close Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn

How To Deal With A Coworker Trying To Make You Look Bad

Whether they're actively sabotaging your work or undermining you in meetings, here's how to deal with a coworker that's trying to make you look bad.
by Rob Gillham | Nov 3 2022

Are you surrounded by people trying to undermine you at work? Well, you are not alone. The Creative Group surveyed 49 percent of advertising and marketing managers who said a current or former colleague made them look bad.

Having to deal with difficult coworkers and their less-than-collegial behavior can be both infuriating and mentally draining. Besides sapping your creativity, it can also hurt your productivity and ruin your day. Although it might seem tempting to get revenge on conniving coworkers, you will likely only hurt your own reputation and credibility in the long run.

In most cases, it’s best to bring a balanced approach to the situation when you feel that a team member has wronged you. The result of overreacting and letting your emotions get the best of you is that you may appear to be the problem employee. If someone is undermining you and potentially damaging your career, you cannot come across as a pushover.

Here’s how to identify the problems and deal with a coworker that’s trying to make you look bad and come out on top in the process. 

What Can A Coworker Do To Undermine Your Efforts?

When a colleague undermines your professionalism, knowledge, capabilities, or work ethic, he or she says or acts in a way that makes others question your knowledge, abilities, or work ethic. A negative impact on your mental health can be caused by this behavior, in addition to damaging your reputation and sabotaging your professional development. Most often, undermining behavior is a combination of many small actions that build into a pattern of negative behavior toward you. Below are some examples of undermining behavior:

  • Rather than privately sharing feedback, share mistakes publicly and purposefully.
  • Making others question your ideas by interrupting and contradicting you.
  • Taking your achievements for granted or downplaying your efforts to achieve them.
  • Joking about you, your work, or your expertise.
  • Negatively criticizing your work without providing constructive feedback.
  • Attaining your work ethics and values at work.
  • Undermining your authority at work, within a team, or within a project group.
  • Taking credit for your work.
  • Keeping you updated on important information.

Obviously, the most obvious consequence of a colleague undermining you at work is the breakdown of your relationship. As a result of such behavior, you may create an inaccurate impression of yourself as a coworker or peer, which damages your reputation and may even harm your relationship with others. While dealing with undermining coworkers can be difficult, finding ways to overcome this situation can make your job more enjoyable.

How To Deal With A Coworker Trying To Make You Look Bad

Don’t Pay Attention To The Behavior

If your coworker’s behavior is minor and is not affecting your work or relationships with others, you may decide to ignore it. Depending on the circumstances, ignoring their behavior can allow you to move forward and focus on your work.

In the end, it may not be worth addressing the actions of your problem coworker if you can ignore them and continue to work well if you are polite when interacting with them. Keep a positive attitude if you don’t work closely with this individual. Keep your distance, only interact with them if necessary, and keep your distance if you don’t work closely with them.

Analyze The Situation From All Angles

There can be a lot of unnecessary ill will caused by misperceptions. Consider your colleague’s intentions from a distance. Was a fellow designer trying to come across as a glory hog in the staff meeting, or did they simply forget to thank you for your contribution? Was it an innocent mistake or did your teammate intentionally incorporate a typo into your creative brief? Perhaps you played a role in creating a bottleneck if a coworker blames you for a missed deadline. Try to identify someone’s motives and any steps you could have taken to avoid the conflict before confronting them.

Analyze The Impact

Meet with your colleague calmly and explain how his actions have negatively affected you rather than hurling accusations at him. Give him a chance to respond and explain his side of the story. Do not interrupt your coworker so that you can pay close attention to everything he or she says. You may disagree with what they have to say, but you will be able to gather invaluable information about how your coworker thinks and operates. 

If You Need Help, Don’t Be Afraid To Ask

Every conflict or interpersonal squabble shouldn’t be brought to management’s attention. There are many annoying behaviors at work. However, there are going to be difficult situations you will not be able to resolve on your own, as well as toxic people who are beyond your ability to reason with. Do not hesitate to contact your boss or human resources if you have encountered a particularly prickly dilemma or unethical colleague.

Stay Focussed

Make sure you complete the work you were assigned. Your boss or supervisor will notice that your coworker constantly gossips while you are diligently working. Though it is nice when coworkers get along, you were hired to perform certain tasks. You will be able to ignore that troublesome coworker if you work hard and immerse yourself in a project. You should back up your files and save them on your hard drive in case your fellow employee tries to take credit for your work.

If You Need Clarification, Ask Your Colleague

Ask your coworker what they mean when they question your work or joke about your performance negatively. In response to your request for clarification, they may reflect on what they said and how negatively you may have perceived it. By requesting clarification, you also demonstrate to your peers that you do not appreciate the way your coworker is portraying you and encourage them to support you if the issue persists.

To prevent conflict from escalating, remain calm and professional when you ask for clarification. When you approach your colleague calmly, they will be able to hear your question and consider how their words may affect you. If you bring their attention to how their words or actions affect you, you may be able to improve your professional relationship.

Be Confident In Your Abilities

A colleague’s undermining behavior can cause stress and make you doubt your abilities. Remind yourself of the skills, expertise, and value that you bring to the workplace and why your manager hired you.

The performance of your coworker may be negatively impacted by your coworker’s confidence, but if you can maintain confidence, you can continue to excel in your career and enjoy your job. By maintaining your confidence and high performance, you can also show your colleague that their behavior does not affect you, which may make them lose motivation.

Resign From The Organization Or Department

Though leaving your job may seem like the worst-case scenario, it can sometimes be the best way to overcome undermining behavior. It may be best to leave an organization entirely if undermining behavior occurs due to toxic company culture. The above steps may not stop your colleague’s undermining behavior, and if you are not receiving support or advice from colleagues, your manager, or HR, it may be time to consider leaving the organization.

Facebook Twitter Tumblr Instagram LinkedIn Flickr Email Print