No one wants to feel like someone they know is out to get them — especially not at work.
Professional undermining is truly a frustrating thing to deal with. If it goes too far, it can make you want to quit a job that’s otherwise a perfect fit.
That’s why it’s important to recognise the signs and symptoms.
Here are 15 signs that your coworker is undermining you:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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?
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. They socially undermine you
This one’s a frustratingly subtle move.
Social undermining is difficult to pick up on. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. They act 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.
14. They plant things in your head
If a coworker warns you about your boss’s bad mood once in a while, they’re probably just looking out for you.
But if they’re constantly coming to you with negative stories, they might be trying to psych you out.
15. 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.
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