15 signs that your coworker is undermining you

Mean girls regina george cadie cafeteriaParamount Pictures/YoutubeIs one of your coworkers secretly stabbing you in the back?

Workplace saboteurs can have an insidious impact on the office.

A recent University at Buffalo School of Management study found that those who feel undermined at work are more likely to sabotage their coworkers, according to Phys.org.

That’s bad news. Professional undermining is like a toxic gas: Its presence will render any workplace uninhabitable.

Still, even if you feel like a colleague is out to get you, it’s important not to let your suspicions make you paranoid.

Before you can take steps toward mitigating the situation, you need to know for sure that you’re being targeted.

Here are 15 signs that a colleague is undermining you at work:

They're more than just competitive

According to an article from Fast Company, competitiveness and outright sabotage are often difficult to tell apart, but the latter is comparatively rare.

Before you label someone as an underminer, make sure they're not just hypercompetitive. If your coworker is overly competitive, then they will want to beat out everyone. If they are actively undermining you, then they want to see you fail in particular.

The two aren't mutually exclusive, but it's still an important distinction.

They put you on the defensive

You never argue with this particular colleague, but he or she always manages to put you on the defensive.

If someone's making you feel like you're on trial, then that's not a good sign. They might be baiting you and waiting for you to slip up.

You're not alone

Underminers typically don't stick to just one victim. If you hear that your colleague has burned others in the past, then it's probably best to hold them at arm's length.

Don't kid yourself thinking that they will make an exception for you.

They gossip -- a lot

Everyone partakes in a bit of workplace gossip every once in a while. Sometimes, it's the only way to figure out what's really going on at your job.

Still, it's not a good sign if one of your colleagues seems to constantly have his or her finger on the pulse of every nasty tale circulating around the office.

Basically, if your coworker is a gossip-monger, then who's to say that they aren't talking about you behind your back?

They try to distract you

If your colleague is constantly distracting you from your job, then they might just be an innocuous and slightly lonely procrastinator.

But if you feel like someone is intentionally attempting to derail your productivity, then that's a problem.

They leave you out

People forget things. It's a common mistake.

But you should become concerned if a certain person always seems to forget you.

They forgot to invite you to that big project meeting. They forgot to include you on that important email. They forgot to pass on that message from the boss.

You might be dealing with a super absentminded person. Alternatively, your coworker may be actively trying to keep you in the dark.

They spread rumours about you

The workplace rumour mill is all fun and games until you're the subject of the latest scoop. Do nasty rumours about you seem to trace back to one person in your office?

If that's the case, then your coworker is definitely trying to sabotage your reputation.

They take credit for your work

This one's a major red flag.

If your coworker is stealing credit for your projects and ideas, then you should confront him or her -- and probably involve a manager. That's an act of blatant sabotage.

They're overstepping their rank

Does your colleague present himself or herself as your superior when you're actually equally ranked? Did they tell your colleagues to report to them instead of you on a project that you're leading? Has he or she attempted to poach or misguide your team members in the past?

If a coworker is attempting to pull rank that he or she doesn't have, then it's definitely cause for suspicion.

They socially undermine you

This one's a frustratingly subtle move.

Social undermining is difficult to pick up. You don't want to always assume the worst about people. Sometimes they just say or do the wrong thing without any ulterior motives.

Still, if you feel barraged with slightly rude comments, backhanded compliments, and hostile, mocking body language from one particular colleague, then look out.

Others are treating you differently

You haven't done anything wrong -- at least, you don't think you have -- but everyone seems to be treating you strangely, from your fellow coworkers to your boss. Can't figure out what's up?

It's possible that your undermining colleague has already gotten to them.

They're subtle

Unlike overt bullying or harassment, undermining can be harder to pinpoint and detect.

The underminer doesn't use blatantly hostile language or actions to take you down. He or she quietly works to bring you down, which is why it's important to be extra careful around them.

They're acting fake

How can you tell someone's being deceptive? Just look at their body language. Hand-wringing, neck-rubbing, and hair-twirling are just a few telltale signs of a liar, according to Business Insider.

They have been undermined before

Unfortunately, individuals who have been undermined often turn into those perpetuating the undermining later on, according to a Journal of Applied Psychology study, as the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

This vicious cycle can really take its toll on a team's cohesion and office morale.

You get a bad feeling about them

When dealing with professional undermining, it's important to always trust your gut.

If someone in the office is giving you bad vibes and his or her actions don't add up, then it's probably a good idea to tread with caution.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.