If your co-worker does these 10 things, they’re secretly undermining you

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Teamwork makes the dream work. 

That’s why it’s so disappointing and frustrating when somebody you work with is actually sabotaging you behind your back. 

Jealousy and resentment don’t just happen in romantic relationships, and they’re all too common in work as well. 

Here’s what to look for if you feel like somebody you work with may not have your best interests at heart. 

Are you just being a bit paranoid or is your colleague really doing things to undercut you at work?

Let’s take a look…

1) They treat you differently than other colleagues

In any scientific experiment there is always a control factor. 

As Indeed explains, “a control is an element that remains unchanged or unaffected by other variables.”

In this situation the control is you. 

Your coworker’s behavior may be related to you or it might not. That’s why it’s necessary to look around a bit and see if their behavior differs with you. 

Are they just being a d*ck to you, or also to other employees as well? 

They may be trying to undermine all of you, to be fair, but if you’re trying to figure out if a coworker has an issue with you specifically it’s important to view their behavior more widely.

2) They ‘borrow’ your ideas and take credit for them

Sneaky saboteurs are often very charming. 

But look closely at their behavior. 

Do you have a coworker who’s often borrowing ideas from you or working “together” with you on projects but always seems to end up with the credit?

This often isn’t a mistake. 

It’s part of a conscious strategy on their part to undermine you and begin to erode the footprint you have in an organization. 

They’re mining you for ideas to further for the benefit of their own career progress.

3) They speak to you minimally and answer in monosyllables 

Some folks are more talkative than others. Fair enough. 

But this is also a case of identifying whether your coworker is zeroing you out

Are they treating you, specifically, in a very avoidant way?

If they talk to everyone with grunts, it’s likely not you. They may be having all manner of personal issues going on in their life. 

But if you find that your coworker is fairly talkative and sociable just not with you, then they may well be trying to mess with your head. 

The general goal is to make you feel unwelcome, uncomfortable and doubtful of your value at the company. 

Don’t let them succeed. 

This leads me to the next point…

4) They leave you out of the ‘cool kids club’ at work and special events

To the extent that your work has events outside of work and a social atmosphere, is your colleague giving you the cold shoulder?

This can be literally turning to block you out with their body when they and the others are standing around the water cooler…

It can also be far more subtle:

Leaving you out of email threads…

Not tagging you in photos from work parties…

Laughing at jokes with everyone else and then awkwardly stopping and refusing to tell you what was so funny when you ask (triggering a new round of laughter). 

Other colleagues may barely even realize they’re in on some exclusionary effort from this person, which is part of what makes it so disgustingly toxic.

5) They don’t smile at you and seem to have a specific issue with you

This again relates back to specificity and this coworker seeming to have a problem with you

If they give you the evil eye and have shifty body language that’s definitely not a good sign (I’ll go into more detail on this further down). 

But if they really seem to be singling you out and scowling at you in general it’s also indicative that they dislike you in some way. 

Does dislike equate to undermining? 

Not always, but we rarely go out of our way to help those we resent and find distasteful, so it’s a good bet that at very least this person will continue to be a source of tension for you in your job.

6) They pick arguments with you for no good reason

Next up we get to the more disturbing signs that your coworker is trying to single you out and ruin your job:

They pick fights with you. 

Even when you barely work together on the same projects, they find something to criticize. 

“Nice outfit choice today, man.”


“I heard about your pitch. They should name you Top Saleswoman Barbie, we’re all proud of you.”


This is all bait trying to get you ticked off and into an argument, which will distract your focus and divert you from work that needs to get done.

7) They boss you around and take the lead on what you’re working on

Hierarchy has a reason for existing, but only if it’s based on competence. 

If I don’t know how to drive and I’m learning how, I’m going to obey the advice and guidance of an instructor. 

But when somebody is “bossy,” it’s never a good thing. 

The word itself conjures up images of a boor, a person who’s disrespectful and bullies you around

If you have a coworker who tries to tell you everything you have to do and treats you like dirt, don’t stand for that. 

Even if they have rank on you, let them know you won’t be spoken to that way, and insist on keeping leadership on a project when you have been given it.

8) They’re overly critical of your job performance behind your back

We can never be quite sure what people say behind our backs. 

But if other coworkers tell you this individual is saying bad things about you when you’re not around, you’re best off taking it seriously. 

This kind of gossip and talking bad about someone can really have a negative impact on you and also lead to a lot of drama. 

It’s best to confront it head-on if somebody is sullying your reputation without you being aware of it. 

If you do become aware of it, bring it up with them directly or go to your boss. 

This type of nonsense has sunk many careers, which is why disingenuous coworkers engage in it.

9) They have shifty body language and avoid eye contact

Insecure people often have a lot of nervous tics and difficulty making eye contact. 

Unfortunately the same also goes for people who have a negative opinion of you or are against you in some way.

If your coworker is secretly undermining you, they’re likely to be a bit shifty around you and generally avoid looking at you.

10) They try to talk you into quitting your job in one way or another

If you have a coworker who keeps highlighting everything wrong with your job and trying to get you to quit, beware!

Every job has faults. 

They may actually be trying to undermine you and get you to leave so they can keep advancing up the ladder. 

Even more insidious is that they may be trying to get you to say negative things about your job and how things are going so that they can report back to others.

“Did you hear what he said? Wow, that guy really hates this job.”

Alternatively, they may try to convince you there are better jobs elsewhere and your talents are wasted here.

“Really, girl, you can totally do better. I have this one friend who knows about a position…”

And so on…

Relax, don’t do it…

My advice here is to not quit!

Don’t let them win. 

Colleagues who undermine you secretly are even worse than bullies who are direct and in your face. 

This person doesn’t have the courage to face you directly, and they don’t deserve to achieve their objective of sabotaging your career

If anything it’s time to have a talk with them one-on-one, and if they won’t do that it’s time to raise your concerns directly with your superior. 

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