Working with toxic coworkers can have major negative effects on various aspects of your life — from job satisfaction to mental health to parenting. One type of toxicity is inauthenticity. Understanding signs of inauthentic people can help you protect yourself from getting caught in the wake of inauthentic destruction. Here are 12 ways to know you should steer clear of an inauthentic coworker.
1. They take credit for ideas that aren’t theirs.
Inauthentic people have no qualms about lying if it will help them get what they want. One example of this is letting others attribute a great idea someone else came up with to themselves. If you’ve recognized this pattern of inauthenticity in a certain coworker, be wary about sharing ideas with them.
2. They start office gossip.
They always have something negative to say about fellow coworkers—even people who they appear to be friendly with. Spreading rumors or general negativity is a way that inauthentic people attempt to create divisions between others for their personal gain.
3. They tear down others’ ideas.
By hurting others, inauthentic coworkers hope to make themselves look better. Embarrassing other people during meetings by pointing out flaws in their plans publicly rather than offering them guidance privately is a sign of inauthenticity.
4. They form cliques.
Part of their divide and conquer tactic involves turning people against one another. By instigating the formation of cliques, inauthentic coworkers can attempt to position themselves higher than others by instituting additional structures of perceived rankings.
5. They obsess over titles.
While real people have human relationships to fall back on, inauthentic people tend to only have their titles to fall back on. While there are valid reasons to want to climb up in an organization, inauthentic people are consumed with ladder climbing at any cost.
6. They withhold help.
While coworkers should see themselves as members of the same team, inauthentic people prefer to scheme and make themselves win by making others look bad. One way to do this is by letting people around them flounder when they have the knowledge or skill to protect them. If you’re on the verge of making an error, don’t expect an inauthentic person to point you in the right direction.
7. They use people for personal gain.
A relationship is only useful to inauthentic people for as long as it serves them, and once they get what they need, they move on. If you felt like you had a solid bond with a coworker only to find them flip on you or disappear, than you have probably had a run in with an inauthentic person.
8. They engage in constant flattery.
While many people can suck up to the boss a bit a now and then, people who are inauthentic can take it to another level. When someone gets a promotion, inauthentic people who previously paid them no mind will go over the top to praise them in the hope of moving up ladder along with them.
9. They expect praise constantly.
One reason people engage in subterfuge is to gain reward. And in a work environment, praise is among the best rewards you can receive. Because praise is so important to them, inauthentic people see it for their lifeblood. If you don’t clap for them, they perish (like Tinkerbell). When someone is always out for recognition of their contributions, be wary about how far they’ll go to gain it.
10. They pretend to be in charge.
Because inauthentic people are often obsessed with status, and as a result, they exude power over others — whether they have a right to or not. As a result, they may try to give others assignments or critique their performance when they don’t actually have the authority to do so.
11. They try to psych you out.
While a coworker who gives you a heads up that your boss is in a bad mood is likely looking out for your best interest, a coworker who constantly stirs up anxiety in others probably doesn’t have anyone else’s best interest at heart.
How can you deal with an inauthentic coworker?
Once you’ve recognized a coworker as being inauthentic, you can do your best to stay out of the line of fire. The most important thing to remember is to be cautious around them, so you don’t fall for their traps. Focus on your goals, and keep your distance as often as possible.
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Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. Her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets anthology.