How to Deal With a Coworker Who Undermines You

Working with others can be fun and productive until a colleague starts undermining you. It can feel draining and frustrating having to deal with them, and it can affect your overall work performance.

Why would they do such a thing? How do you handle a coworker who seems to be trying to bring you down?

According to experts, these are ways to deal with a coworker who undermines you:

Toni Runci, SHRM-CP, PHR

Toni Runci

Co-Founder and Co-Owner, BlueLion

Whether you’ve worked in an office or remotely, at one point in your life, you may have dealt with the coworker who seemed to make it their job to undermine you.

This can take many shapes, such as:

  • Constantly pointing out your mistakes to others,
  • Interrupting or challenging you during meetings, or even
  • Petty gossip about you personally or your work.

This could drive anyone insane! So, how do you deal with it?

Begin with an open dialogue

The best place to begin is with an open dialogue; ask them if there may be an issue you are unaware of which is causing them to react/behave in this fashion.

Some people may not even be aware they are doing this, and all it takes is an honest discussion to share your feelings and how it impacts your working relationship. If they share that there is an issue in this meeting, you can address it accordingly.

It is essential to remember, however, that people’s perceptions are their reality. If they bring up an instance or an issue that you may not necessarily remember, or agree with their recollection of, arguing with them until you are right will not help the relationship.

Work to resolve the issue

If there was an issue causing this person to react to you negatively, work to resolve it.

Often, in my experience, people want to be heard and acknowledged. If you take the time to listen to your coworker and their feelings, they should be more open to listening to yours and responding to you with the same respect and compassion.

If, for some reason, the issue cannot be resolved, bring in another nonbiased party, a manager, or human resources.

Set boundaries and expectations

If there was an issue, and you’ve resolved it, you’re in the home stretch. You need to set boundaries and expectations for your working relationship moving forward.

Too often, we walk around life believing everyone knows where our boundaries are and what we feel is and is not appropriate, and this is rarely true. Now is the time to discuss how you two will work together moving forward.

Discuss what you each will do if you disagree on something in a meeting.

Share how you want to have mistakes brought to your attention. Agree that neither of you will gossip or speak negatively behind one another’s back.

Move forward and build a relationship

Once you have cleared the air, if there was any air to clear, and have set boundaries, you are ready to move forward. Now is the time to work on building the relationship since you had to tear down the old one.

When the expectations you set are being met, give “kudos” or some form of verbal acknowledgment to that person. As simple as “Thank you for bringing this issue to my attention in private, let me work on it, and we can re-review.”

This reinforces the expectations and provides positive feedback that what was outlined is appreciated and working. The same type of follow-up should happen if the expectations are not being met.

Communicate after the fact, but immediately after if that person undermined you.

It could sound like this:

“In the meeting, you interrupted me several times before I was finished, and I was unable to complete my thought or share my final ideas. You may not have noticed you were doing it, so I wanted to check in quick and discuss.”

If you address both positives and negatives in the same respectful, direct manner, this will create more open conversations and trust between you and the coworker.

If nothing worked, another party needs to get involved to manage the issue

There’s no use in pretending that each time we use this process, we will have 100% success.

Sometimes we work with difficult people with no self-awareness. If this is the person you are working with, bring the issue up to your manager or human resources.

If you have made an attempt to solve this issue professionally, and are getting nowhere, do not spin your wheels. Another party needs to get involved and this performance in a different way, a way that does not reflect poorly on you!

Related: How to Deal with A Difficult Coworker

Magda Klimkiewicz

Magda Klimkiewicz

Senior HR Business Partner, Zety

Have you had your achievements belittled by your coworker? Have you been overlooked purposefully during a meeting or call? Had jokes been thrown around at your expense?

There are various ways a coworker can undermine you.

To properly deal with these unpleasant, distressing experiences and address them, you need to realize the psychology behind these behaviors.

Know the psychology behind it, but never justify toxic actions

Someone who tries to belittle your authority in front of others is usually very insecure. The root of the insecurity may vary. It can be due to the fact they feel inferior to you and your abilities. Or because they’re trying to divert attention from their own performance at work.

Related: Why Are People Insecure?

It might also be jealousy. Apart from insecurity, such toxic behaviors can come from a place of hatred or discrimination.

You will never know the actual underlying cause behind their toxicity, but knowing possible reasons may help you feel more in control and prevent the internalization of the issue.

This gets us to the next point.

It’s not you; it’s them

When someone undermines you every now and then, it can make you believe you are as worthless as they’re trying to make you feel.

Remember, you’re not.

This is typical gaslighting; you should remind yourself every time it happens or if you ever question yourself as a result.

You can feel upset, angry, or anxious. But after feeling your feelings, you need to set the record straight and be aware that they’re the toxic actor. After all, you don’t deserve to be treated like that, especially in the workplace.

Related: How to Deal With Coworkers Who Don’t Like You

Act on it: Lessen the number of interactions or control the information you give them

Out of the following solutions, choose whichever feels right to you. You can address the issue directly to them. Keep the conversation professional, and don’t let yourself be provoked.

Let them know about their behavior, that you believe it’s toxic and unnecessary and that you will not be tolerating this in the workplace. You can be more or less direct, depending on your preferred type of communication.

Lessening the number of interactions or controlling the information you give them may also be a part of the solution.

However, that’s not always possible to implement. If talking to them doesn’t work and the undermining keeps happening, bring the issue to your team leader and, if necessary, scale up to HR.

It’s in everyone’s interest to have a workplace free of toxicity as that impacts not only employee well-being but also teamwork, communication, and thus productivity.

Related: Effective Communication: How to Improve Your Communication Skills

Lattice Hudson

Lattice Hudson

Leadership Mentor and Business Coach | Founder, Lattice & Co

Depending on their conduct, it may be wise to let your coworker determine their fate

Ignoring your coworker’s criticism may appear to be the last thing a responsible and devoted individual should do. However, depending on the individual’s conduct, it may be wise to let your coworker determine her fate.

You should not allow yourself to become obsessed with your coworker’s poor work ethics to the point that it interferes with your job.

In other cases, it’s more vital to concentrate on your performance and ensure that you’re doing a good job unless your coworker’s conduct interferes with your work. Eventually, your boss or someone else will notice—and hopefully confront—the colleague’s conduct.

While you may occasionally share personal details with coworkers, it is preferable to avoid doing so with a critical and potentially jealous coworker.

Related: 16 Signs Your Coworkers Are Intimidated by You

Fellow employees who undermine you are always on the hunt for personal information and gossip that they may use against you.

Avoid talking with others, particularly about coworkers, no matter how tempting it may seem. Even if you believe you can trust specific coworkers, you never know what information will spread through the rumor mill.

However, you should avoid lecturing coworkers on the ills of gossip—you don’t want to come out as pretentious.

Jennifer Patterson

Jennifer Patterson

Owner and HR Consultant, Patterson Consulting Group

Remain calm; be level-headed

It can be incredibly frustrating when you have a coworker that undermines you. This person may try to take your ideas or talk down to you in front of others. It can be difficult to stand up for yourself in this situation, but it is important.

One of the best things you can do is keep a level head. It can be easy to get caught up in the drama and start arguing with this person, but it is important to remain calm.

If you can, try to have a conversation with this coworker outside of work. This will allow you to air your grievances without causing a scene at work.

Documentation can support in resolving the issue

It is also essential to document everything. This includes keeping track of any stolen ideas or instances where this person talks down to you. This documentation will be helpful if you need to speak to a supervisor about the situation.

If this coworker is consistently undermining you, keep a record of it. The documentation may even help resolve the situation.

Build relationships with other colleagues

Finally, try to build relationships with other people at work. These relationships can support you and make dealing with difficult situations like this more manageable.

It can be challenging to deal with a coworker that undermines you, but it is crucial to stand up for yourself. By keeping a level head and documenting everything, you will be better positioned to address the situation.

Related: Building Strong Work Relationships

Julie Friedman

Julie Friedman

Executive Clinical Director, Skyway Behavioral Health

Help them get a perspective by addressing the issue

Addressing the issue directly can prevent the issue from developing further. You can have a private conversation with them and explain how their actions affect you in the workplace. This might help them get a perspective.

Approaching them to collaborate on a project can help

Slowly try to build a relationship with them by making small talk, showing interest in their hobbies, asking them out for lunch, or bringing them coffee and having a chat. Approaching them to collaborate on a project will help more.

Ignore their behavior and focus on the quality of your work

You can simply ignore their behavior and let your work speak for you. You can ignore the behavior if it’s not affecting your relationship with other colleagues and superiors. Your quality work will speak for itself.

Ask your colleague for clarification whenever they make a joke about your work or question your work publicly. This may make them reflect on what they have said.

Lauren LeMunyan PCC

Lauren LeMunyan

Founder and CEO, Spitfire Coach

You’ve been undermined — maybe your coworker has gone behind your back and taken credit on an idea you thought of, or perhaps they went around you on a project for a client you brought in.

Whatever the cause, your first instinct is probably going to be in one of four categories:

  • fight,
  • flight,
  • freeze, or
  • fawn

In a fight response, you want the world to know how wrong this person was. Whether passively or directly, your actions and behaviors are about exposing the other person to allow your right-ness to emerge.

In flight, you want to avoid conflict. Maybe other people are coming to you and say, “I can’t believe they did that. What are you going to do?” You shrink into yourself and hope that it goes away.

In freeze, you are so shocked at what has just happened that you feel unable to respond. Your jaw hits the floor and stays there for a bit.

And then there’s fawn, where you overcompensate in other areas trying to please people and get positive validation that you’re okay, that you’re good, that you’re enough.

These are the four responses to stress, and when we’ve been undermined, it’s usually what appears first in our body. It’s what we do next that determines how we want things to go.

Here’s what I recommend to my clients:

Take a deep breath and go for a walk. The separation and space will give you perspective and time to respond how you want.

Think of how to communicate with them

At this moment, think of the following questions:

  • What is true?
  • What is most helpful?
  • What is your intent?
  • What did you notice?
  • How do you show kindness?

If you are in a place to speak directly to the person, be clear about what you’re looking to get out of the conversation and how you need to show up to best support it.

Detach from the outcome

Unless it was an honest mistake (which it may be), people would do one of the four reactions to stress when they feel caught.

Most commonly, people will come up with an excuse, deflect or project the blame elsewhere.

So ask yourself what you really need in this situation and what is up to you?

Reflect on the situation

Assuming you didn’t get the recognition or validation you wanted, what can you learn about yourself in this situation or dynamic?

  • Where could you be more visible or direct?
  • Where can you be more proactive with clients?
  • Where can you set and maintain better boundaries?
  • Where can we be clearer in assigning roles and responsibilities?

The best way to not get your buttons pushed is to heal the wounds that sit under the button. Think about what is getting brought up about this person and what in you needs to be recognized or taken care of.

I’ve seen in plenty of clients and myself that when I’m most aggravated, it’s usually because the other person demonstrates something I wish I could do or have.

Phillip Kane

Phillip Kane

CEO and Managing Partner, Grace Ocean, LLC | Author, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership

Confrontation: The only permanent solution to stop them from undermining you

An underminer is no different from any other sort of bully.

When dealing with a bully, one can choose, like in their schoolyard days:

  • To take the long way to class, going to unnatural lengths to avoid any contact with the fiend.
  • To surrender your lunch money and pay the thug off.
  • To tattle to the principal, or to,
  • Finally, confront the bully directly—literally or figuratively bopping them on the nose.

Only one of these choices is a permanent solution. To end a bully’s reign of terror, one must confront them directly.

Ask for a written commitment stating their behavior will stop immediately

If an associate is undermining you, first arrange to meet them. Bring a witness. Begin by making it clear that you are aware of their behavior. Describe it in detail.

Next, ask them what it is that you are doing to cause them to behave toward you with such hostility. (Assume there is nothing.) If there is something reasonable, commit to fixing it under the condition that if or when you do, the associate’s hostility will cease.

On the other hand, if you confirm that there is nothing you are doing to warrant their behavior, ask for a commitment that their behavior will stop immediately since you are doing nothing to provoke their inappropriate behavior. Ask them to agree to it in writing.

Make certain that they understand that their behavior has a negative cost to the organization and that further instances will result in the next phase of disciplinary action.

Remind them you have to work together to accomplish the business’s goals

Moreover, confirm to them your desire to have a productive working relationship with them and work together with them to accomplish the business’s goals.

Confirm your excitement for what the team is working to accomplish, and share your hope that they can be as excited as you are.

Ask them to inform you when they feel they cannot be as excited as you and the rest of the team about what the team is endeavoring to do and commit that you will thereupon, and without delay, find them a place where they can be happy.

Reiterate to them that bullies have no place on your team and thank them in advance for no more acting like one.

By confronting an underminer, they will almost always back down; but almost always not until you do.

Monica Chan

Monica Chan

Co-Founder, DigiWorks

The best thing to do is to understand their behavior towards you

In years of managing the remote teams of our company, I understand that conflict is bound to happen in any workplace.

I believe that our team is made up of amazing people who solidify our workplace bond and build an inclusive environment inside our work.

Here is a guideline on how our employees deal with workplace conflict.

Understand the situation

The best thing to do is to understand their behavior toward you. There is usually a reason why someone acts harshly against you, so reflecting on your past action is a good step to start with.

If you are new, try to check if you have already communicated with them outside work and ensure that you did not snob any of their messages.

However, if you have been working remotely for quite some time and experience a sudden change in their attitude towards you, then check if you said something that might have offended them.

It is also best if you can analyze their actions and words and see if you are just overreacting or overthinking their actions. If you think you didn’t do anything that might have caused their attitude, try to think outside the box.

Perhaps, you can self-reflect and see if your tone might have come across wrongly, which caused them to be disgruntled.

There might also be instances when an employee is naturally cold and straightforward, so try to communicate with the other employees as well.

Here are some example situations to know that a coworker is undermining you:

  1. They provide negative feedback or harsh comments towards you even if there really are no genuine problems with your work.
  2. They gossip fake and harmful information about you with other workers.
  3. They place the blame on you even if you don’t have anything to do with the problem.
  4. They’re trying to act as if they’re your boss and assert authority.
  5. They make you feel uncomfortable in your workplace.
  6. They held back necessary information to sabotage your work.
  7. They only talk nicely to you in the presence of your supervisor.
  8. They disregard your achievements.

Communicate with them

To ensure that your thoughts or misunderstanding does not just cause the problem, try to open more space for communication.

You can start by sending them simple messages about their day or asking for advice regarding your work. That will let them know that you trust them and have no problem working with them.

You can also send motivational quotes to increase their productivity and complement their work. This step should already resolve any matter, as long as they cooperate with you and are also open to working for a better relationship.

Remember that communication is significant in the work environment, especially in a remote setting. Things will be a lot more difficult if you solely rely on assumptions.

Give it some time and see if you can work it out by being more open and inclusive of them. If that didn’t work or change their behavior toward you, follow the next step.

Disclose the matter

Try to disclose the problem if you already have an idea or probably still don’t know the cause for their attitude even after contemplating for hours.

  1. Remember that it is best to take this matter in a calm, rational manner.
    • If you are acting out of frustration or anger, it is best to skip this step and talk straight ahead to your manager.
  2. Take note that you are working on building a healthier relationship with your coworkers and not bringing a bigger issue.
  3. If you are ready to communicate with them, you can send them a message requesting a little time to chat regarding the problem.
    • That will ensure that they are also ready to take this matter to light and you are not interfering with their work.
  4. You can list questions you want to ask them that will bring clarity to their action.
    • It is also best to rehearse or make a script to ensure that you are careful with your words.
  5. You can give them a couple of situations.
    • Example: Where they have acted harshly towards you or the time you felt belittled or offended in your workplace.
  6. You can also ask them if you have any unconscious actions that made them uncomfortable that might have rooted their behavior.
    • Most importantly, give your reason and ensure that you have resolved the conflict before the conversation ends.

If they are not being cooperative and continue their ruthless actions and words, continue with the next step.

Address the issue to your supervisor

If they did not change after addressing the issue and still treat you poorly, see if it significantly affects you. Some people are good with this situation and would usually just set it aside.

But, if you think that these actions are affecting your mental and emotional well-being, talk to your supervisor. Give them situations when they made you feel uncomfortable toward a coworker and discuss some possible solutions.

Supervisors will most likely take proper actions in cases like this and include rules to avoid future conflicts.

Give the situation the cold shoulder

This step is optional, but you can also just ignore the situation and focus on the far more important things at work. Not everyone can do this, but this will surely put an end to the problem.

If someone is being harsh towards you with absolutely no valid reason but jealousy, just shrug it off. If they see that you are undaunted by their actions, they would probably get tired and stop.

However, if they are going over the line to significantly affect your performance, talk to your manager.

Craig Miller

Craig Miller

Psychologist and Co-Founder, Academia Labs LLC

Confrontation: My go-to conflict resolution technique

My go-to conflict resolution technique for a coworker who undermines you is confrontation. This conflict resolution allows the two parties to air their grievances face-to-face, and once that is done, analysis and assessment of what the issue is about will lead to coming up with solutions that will solve it.

The benefit of this is all issues are dealt with once and for all, so they will no longer affect the team and the working condition of the company.

I remember two of my employees had a problem with task delegation before, with one feeling overwhelmed with her tasks and comparing it to the other employee whom she thinks is not working as much as her but has a higher salary than her.

It produced a slew of negative experiences and drama in the office.

When we tried the confrontational approach to settle the issue, each party came up with their problems, and we had to explain that we were giving equal tasks and opportunities to them, but the other employee was just better and faster in doing her tasks. That’s why he’s not having a hard time. That then solved the conflict.

Joanna Zambas

Joanna Zambas

Career Expert, Career Addict

Address them about the issue

If you recognize behavior in a coworker that undermines you as an employee, you need to address it. A problem will not go away unless you try.

It is also possible the coworker does not know that they are behaving inappropriately.

Talk to them in an appropriate setting and let them know what they have been doing that undermines you. Hopefully, this will lead to a discussion where you both can figure out a solution.

Do not participate in their antics

It is essential to try not to let these coworkers under your skin, as this will worsen the issue.

Coworkers who undermine you want you to react and feel inferior, but by not participating in this manner, you have more of a chance of being the bigger person. They might therefore start to leave you alone.

Inform your supervisor

If you find you have done everything you can to ignore or fix the problem between you and a coworker and nothing has changed, you should approach your supervisor.

You should also come prepared with examples of how this coworker has been undermining you to back yourself up. Your supervisor then can step in and try to resolve the conflict.

Daniel Cook

Daniel Cook

HR Director, Mullen and Mullen

It’s important to know that these people just want to achieve perfectionism by downplaying others

Every workplace comes with at least one extremely competitive coworker, and they tend to compare their work with everyone else. While comparing their work, these people will always try to undermine your work and opinions.

Such people have always been overly competitive in different aspects of their lives, and therefore, work-life is no different for them.

When dealing with such coworkers, it is essential to know that these people can not bring you any real harm because they just want to achieve perfectionism by downplaying others.

  • Stand up for yourself

Make sure that you always stand up for yourself and your work if you witness them negatively criticizing your work in front of others in the office.

  • Maintain your calm

Moreover, you must maintain your calm when you are around such coworkers. This would make them understand that undermining you does not demotivate you and that you would still excel at your job.

Noelle Martin

Noelle Martin

HR Expert | Career and Workplace Editor, Mantelligence

Always be the “bigger person”

You can’t always be everyone’s cup of tea—been there and done that. Not being liked is easy to shrug off when the stakes are low, but what do you do when someone at work doesn’t value you?

  • First and foremost, look inward

We’re all protagonists in our own story. Everyone else is either a friend or an antagonist. When someone at work undermines you, instead of immediately looking at it from an underdog perspective, try to look inward and reflect on your work ethic or the skills you have related to your job that needs improvement.

  • If you think you can do better about it, work on it

Instead of being defensive about it, looking at it this way will give you a better chance to do good not only for yourself but also for your job and the organization you’re working for.

  • Look them in the eye and start the “good talk”

Criticism can either be constructive or destructive. While helpful comments can help you be better, comments done out of spite are just plain damaging to someone’s wellbeing and self-esteem.

The best way to deal with a bully coworker has always been “good talk.”

Always be the bigger person. Let them clarify. What is it exactly that they have against you? Ask for a compromise. How can you two work better?

Throw pride out of the window and respond in a way that will encourage both of you to cooperate and come up with a resolution.

  • Soldier through and know your worth

Take it from me. You won’t be able to get that job if your bosses don’t think you can do it. Never forget that the reason why you have that job is that you’re qualified. Detach from the toxicity and do your job better every day.

Richard Brandenstein

Richard J. Brandenstein

Attorney and FBR Law Partner, Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada, P.C.

Keep up the confidence you have in both yourself and your abilities

When it comes to undermining coworkers, this can be difficult to process and deal with. This is relatively common in the law industry, and when I first began my journey, I experienced it quite a lot. However, it’s something you have to learn to deal with and work through.

When this happened to me, I ensured to remind myself of my worth.

I reminded myself that I was qualified for my role and I was deserving of my position, even when someone was undermining this.

You need to ensure that you keep up the confidence you have in both yourself and your abilities and don’t let the negativity impact you too severely.

In most cases, you will want to rise above the behavior and ignore it. People will typically do this if they are unhappy with themselves or feel uncomfortable in their roles and life in general.

Even so, if this is something that is affecting your work-life severely, it is worth speaking to a manager or the HR department to explain your feelings and what has happened. This can help to resolve the issue.

Riley Beam

Riley Beam

Managing Attorney, Douglas R. Beam, P.A.

Dig deeper and gain a better understanding of your coworker’s behavior

Only by digging deeper and gaining a better understanding of your coworker’s behavior can you be more mindful of your interactions with them and keep them from affecting your mental health.

Knowing why people do what they do or say the hurtful things they say equips us with useful information to handle the situation in a calm yet effective manner, particularly one that doesn’t stem out of annoyance or irritation.

Rather than being bitter or harsh with them, realize they’re probably undermining you because they feel threatened by your abilities and are projecting their insecurities onto you. Or it could even be the result of unconscious biases or preconceived notions that they may have made about you.

Only by observing them carefully and documenting your experiences can you understand why people behave the way they do and subsequently detach yourself from the situation and treat it objectively.

Martin Luenendonk

Martin Luenendonk

CEO, FounderJar

Consider job searching; it never hurts to have options

I’ve found that most of the coworkers I’ve struggled with in the past (surly responses, snappy, uncooperative) were people that most of the office had the same struggles with.

  • Try to take difficult or negative comments with a grain of salt

Knowing that your difficult coworker’s behavior towards you is not personal can help take some of the sting out. Try to take difficult or negative comments with a grain of salt; I’m still working on this.

  • Extend the occasional olive branch

Sometimes a coworker who comes off as difficult on unlikeable could merely be shy or withdrawn. Don’t be afraid to be the bigger person and extend the olive branch.

Invite that person out to lunch or coffee, try to get to know him, and ask them questions about himself. While these overtures don’t always work, when they do, the results when they do are miraculous.

Looking back, coworkers I initially thought were rather cold and standoffish are ironically now the same people I still keep in touch with months and years later.

  • Stay out of the line of fire

When you sense a difficult colleague growing heated, stay levelheaded and distance yourself from the emotion and the drama. Shouting matches are never pleasant, and no one wins.

If an argument between colleagues keeps escalating, walk away. Offer to set up another time to speak when everyone has calmed down.

  • Find an office mentor

Finding supportive colleagues, especially those at a senior management level, who are supportive can be an enormous help when navigating tricky coworker relationships and office politics.

  • Remind yourself that work is not everything

There’s a reason why coworker rants are so ubiquitous. Working alongside a wide range of personalities in close physical quarters can be enormously challenging, and it’s impossible to like all of your coworkers (and vice versa).

It’s easy to start to feel that if you can’t make it work with your colleagues, it’s the end of the world. It most certainly isn’t. You have a life outside your job, and your difficult colleagues are only a small piece of the whole pie.

  • Consider going to your manager

Note I said consider. In some cases (actually many cases), telling a manager can actually worsen the situation. But if you have a supportive boss who champions your work and is in your corner, confiding in them could lead to additional support.

  • Research your options

If you’re in a situation where your coworkers display a lack of professionalism or their behavior cannot be pardoned, consider job searching casually. Currently, it never hurts to have options.

This way, if things do come to a head, you’ll have a head start on looking for other opportunities.

Agata Szczepanek

Agata Szczepanek

Community Manager, My Perfect Resume

Remember that great people don’t need to make others look worse to feel better about themselves

Although not as obvious as bullying or harassment, undermining can be equally harmful.

Subtle or ambiguous criticisms, disguised as innocent remarks, may not only damage your reputation and sabotage your career development but also negatively influence your mental health.

To a great extent, relationships with coworkers contribute to how happy, productive, and satisfied you feel in the workplace. Dealing with someone who tends to question your professionalism, knowledge, or abilities is a hard nut to crack. Still, you can win this battle.

Maintain positive relationships with boss and colleagues

Let professionalism and high quality be your trademarks. Be calm, concise, and prepared. Shut all the badmouths with the actual effects of your work.

Also, maintain positive relationships with boss and colleagues. The better people know you and your brilliant work performance, the less likely a coworker, is to truly sabotage you, no matter how hard they try.

Act openly and have an honest conversation about how their actions affect you

Undermining is subversive by nature. To prevent the situation from going even further, take a direct approach to a coworker who tries to sabotage you. Do not hesitate to act openly and have an honest conversation about how their actions affect you.

Ask questions, clarify, and remain professional

Knowing their worth, the great ones don’t need to make others look worse to feel better about themselves. Underminers do. They reflect but never shine. Make it your power.

Jessica Robinson

Jessica Robinson

Content and Marketing Manager, SpeakingNerd

Have a strong sense of self-awareness to recognize your shortcomings

We often talk so highly about cordial workplace relationships and how effective collaboration adds immensely to business success. Undeniably, it is such a key thing to form great working relationships with your coworkers such that you seek inspiration from each other.

However, it is also true that the corporate world has a grim side, and some workplace relationships can be undermining.

Even if you extend complete support to your colleagues, some will look to pull you down and break your motivation so that they can sail past you. It is a highly competitive world for sure, and it does get ugly at times.

However, no coworker can really undermine you until you make it terribly easy for them to do so.

You can always effectively deal with undermining coworkers, provided you have the willpower to change the status quo and challenge the situation. Given below are a few ways in which you confront a toxic coworker and deal with their toxic traits.

  • Work on your self-awareness

As long as you have a strong sense of self-awareness, it will never be easy for others to undermine you. When you have great self-awareness, you will know what you are capable of and what your real strengths are.

With such self-awareness, it will be difficult for others to make you feel otherwise. Besides, when you have a strong sense of self-awareness, you can also recognize your shortcomings and the potential areas for improvement.

Hence, working on your self-awareness and manifesting the same in the workplace can be a great way to discourage your coworkers from undermining you or putting you in doubt.

  • Speak to your manager

Communication is the key and will always be. Good managers will always listen to the problems of their team members, and if you have an empathetic manager, you can surely rely on them.

It would be a great idea to speak to your manager about how your coworker tries to undermine you and how it affects your personal motivation and performance.

Besides, if your manager is the one undermining your existence in the workplace, you should speak to the top management. In any way, the issue needs to be discussed, and you have to advocate for yourself to bring it to the notice of the management.

You should always be optimistic about your other colleagues and management supporting you when a few coworkers make it toxic for you.

You need to convince the management by telling them how it not only affects you personally but also takes a toll on the overall organizational performance. You have to present it as an issue that can potentially disrupt the morale of the entire team.

  • Show greater resilience

Your coworkers will rather feel more empowered to undermine you when you do not show enough resilience. This happens even generally in life, isn’t it?

A bully will feel more empowered when they actually feel that they have been successful in threatening or harassing someone. However, when people show great resilience and even confront the ones undermining them, the culprit will feel discouraged.

This explains why resilience is looked at as one of the most crucial skills in the contemporary business world. There will always be some complex challenges around you, including toxic coworkers, but you cannot let these challenges affect your performance and productivity.

Hence, it is essential that you constantly work on being more resilient and also develop a knack for confronting toxic influences at the very beginning.

  • Document every detail to safeguard yourself from such manipulation

A coworker who has the ambitions of undermining you will often try to get you into trouble by either withholding information or offering false details. They may also ask you to do something that is not in the best interest of the company.

To safeguard yourself from such manipulation, you must ask them to send instructions or tasks through official communication channels so that you can maintain proper documentation of everything.

In this way, you will minimize the risk of getting into trouble because of a manipulative coworker looking to weaken your position and credibility in the workplace.

When you show great concern for documented things, they will have no choice but to pass the right information to you.

So, with the above strategies, you can effectively deal with toxic coworkers who have clear agendas of undermining you because of high competition or their personal enmity with you.

Remember, you have to always stay one step ahead of them.

Chaye McIntosh

Chaye McIntosh

Clinical Director, ChoicePoint

Try to be friendly with the enemy

Being undermined at a job you give your best can be very challenging, especially if it affects your work performance.

Here are some tips for dealing with a coworker who undermines you:

  1. Try to be friendly with the enemy.
    • You have heard about the “Keep your friends close and enemies closer,” right. Act on it.
  2. If you have the guts to be open about it or if you are an extreme extrovert, the best thing is to discuss it openly.
    • Let the coworker know their place, in a polite manner, of course.
  3. If you have tried being nice and addressing the issue, you are still hearing people gossip behind your back.
    • How about you just ignore it and get to work. It will fade away one day.

April Maccario

April Maccario

Founder, AskApril

Talk with them in private in a composed and professional manner

We meet and work with different kinds of people in the workplace. And unfortunately, some of our colleagues can be frustrating to deal with.

One example of this is coworkers who undermine us. Learning how to deal with this kind of colleague will help us create a better working environment and build good workplace relationships.

One of my top tips for handling coworkers who undermine you, as a business owner, is to talk with them in private. Address the issue directly to avoid it from further affecting your work.

Try to figure out what causes them to act this way toward you and let them know how their actions impact you. But make sure to stay composed and professional as you discuss this matter with your colleague.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you be seen as an underminer without realizing it?

You can be seen as an underminer without realizing it. In fact, many people behave in ways that undermine their colleagues without realizing their negative impact on others.

Examples of such behaviors include:

• taking credit for others’ work
• spreading rumors or gossip
• belittling others’ ideas or contributions
• failing to give credit where credit is due

To avoid being seen as an underminer, it is essential to be mindful of your behavior and how others might perceive it. Seek feedback from trusted colleagues or supervisors and be open to constructive criticism.

Also, practice active listening, empathy, and respect for others’ perspectives. Make a conscious effort to build positive relationships and foster a supportive work environment.

How can you avoid being a coworker who undermines others?

Preventing being a coworker who undermines others starts with being mindful of your behavior and the impact it has on those around you.

Avoid taking credit for others’ work, speaking negatively about colleagues behind their backs, or dismissing their ideas or contributions. Instead, focus on creating a supportive, collaborative work environment where everyone can thrive.

This includes practicing active listening, giving credit where it’s due, and being open to feedback and constructive criticism. Remember that a positive and respectful workplace benefits everyone and can lead to greater success and fulfillment for all.

What resources are available for employees who are struggling with a coworker who is undermining them?

Employees struggling with a coworker who is undermining them can benefit from seeking support from various sources. This can include talking with a:

• trusted manager or HR representative
• consulting with a mentor or coach
• engaging in conflict resolution or mediation services

Companies may also offer training or workshops on communication, conflict resolution, or building effective teams. Resources outside the workplace, such as counseling, coaching, or support groups, may also be available to help individuals manage stress and build resilience.

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