4 Signs Your Coworker is Subtly Undermining You (And What to Do About It)

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
April 22, 2024 at 3:57AM UTC

Recently, a Fairygodboss community member shared some exciting news on the feed: they found a new, better job and had put in their two weeks notice at their current employer. 

But it wasn’t all positive. “Everyone is asking me why I am leaving, including my boss's boss,” they wrote. “I left because my immediate boss allowed me to be undermined by a new hire to the point [where] I lost respect in the office and the new hire was allowed to take work from me.”

“It was hurtful,” they added. “I have been devastated for weeks that I am leaving a good position because of this nonsense (even though I think I am going to like my new job).”

“So, what do I do?” they wondered. “Do I tell my boss's boss (who likes me) the real reason I left? Or do I just make up some lame excuse, let it go and get on to my new life?”

What to do when your coworker is undermining you

1. Tell it like it is.

Several community members urged the original poster to be honest, especially with their boss’ boss. “Don't roll over the truth,” one Fairygodboss member wrote. “Run right through it and tell them what's going on. Because if the new hire did it to you, they'll definitely do it to someone else. Even your old boss.”

“I’m honestly perplexed by the ppl on here advising others to keep their mouths shut/don't burn bridges/pretend you're leaving for nothing more than another opportunity/leave it to someone else to do the telling/etc.,” another added. “This is the kind of advice that allows toxic behavior to thrive and then you're out here wondering why things don't change.”

Additional Fairygodboss members encouraged them to use their exit interview as an opportunity to be honest. 

“I would absolutely request an exit interview with your boss's boss since they directly asked you why you are leaving,” Brenda Crawshaw wrote. “I get the sense that they may have an inkling of what's gone down. Make a list of the instances where you were undermined AND the results. Be as unemotional as you can and make it all about what those actions mean for the company.”

2. Offer evidence.

As Crawshaw alluded to, it’s also important to offer concrete evidence that this undermining is taking place. 

“It is never burning bridges to tell the truth but only the truth as applies to facts,” Karen Gongaware wrote. “How did she undermine you? How did she take work from you? Why did you allow it? Those are all questions that facts can answer. No emotions. Just facts. Let your boss's boss know why, but only using facts without emotion. Perhaps that way, she or someone like her will not be allowed to harm others.”

“Outline your talking points and demonstrate as much evidence as you can,” agreed Mily Kikue Frank. “This will let the higher-ups know to keep an eye on the underminer and hopefully protect new folks.”

3. Move on.

But some Fairygodboss members urged the original poster to let it go. 

“What do you hope to achieve by telling her?” Kiley asked. “What if she says she will fix it and tries to convince you to stay?  Would you change your mind about leaving? If the answer is 'no,’ don't tell her. Move on, and focus on the incredible opportunity you have secured and deserve.”

“Cut your losses and move on,” another Fairygodboss member agreed. “The damage is done. Tell anyone who asks that your new job is a growth position with more responsibility and a higher salary. Don't burn bridges.”

4. Reach out to those who DO support you.

Seeking support elsewhere is a good strategy, whether you’re still working with your employer or, like the original poster, have another offer. 

“How about thanking each person you really got along with and had no beef with, for their camaraderie and coworking friendship and collaboration?” Ronnie Loaiza suggested. “Thank your boss for a couple of things you appreciate about him or her. Ignore (not in a snooty way but as if she was never born and she does not exist, unless you have to walk around her and politely say pardon) and do not burn any bridges.”


This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for dealing with a coworker who’s undermining you? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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