11 Effective Ways to Deal with Coworkers Who Undermine You

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11 Effective Ways to Deal with Coworkers Who Undermine You

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When you’re trying to achieve your career goals, it can be frustrating and demoralizing to have coworkers who constantly undermine your efforts. Unfortunately, a lot of professionals deal with this problem every day. Coworkers can be passive-aggressive, gossip behind your back, and even try to discredit you in front of colleagues or management.

If you’re working with challenging, rude, or toxic colleagues, don’t despair – there are several effective ways to deal with the situation. In this article, we will discuss how to deal with coworkers who undermine you. So whether you’re a new employee trying to establish yourself or an experienced professional who has had enough, read on for some helpful tips.

What is “Undermining Behavior?”

Undermining behavior is any behavior that seeks to make someone else feel less valuable than they are. This can take the form of gossiping, passive-aggressive comments, or even outright criticism. It’s important to recognize these behaviors and learn how to combat them because it can be difficult for coworkers who are undermined to maintain their confidence and stay productive.


Clear Signs Your Coworkers Are Undermining Your Efforts

It can be difficult to deal with coworkers who undermine you. They may be doing it deliberately or without realizing it, but either way, it can be damaging to your career. Before we address the strategies for dealing with coworkers who undermine you, let’s take a look at some of the signs that you’re not being treated fairly at work

  • Gossiping or spreading rumors behind your back
  • Trying to discredit your accomplishments or disqualify any good work you do
  • Making passive-aggressive comments or jokes about your work
  • Talking down to you or acting like they’re better than you
  • Dismissing and ignoring your comments and ideas
  • Giving negative feedback without providing any constructive advice
  • Acting like they’re in charge of you and your work
  • Demonstrating body language that conveys disapproval or contempt
  • Trying to take credit for your ideas or accomplishments
  • Trying to make you feel like you’re not part of the team
  • Refusing to cooperate on projects or offer help when needed

7 Reasons Your Coworkers May Be Undermining You

How do you tell if a coworker is sabotaging you? The reasons why some coworkers try to undermine you can vary. Here are seven common reasons that may explain why they’re acting the way they are:

1. Your coworkers are threatened by you

A colleague who feels threatened by your success may try to undermine you in order to make themselves feel better. This can be especially true if they are competing with you for a promotion or recognition. If you find that your coworkers are threatened by your ambition and success, it’s important to remain focused on your goals and not let their behavior derail you.

2. You’re competing for the same resources

If two coworkers are vying for the same resources, such as a project budget or a high-profile assignment, it can lead to competition. This can lead to one person trying to discredit the other in order to gain an advantage.

3. Your coworkers may be jealous

Jealousy is a common factor when it comes to workplace conflict. If your coworkers feel like you’re getting more attention, recognition, or resources than they are, they may try to discredit you in order to level the playing field. Unfortunately, envy is a powerful emotion, and it can lead to destructive behavior in the workplace.

4. Your coworkers don’t trust you

If there is a lack of trust between coworkers, one may try to undermine the other in order to feel more secure and in control. This can be particularly true if the coworkers have had a history of conflict or disagreements.

5. Your coworkers might be worried about their own job security

If your coworker is worried that their job might be in jeopardy, they may try to discredit you in order to make themselves look better and protect their own position. Their fear can be the cause of their undermining behavior.

6. They may be trying to make themselves look better

If your coworker is vying for a promotion or looking to impress their boss, they may try to make themselves look better by making you look bad. This can be especially true if the coworker feels like you’re in competition with them for the same job.

7. Sometimes, it’s matters of the heart

When it comes to workplace conflict, it’s important to remember that sometimes the issue is personal, not work-related. If a coworker has a personal grudge against you because their crush likes you or because you’re dating their ex, this could be a contributing factor in why they are acting out against you.

How Toxic Coworkers Affect Your Work

Toxic coworkers can have a huge negative impact on your work performance. Their undermining behavior can lead to decreased job satisfaction, increased stress levels, and even burnout. Additionally, their actions can lead to decreased productivity and a lack of motivation or creativity in the workplace.

It can be harder to wake up in the morning and go to work if you’re dreading your interactions with colleagues. This can lead to decreased job performance and, eventually, even job loss. You might also feel like you’re constantly walking on eggshells or trying to prove yourself, which can lead to added stress and anxiety.

A negative work environment can easily affect your mental health, physical well-being, and overall happiness outside of work. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to take a stand against toxic coworkers. You don’t have to let their behavior ruin your career or well-being.

It’s important to recognize that toxic behavior at work isn’t normal and should not be tolerated. If you are dealing with a toxic coworker, it’s best to be proactive and take steps to protect yourself from their negative influence.

Now, let’s dive into 11 effective ways to deal with difficult, toxic, and negative coworkers who undermine you and your work.

11 Effective Ways to Deal with Coworkers Who Undermine You

How do you deal with a coworker who criticizes you?

How do you not let rude coworkers bother you?

How do you respond to a disrespectful coworker?

How do you tell my coworker to back off?

These questions often come up when dealing with difficult coworkers. Every workplace situation is unique and needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the scenario, you may need to take different approaches in order to deal with your coworkers effectively.

1. Acknowledge the problem

The first step in dealing with coworkers who undermine you is to recognize that it’s happening. It’s easy to ignore or let negative behavior slide, but this will only encourage the behavior to continue. If you notice any signs of toxic behavior, it’s important to address the issue early on before they have a chance to escalate. Preventing the problem is just as important as addressing it.


  • Start paying attention to patterns or reoccurring behavior that could be considered toxic
  • Watch out for gossip or criticism of yourself and other colleagues
  • Pay attention to how their actions affect your own mental and emotional well-being

2. Remain professional

Although it can be tempting to retaliate or act out against your colleague, this will not help the situation. Remain professional, and remember that your actions should reflect positively on you and your employer. The way you communicate and handle the situation can make all the difference.


  • Keep your conversations focused on facts (not emotions) to remain neutral
  • Stay calm and be mindful of your tone and body language
  • Avoid making any assumptions or jumping to conclusions

3. Set boundaries

It can be difficult to confront someone who is trying to sabotage you. However, it’s important to set boundaries with your colleagues and let them know that their behavior is not acceptable. Address the behavior head-on by making it clear that you won’t tolerate their negative actions. Remember to remain firm and professional, even if the situation is difficult.


  • Speak to them privately to address the situation
  • Be clear about what behavior is and isn’t acceptable
  • Explain how their actions affect you and the team

4. Document their actions

When dealing with a toxic coworker, it’s important to document all of their behavior and any conversations that take place between the two of you. Keep a record of emails, texts, or other evidence that shows they are trying to undermine you. This will provide evidence if your situation ever escalates to a point where you need to involve your manager, HR, or take legal action.


  • Keep a written log of events and interactions
  • Save emails, text messages, and other evidence
  • Make notes during meetings to keep accurate records

5. Stick to the rules and protocols

When dealing with a difficult coworker, it’s important to stick to the company policies and protocols. Follow the chain of command when addressing any issues. You may need to address the issue with your direct supervisor first before escalating the situation to HR. If you have a trusted mentor or colleague, you can also seek their advice on how to best handle the situation. 


  • Set up a private meeting with your direct supervisor to share your perspective and provide evidence
  • Review company policies and protocols to determine the best course of action
  • If possible, reach out to a trusted colleague or mentor and discuss your situation

6. Involve HR if needed

If the situation is still unresolved after speaking to a direct manager, it may be time to contact your Human Resources department. They will have the necessary tools and resources to address any issues that arise between coworkers professionally and can take the appropriate steps toward resolving the problem.


  • Be prepared with evidence to back up your claims
  • Gather witnesses and any other people in the know
  • Organize your thoughts in advance to effectively communicate your concerns

7. Don’t take it personally

It can be difficult not to take a coworker’s behavior personally, but it’s important to remember that their actions likely have nothing to do with you and more to do with their own fears and insecurities. Try to keep your emotions in check and stay focused on resolving the situation in a professional manner.


  • Remind yourself that the situation is not your fault
  • Focus on solutions rather than dwelling on the problem
  • If feeling anxious and stressed, practice deep breathing exercises or take a short break to refocus

8. Avoid gossiping

Gossiping about your coworkers can be tempting when upset, but it’s important to avoid getting involved in workplace drama. Not only is it unprofessional, but it can also make the problem worse and can lead to more conflicts with your coworkers. Gossiping can easily escalate into hurtful rumors and false information that can damage your reputation in the workplace.


  • Focus on your work and stay out of office politics
  • If someone tries to involve you in gossip, politely decline and change the subject
  • Don’t share confidential information with others

9. Take time for self-care

Dealing with a toxic coworker can be an emotional and stressful situation, so it’s important to find ways to manage your stress levels outside of work. Take time for yourself to relax and unwind by doing activities that make you happy. Whether it’s exercising, reading, or spending time with family, having a healthy outlet will help you stay focused and productive at work.


  • Focus on the positive aspects of your job
  • Take breaks during the workday to clear your mind
  • Visualize a positive outcome to help you stay grounded

10. Get outside help

If the situation has become unbearable and you’re feeling overwhelmed, it may be time to speak to a professional. A therapist or counselor can provide insight into how to best handle the conflict, as well as provide tools for dealing with difficult people in the workplace. Getting outside help can also help increase your confidence and self-esteem so that you can approach the situation with a clear head.


  • Check if your organization offers an Employee Assistance Program to work with a counselor who specializes in workplace conflicts
  • Search online for resources and books that can provide tips on dealing with difficult coworkers (like this guide!)
  • Don’t give up when facing a toxic coworker; it’s important to remember that you have options.

11. Walk away and move on

Sometimes simply keeping your distance from the situation and avoid any further interactions with your toxic coworker. See if there is an opportunity to work on a different project or team. If that is not an option, try to limit any contact and conversation with them and focus on your own work.


  • Remember that it’s ok to be assertive without having to resort to arguments
  • Take the high road and focus on staying positive
  • Distance yourself from the situation when possible

Dealing with a toxic coworker is never easy, but by following these tips, you can protect yourself from their behavior and minimize any drama in the workplace. No matter how difficult it may seem, dealing with a negative coworker is possible if you’re persistent in setting boundaries and engaging in healthy communication techniques.

Final Thoughts

No one enjoys dealing with difficult coworkers, but by following these tips, you can minimize the drama and protect yourself from their negative behavior. Remember, what doesn’t break you makes you stronger, so use these experiences to build your confidence and as a learning opportunity for the future.

It’s important to remember that there is always help available if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. You should feel empowered to speak up and take action if you are being mistreated. It’s never too late to make a change and create a healthy work environment for yourself. 

To learn more about effective workplace communication, I recommend the following resources:

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