Catty, mean coworkers are a problem that many people have to deal with at some point in their working lives. A mean coworker who's out to get you might be motivated by any number of things, including jealousy, resentment
, wanting to beat you out for a promotion or simply disliking you on a personal level. Regardless of the reason behind a mean coworker's actions, it's important to develop a strategy to address their animosity that limits its adverse effects on your work life.
10 signs your coworker has it in for you.
First, you need to make sure your coworker really is out to get you and that you aren't simply being paranoid. There are a few telltale signs that indicate a coworker is gunning for you.
1. They take competition too far and focus on you exclusively.
If a coworker seems fixated on beating you and overreacts when they believe they've lost out to you (especially on relatively trivial matters), they might indeed be out to get you. However, it's important to distinguish cases where a coworker is competitive with you exclusively versus cases where they're just hypercompetitive in general (in which case, they're not out to get you — they're just out to beat everyone, including you).
2. They go out of their way to point your mistakes out to others, especially in public settings.
Someone who's out to get you will try to make you look as bad as possible to as many people as possible. So, if a coworker seems to make a point of not only pointing out your mistakes, no matter how small, but also of doing this with as many audience members as possible, you should seriously consider whether they're out to get you.
3. They talk about you behind your back.
Being the subject of mean-spirited office gossip
is never fun. If one person in particular always seems to be the one starting rumors about you, they might be out to get you.
4. They can't enjoy your successes.
In healthy teams, coworkers celebrate each other's successes. If someone you work with never seems happy to see you succeed and consistently tries to undermine your successes or downplay them in front of others, it's highly likely that they're not your fan.
5. They take credit for your work, steal your ideas or try to take responsibilities away from you.
A coworker who doesn't acknowledge your work or ideas or tries to pass them off as their own is someone to be wary of. Similarly, a coworker who tries to take over your responsibilities at work is worth keeping an eye on. In these cases, the coworker in question is clearly trying to sabotage and push you out.
6. They try to freeze you out of office social events.
Bullying and undermining in the office aren't exclusive to work-related events. A coworker who's out to get you might also seek to isolate you in the workplace by inviting coworkers to socialize after-hours without you. If you find yourself getting consistently left out of post-work events organized by one person in particular, it's possible that they have it in for you.
7. They belittle you or try to undermine your confidence.
A coworker who doesn't want you to succeed will try to shake your self-confidence. They'll seek to make you believe less in yourself and thereby weaken you at work.
8. They try to pull rank (even if they don't have it).
A coworker who's trying to undermine you by making themselves appear more important may try to pull rank in their interactions with you, even if they don't actually outrank you. They might also try to get other people in your office to go to them instead of you for questions that you could answer or issues that you could handle.
9. They try convince you that your job is wrong for you, or that you're wrong for it.
A coworker who's eager to see you leave might try to hurry you out the door by encouraging or planting doubts about your job in your mind. They might amplify your insecurities about your work by reminding you of little mistakes, try to direct your attention to other employers, or even go so far as to say that you that you aren't right for your current role.
10. They make sure to let everyone know when they help you with something.
If a coworker who's out to get you gets the opportunity to help you with something, you can bet they'll make a big deal out of it. They'll make sure that everyone — especially your manager — knows that you needed their help and may insinuate that they're better-equipped for your job than you are.
How do you handle a coworker who's out to get you?
If you've determined that a coworker really is out to get you, it's important to make sure that you protect yourself so they can't succeed in making you look bad and undermining you. You could choose to ignore the situation and hope it resolves itself, address it with your coworker yourself or escalate the situation to the appropriate resources at your company. Each of these approaches has its own advantages and disadvantages.
1. Ignore the situation.
If you believe that your coworker will give up if they don't see their vendetta against you bearing fruit, you might be well-served by ignoring them. Focusing on producing high-quality work, building a good reputation at your company and developing a good rapport with managers may make you too difficult for a jealous coworker
to knock down — and they might give up if they recognize this to be the case.
2. Address the situation head-on.
If you feel comfortable doing so, it may be worth tackling the situation head-on. In the best case, you may have misinterpreted your coworker's actions, and talking it out with them will allow you to clear the air and move on. Or, if you're right and your coworker has been trying to undermine you, confronting them about their actions might allow you to hash our their issue with you and discourage them from continuing to gun for you.
3. Escalate the problem to your manager or HR.
In some cases, an undermining coworker may be acting in ways that are too extreme for you to handle on your own. Or, you may have tried to talk to them without success. In these cases, it may be necessary to escalate the problem to your manager or HR. They may be able to facilitate a conversation between you and your coworker to resolve the issue, or to suggest strategies that you can employ.
4. Document everything.
If a coworker is actively undermining you, it's important to keep a good record
of what they've done. Save emails, follow up verbal communication with written communication, make notes about your interactions with them and take notes after every conversation (especially ones in which they've engaged in demeaning, undermining, or disrespectful behavior). If you can remember them, write down exact quotes. Down the line, should things escalate, your notes and records could be very important for conversations with management, HR or — in the worst case — lawyers or the legal department.
Lorelei Yang is a New York-based consultant and freelance writer/researcher. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.