Most of us have been in a situation where we suspect that we are being undermined by a coworker. Personally, I prefer outright hostility to undermining because at least it’s overt and, thus, easier to address. Undermining, on the other hand, is subtle. It is not readily apparent like bullying or harassment. Because of the subversive nature of undermining, it is harder to spot and more difficult to report.
Being sabotaged in this way may make you question if you’re just being too sensitive or if you’re imagining things. That is the evil genius of one who undermines: The situation can be tricky to identify and tough to deal with. So, how do you tell if your colleague is trying to undermine you, and what can you do about it? This month’s column will help answer those questions, starting with how to spot people who undermine you.
Undermining Boss | 8 Signs You are Being Undermined at Work (& What to Do About It)
What does being undermined at work mean?
Being undermined means that someone you work with is saying things or taking certain actions that may make others question your professionalism, knowledge, abilities or ethics. There are many undesirable consequences of being undermined at work, but one of the most worrisome is that managers and others you work with may lose respect for you if they receive an inaccurate depiction of you as an employee or peer.
Someone may be undermining you if they:
While a coworker may undermine you at work because of any number of reasons, its a situation you may be able to handle so you can continue to enjoy your position and the people you work with.
6 ways to handle coworkers who impede your work experience
If there is someone at work who may be doing things to damage your work reputation, consider these ideas to handle the situation:
1. Build your relationship
One reason coworkers may present this behavior is because they have the false belief that you dont like working with them. Although you may not have done anything to facilitate these feelings, its still important to maintain strong relationships with those you work among. If you notice that someone is treating you negatively, find opportunities to get to know them on a more personal level. You can start by asking how their weekend went, show a genuine interest in their hobbies or ask them out to lunch. Remaining kind amid unfavorable behavior usually results in something more positive.
2. Address the issue
Its helpful to be direct about your thoughts on the situation and address the offender immediately. You can ask your coworker if theyd be willing to meet privately with you, and during this conversation, be honest about how their words and actions affect you in the workplace. You may come to a mutual understanding of why they are saying the things they are and why you feel its not great for your work status. Consider sharing specific and recent examples of their behavior so they are more aware of their actions.
If the actions of your coworker are so strong that you feel uncomfortable approaching them, explore your option of speaking with your manager or asking someone in human resources to mediate the conversation between the two of you.
3. Ignore the behavior
If your circumstances arent enough to affect your work or your relationships with others, you can choose to ignore the bad behavior and try hard to continue your work to the best of your abilities. You may choose to remain cordial with your problem coworker when you need to interact with them, but ultimately realize that their actions may not be worth your time to address. Especially if this individual is someone you dont have to work with too closely, you can keep a positive attitude and only interact with them if you must.
4. Ask for clarification
As soon as your coworker engages in questioning your work or negatively joking about your performance, you can ask them what they mean by their statement. This can potentially cause them to pause and consider what they said and how negatively you may have perceived it.
If you choose to ask for clarification, remember to remain calm and professional so your coworker can receive your question well and respond with honesty. They may not realize what they are doing, and bringing it to their attention can cause a change in the status of your professional relationship for the better.
5. Remain confident in your abilities
Experiencing these types of situations at work can cause stress and lower your confidence in your abilities, but its important to remember why your manager decided to hire you and to remind yourself of the skills, knowledge and value you bring to the workplace.
If your coworker affects your confidence, you may actually struggle with your performance, but if you remain confident, you can continue to succeed and still enjoy the position youre in. Your continued confidence can also show a coworker that their words and actions dont affect you and, therefore, they may no longer have any motivation to continue.
6. Identify the reason for the action
Before you can adequately handle the situation youre in, consider why your coworker may be acting in this manner. There may be any number of motives behind treating your teammate in such a way, including envy, competition and projection of their own experiences and insecurities. By seeking to understand their actions, you may be able to approach them in a way that allows for a stronger professional relationship and mutual respect and understanding.
Why do colleagues undermine you?
What is an example of undermining someone?