Do you have splitters in your midst? If so, you probably aren't aware of them. Splitters are especially insidious because they are smart and often very personable. They seem so congenial and helpful. They always want to be your best friend and watch your back.

Like your own personal CIA, they often have private information that they will share with you, and only you, to make sure you are not blindsided by "the evil ones."

They use innuendo, emotional bribery, mixed messages, and gossip to eventually get you to be their puppet.

Once trapped, you're not easily released.

Splitters need you. Underneath, they're insecure and unsure of their skills, especially in how they handle relationships. The business environment is fertile ground for splitters because, in most companies, emotional openness is often seen as a sign of weakness.

Jan had a meeting with her boss, and before they were done, the boss pulled out an email and held it over the wastebasket. She smiled that covert smile of splitters and said "I am not sure I should show this to you. I don't agree with what the new HR business partner says here, and yet, if you want to see it, you may find it very revealing."

Of course Jan was curious, who wouldn't be? Jan spent several minutes studying the piece of paper with a scowl on her face. There were some complaints about Jan being too direct and impatient. Nothing that was disastrous and couldn't be handled in an open environment. Then she handed it back to her boss, who threw it in the wastebasket and said, "Now, this stays between us. Don't let HR know I showed it to you. I am here to protect you."

Creating tactical alliances.

Splitters, as the above example shows, love to feel important and to keep people from talking to each other openly. Serious interpersonal problems arise because, while you are busy creating tactical alliances to save your job and reputation, the splitter is talking out of the other side of his or her mouth.

In the above situation, the boss then went to the HR business partner and slyly mentioned that Jan was really upset and felt she was being ignored. This was communicated without telling HR she showed Jan the email. To add salt to the stew, the boss suggested to HR that it was not good to bring this up with Jan, she would handle it herself.

By the time the toxic splitter had done her work, Jan and the HR specialist would walk past each other with very icy nods of the head. The mistrust often spins out of control and camps can begin to form. For Jan and against Jan, because sooner or later she will break the silence to find out what is really going on.

Often, the rifts cannot be healed and relationships are permanently ruined. Usually one or the other in this toxic mix is fired or leaves, never knowing what really happened.

Be prepared.

When someone says, "Don't tell anyone about this"--be wary.

When someone says, "I have your back"--start looking for the knife in his hand.

When someone says, "I only have your best interest in mind"--don't accept this as fact.

When someone says, "I will take care of this for you"--stop her before she goes any further.

When someone says, "I know the right people to talk with"--ask him to stay out of it.

Just know that splitters are the most toxic of all types of bosses, and their venom can damage you if you are not listening and staying strong.

Think of how nature works. "'Come into my web,' said the spider to the fly" is an invitation that has cost many flies their lives.

Stay vigilant and ask questions. Don't buy into the collusion of whispers and lies. If you think you are being pitted against someone else, go to the source. Help to create an open work environment, where conflicts and tough issues are dealt with overtly.

Be the one who says, "It will stop with me."