How to deal with a colleague who undermines you?

Unfortunately, you’ll have to learn how to deal with a colleague who undermines you. We know it sounds so juvenile, but it happens even at work with adults. If you’ve ever been in a situation where you felt your colleague was giving you orders or was undermining you, you have to know that you’re not the only one.

This kind of behavior, unfortunately, is not a rarity. So, let’s look at real life tips that will help you in figuring out how to deal with a colleague who undermines you.

What is undermining?

Undermining covers a whole range of activities – from gossiping, not lending a hand, pointing out your mistakes, and acting like your manager to withholding important information from you. Now that you know what’s considered undermining, you’ve probably realized that, at some point in your life, you did have to deal with a colleague who undermined you.

First things first – you have to identify what in their behavior results in undermining. This should be fairly easy; whenever you feel bad energy coming from a colleague, when they’re around just to talk down to you when they are disturbing your flow – this is undermining.

Address the issue

Now that you’re clear on what is undermining let’s move to stand your ground. Do not back down. Think of a colleague who undermines you like a high school bully. If you give them your lunch money once, they will come back. So, you need to stand up for yourself and address the issue.

Remember, not everyone will see what you’re seeing. Not everyone will understand the situation. Because no one can read your mind, no one will know what’s bothering you. So, in order to deal with a colleague who undermines you, you first need to speak up.

When do issues appear?

Usually, people tend to notice a colleague who undermines them when working in a team. A new project or something similar. Of course, teamwork can be very rewarding. However, working in a team has a whole set of challenges. The biggest challenges are setting up and maintaining equality and achieving a fair level of collegiality. This can sometimes be abused by more assertive team members. And that actually leads to undermining. To prevent that, make sure to speak up, share your ideas, and make it clear to everyone that you’re all equal.

Most often, these team members who tend to be assertive and, therefore often undermining are senior employees. However, this doesn’t even have to be in the sense they are seasoned, but in the sense that they have been with a company just a few months longer than you have.

It can get tricky, especially if this person was your trainer when you first came to the company. Nonetheless, you have to talk to them and address the issue. And don’t back down.

Different ways of addressing the issue
Having a colleague who undermines you can be mentally exhausting.

First, you have to approach the person in question, no matter who it is. Research business communication and read blogs on undermining colleagues (you’ll be surprised how many there are!). Prepare yourself for the conversation. See if you can resolve it without going straight to the management. Think carefully about the issues and list any points of action before you start the conversation with the bossy co-worker that is undermining your work.

Please practice approaching that colleague with a family member or a friend. They could give you valuable insight and predict the reactions of the bossy colleague. Also, and help you in getting your points across.

It is possible that this person has shown zero interest in an open conversation in the past. In that case, try and find out if there’s someone else who’s feeling the same as you do. If you identify such a person, definitely talk to them and find out for sure. Two heads are always better than one! If you approach the person, share your concerns, and present your action points, and nothing changes, then you need to take it to the management.

Maybe there are weekly meetings to check up on the team. That’s your chance to stay behind and start the conversation with your manager. If you feel uncomfortable saying openly what is the issue, try and see if you can become a part of a different team – it doesn’t hurt to ask.

However, we would always recommend you face problems head-on and just go for it.

For more tips and tricks on work environment and other career-related topics, browse our Blog page.

Is it time to leave?

Maybe this article opened your eyes and it made you realize that you are in a toxic work environment. There are places out there that do not tolerate colleagues undermining each other. You just need to find it. And the first step in finding it is writing a CV. Want to know how to do that? Get our very own CV writing guide here. If you follow the principles outlined in this book, you will get replies to job applications.

Alternatively, you can get in touch and we can take care of the CV writing part for you!


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