Leadership Series: Crab Mentality

In the Philippines, we have a saying that you should not have a Crab Mentality.

Have you ever seen crabs in a barrel? 

Everyone wants to escape to avoid being eaten, but every time someone gets a leg up, the rest of the crabs in the barrel pull that crab down, until everyone gets eaten.

Crab mentality.jpg

Filipinos are known for their crab mentality.

Mostly because of jealousy of the other, if your friend is successful, instead of feeling happy for that person’s success, Filipinos cannot help but feel bad. Consequently, instead of helping that other people be more successful, we pull that person down. The mindeset is, if you can’t be successful, nobody else can.

One of my supervisors Bianca* is like that — For Bianca, if other supervisors are performing well, they are favored by the boss. So she sulks when Annie performs well, even though Annie’s good performance is well deserved. Annie’s success makes Karen feel inadequate, so Karen cannot help but treat Annie badly.

When I hired a new supervisor, Bianca told Annie in a passive aggressive manner, “Maybe the boss hired her to replace you” even though that was not the plan.

When I praise Annie for her good work, Bianca retorts that it’s because Annie’s area was good and her staff was made of good sort, while Bianca’s staff are mostly newbies and still need training.

Aren’t you supposed to be the one to train your staff to perform?” I retorted after hearing this lousy excuse. “What’s more, you have been handling your area for years, while Annie is new. Of all people, you should have developed your area by now.”

I think BIanca is jealous of Annie because Annie is performing better, as if Annie’s performance has anything to do with Bianca’s.

By nature of their work, everyone handles their own store, staff and area. Hence, if Bianca does well, it’s because of Bianca’s efforts and not because of Annie, and vice versa.

This is the Crab Mentality I am talking about.

Instead of everyone helping each other out towards a common goal, they bring each other down, because they don’t want people to succeed over their own.


Look, life is NOT a zero sum game. Everyone can succeed in their own way.

Bianca is one of the more senior supervisors in our young company. However, she is acting very immaturely by dragging other people down.

Instead of Bianca supporting Annie, she is trying to demoralize Annie to make herself feel better. Instead of Bianca acting more mature and being the leader amongst her fellow supervisors, she is acting like a child.

Give me good Bianca, instead of bad Bianca,” I told her today. I don’t like it when my more senior supervisors act like entitled brats who can’t be challenged when other people are better for them.

You know the ironic thing was?

If Bianca supported the junior supervisors, she would be better respected and recognized for her contribution. Instead of being bitter about other people’s success, Bianca will be more respected by her peers and be seen as a capable leader.

My advice?

Don’t be a Bianca.

Help your peers succeed. The world is big enough for everyone to succeed. And you get more things done in the first place if you help each other.


*Name changed for anonymity

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4 thoughts on “Leadership Series: Crab Mentality

  1. i agree. cancer talaga sa society ang crab mentality. the world would be better if we just support each other right?

    1. I told my staff, why do you guys care about ranking. Excellence is not limited to one. Pwede naman lahat magaling, diba?

  2. It is such a sad reality, but crab mentality does exist where ever we go. I guess it always starts at the heart of every family when some children in the family are favored than the others and jealousy tends to build up.

  3. Because of crab mentality very few Filipinos who live in my country (Italy) set up a business kahit ang mga Pilipino ay mahigit 50000 dito lang sa Roma. Malaking hadlang sa pagsulong ang nasty mentality na iyan

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