipulative coworkers at an early stage—hopefully, before they can corner you, con you, and make your life miserable.

This is a book about the politics of business and the business of politics--a set of observations about how people often get ahead in the real world. From these observations we have abstracted the principles that explain why Cains often succeed, all too frequently at Abels' expense.

Why is it that many intelligent, hardworking people of ability don't get ahead faster? What is it that these Abels fail to understand about the world of business and politics? Why do some people of bad character and less ability succeed so well? What tactics do these Cains employ to slay Abels in the everyday world of business, politics, academia, and other pursuits?

In short, why do good things happen to bad people?

This book tries to answer that question.

For all the Abels of this world (and that is probably you), it is critical to understand who Cain is, how he operates, and why he is so often successful. And it is just as critical for Abel to understand himself—to recognize the qualities in himself that make him vulnerable to Cain's tactics.

You may not think of yourself as a naive innocent in competition with cunning rivals, but if you are concentrating on your work while a Cain is focused on promoting himself at your expense, you are vulnerable to his conniving gamesmanship.

Cain is a backstabber and a liar. He is a self-involved, manipulative, and ruthless individual. He aims to control people and situations for his own advantage and advancement, using a variety of tactics to accomplish his goals. Almost everyone has run across and been victimized by a Cain in the workplace. Sometimes, we recognize (usually too late) what Cain is up to, but much of the time Cain's maneuvering and manipulation are so skillful and subtle that they go unnoticed. Cain can be charming, and his tactics—stealing credit, placing blame, lying in many different ways—can be hard to detect. Because of this, Abel can be victimized without quite knowing how or by whom.

Abel feels at a disadvantage in office politics because he isn't a master of the game. Cain and Abel at Work gives Abel the information and insights to spot a Cain early on. Also, it will help any Abel become more aware of how his own trusting instincts can put him at risk of falling for the traps set by Cain. Recognizing and understanding Cain's behavior and Abel's own vulnerability are the keys to avoiding harmful, even career-ending mistakes. They are the keys to avoid becoming Cain's next victim.

So, this book serves as a warning, and warnings can be invaluable: Forewarned is forearmed. But it is more than just a warning. Cain and Abel at Work also gives you practical answers to questions like:

How can I avoid confrontations with a Cain?

What should I do if a Cain tries to steal credit that I deserve?

When and how should I take action against a Cain?


This book has five parts to it.

First, we answer the question: Who is Cain? We reveal the lies Cain tells, his lack of conscience, his consuming ambition, his drive for power, his bag of tricks, and his destructive greed.

Second, we consider How to Spot Cain's Cons. We focus on how he uses language (both spoken and written) and images to deceive people.

Third, we explore Why Abel Is at Risk of being exploited by Cain. We explain why Abel's upbringing and education do not truly prepare him to compete with a scheming Cain; how, in some ways, they actually mislead him about the true nature of a competitive world.

Fourth, in Understanding Cain, we look carefully at Cain and Abel in action, and we let three professional therapists offer different perspectives on why Cain is so self-serving.

Fifth, and finally, we examine How to Cope with Cains, and we describe twenty-seven keys for identifying and combatting Cain and his tactics. These keys can give Abel the knowledge and self-confidence to deal successfully with Cain's maneuverings. With the insights gained from this book, Abel can win a battle of survival with Cain without compromising himself. If you are an Abel yourself, then (to paraphrase the Ghost of Christmas Present in Dickens' A Christmas Carol) learn these lessons and learn them well. After all, if Abel had been watching his back, Cain might not have been able to sneak up and stab him in it.


Throughout the book, true-life examples are used to illustrate Cain's tactics. Many readers will find these stories all too familiar. Names, ages, gender, and other specifics have been altered in order to protect the sources from Cain's wrath, but the essential facts of the examples remain faithful in spirit.

At times in reading these case studies you will see a little more of yourself in the Cain character than in the Abel one. Does this mean you are a Cain? Not really. The fact is, there is some of Abel and Cain in all of us—the overweening ambition of Cain warring for dominance with the altruistic innocence of Abel. Few of us are 100 percent angel or 100 percent devil. When we call someone a "Cain" we are talking about someone within whom the Cain part dominates the Abel part, someone within whom corruption outweighs conscience. These individuals are few in number, but their influence and the harm they can do to others is too great to ignore.

So, as the song says, let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start, by asking the question: Just who is this Cain? What is he like? What motivates him? How does he operate? And how can he live with himself?

From the Hardcover edition.