10 Clear Signs Your Coworker Is Threatened By You

Signs your coworker is threatened by you

While a little competition in the workplace might help bring out the best in everyone involved, an atmosphere rooted in envy, fear, or jealousy can do the exact opposite.

Signs your coworker is threatened by you

This post will help you recognize signs that your coworker is threatened by you, and help you navigate the situation.

1. They Don’t Want You Involved with Important Projects

One sign that a coworker feels threatened by you in the workplace is exclusion from important projects or meetings. Think about your interactions with your colleague. They might try to meet with others behind your back to complete work in secrecy or actively attempt to get you removed from projects.

This behavior is often an attempt to lower your visibility and involvement. Your coworker might feel threatened by what you’ve accomplished thus far and may be insecure about their own performance compared to yours. By trying to leave you out of major projects, your coworker aims to benefit from these opportunities while preventing you from future success.

2. They Display Poor Body Language

It’s not just the words people say that reflect their true feelings about you. Colleagues can be relatively sweet when interacting with you, but body language rarely lies!

Pay attention to how your coworker acts around you. You may notice that their body language appears cold and negative. Some examples of this include crossed arms, a somewhat threatening posture, or less-than-welcoming facial expressions.

When interacting with you directly, your colleague might subconsciously invade your personal space or turn brief moments into an unfriendly rivalry. For example, some people use overly firm handshakes or refuse to give you enough room when passing in a hallway.

Those behaviors are subtle but say a lot about what your coworker thinks of you.

3. They Always Criticize Your Work or Ideas

Disagreements are bound to happen in the workplace. It’s actually one of the most productive elements of working with others. People won’t agree with all of your ideas or suggestions, and that’s alright. Differing ideas lead to innovation and creative problem-solving.

In a healthy team environment, those disagreements aren’t a big deal, and people typically reach a compromise.

But one possible sign that a coworker feels threatened by you is that they constantly disagree with everything you do. They might disdain your decisions or become combative with your suggestions.

There’s nothing wrong with disagreements, but you might find that one coworker seems to never be on your side. Those disagreements might be intentional. Even if your ideas are reasonable and beneficial, people who are intimidated by you might find some way to spin them into something negative.

4. They Spread Rumors or Gossip About You

Gossip is an unfortunate byproduct of office environments. You’d think that rumor-spreading is something that most people leave in high school, but plenty of adults can partake in it as well.

Most workplaces have a gossip mill, which can play a big part in creating a toxic work environment. If your coworker constantly gossips about you, potentially spreading false rumors, it may mean they’re threatened by you.

A coworker may turn to gossip if they feel jealous or threatened, talking behind your back at every possible turn. In many cases, it’s an attempt to rally others in their disdain for your success or a way to justify their negative emotions toward you.

Unfortunately, some coworkers may even resort to spreading false rumors about you. In these cases, the behavior may be an attempt to ruin your reputation and harm your chances of success moving forward.

5. They Attempt to Take Credit for Work You’ve Done

Here’s a particularly frustrating issue that can make your blood boil! Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people to take credit for the work of others. It’s the reality of working in a competitive environment where people strive to advance their careers.

You may notice this behavior coming from a specific colleague. They might try to bring work to a manager before you in order to take credit for a project’s success. Or, your coworker might try to speak up first in a meeting to present an idea you had during a group brainstorming session.

Their goal here is to gain a professional edge over you. They feel insecure about their own performance, so they try to take credit for your work to minimize your impact and gain recognition.

6. There’s an Unhealthy Level of Competition

There’s nothing wrong with a little competition. In fact, many employers encourage it to bring out the best in a team. However, some coworkers may take the competitive spirit too far.

Competition takes an unhealthy turn when it’s ever-present. Your colleague may turn everything you do into a rivalry, from menial work to major projects. Managers often use competition to foster innovation, but not every situation needs to be a battle.

If your coworker constantly turns everything into a competition, it could be a sign you threaten them. They might try to outdo you at every turn, compare their work to yours and even get defensive when called out on their competitive nature.

7. They Try to Play Down What You’ve Accomplished in Your Career

Another sign that your coworker feels threatened by you is a constant disregard for your achievements.

Professional development is important; everyone should strive to achieve big things in their career. Whether that’s a promotion or simple recognition from corporate leaders, those achievements are something you should be proud of.

If you’re not gloating or holding your accomplishment over everyone else, there’s no reason for a coworker to downplay what you’ve done! In a healthy workplace, with employees who get along, those are moments of celebration.

Coworkers who try to downplay your accomplishments may be insecure about their actions. They feel threatened by what you can achieve and try to minimize your achievements. You may hear them telling others that what you’ve done is no big deal, or they might refuse to join in on the praise you get from others.

8. They Belittle You in Front of Other Coworkers

This behavior can occur in any environment where one person feels jealous. You usually see it in social settings, but it’s far too common in offices and other workplaces.

A colleague who feels insecure may try to belittle you at every opportunity. It may happen when you’re around or not. However, belittlement will always occur when others are around. You might hear a coworker talk ill of your work in front of colleagues or try to minimize your contributions to a project when speaking with a manager.

Insecure coworkers will do this because they want to “take you down a peg.” It’s an attempt to ruin your reputation and change what other people think of you. They see that you’re having great success, and they feel threatened. So, the coworker will try to belittle your accomplishments or skills.

Fortunately, this tactic often backfires.

9. They Try to Sabotage Your Work

Active sabotage is one of the more egregious responses to insecurity in the workplace. It’s a dangerous problem that can affect your work and negatively impact a company’s goals, so it’s important to be vigilant!

Sabotage can come in many different forms. Your coworker might relay inaccurate information when discussing a project you’re both involved in. Or, they could “misplace” important documents, interrupt meetings, etc. Whatever the case, the sabotage is a clear sign of insecurity.

The behavior is an attempt to curtail your success. Your coworker is desperately trying to make you look bad, so they’ll do whatever they can to get in the way of you doing a great job.

10. They Simply Refuse to Engage with You

Finally, a coworker might refuse to engage with you at all. This is one of the more frustrating signs of jealousy and feeling threatened. While you might enjoy not interacting with this coworker, it’s often unavoidable in the workplace.

Depending on your work situation, you might need to work together to finish projects, exchange information, etc.

A threatened coworker could go to great lengths to avoid interacting with you. That could include refusing to speak with you, failing to make eye contact, or using a surrogate to relay messages.

What Should You Do?

Dealing with a coworker who feels threatened is never a fun experience. It can create serious issues and turn an otherwise healthy work environment into a toxic one. Depending on the lengths your colleague goes to, it can also lead to unnecessary office drama or impact your productivity.

So, what can you do? Once you learn to identify the signs of insecurity, you can take action. Here are a few ways to deal with a coworker who feels threatened by you.

Stay Positive and Professional

The most important thing is to keep things professional. Insecure or intimidated colleagues can resort to some questionable behavior that drives you mad! But no matter how frustrating things get or how angry their behavior makes you feel, you must remain positive and professional.

Some of the behaviors we mentioned earlier reflect poorly on the coworker. Others will take notice, and those unsavory actions will backfire.

It’s your job to stay cool under the pressure. Don’t sink to their lows and instead, keep working hard! Maintain professional decorum and never add more drama or negativity that could escalate the situation.

Document Everything

Unfortunately, your coworker’s behaviors can worsen over time. Once they start impacting your ability to work, you should document everything.

Start jotting down dates, times, and the names of others who have witnessed negative behavior. Whether your colleague actively sabotages your work or starts spreading false rumors to harm your reputation, start building your case.

Documenting these moments can make all the difference if the situation escalates to involve managers or human resources (HR). Provide as many details as possible and document how your coworker’s behavior impacts your productivity, reputation, and career. Keep that documentation safe, preferably at home, to access it in any worst-case scenario.

See if You’ve Done Anything to Rub Them the Wrong Way

Before you consider going to others about a coworker’s behavior, reflect on your interactions with them. Go back to your first time meeting and think of anything that you might have done to rub them the wrong way.

Some people will feel threatened by your success from the jump. They won’t like you because they feel insecure about what you can do and how they compare. However, your coworker might have a reason to resent you and feel the way they do.

Don’t assume that you’re blameless in this situation. Be honest with yourself and take responsibility if there is something you’ve done to offend them.

For example, have you ever gloated about your accomplishments or capabilities? That behavior rubs people the wrong way, and you may need to shift your perspective to understand where a coworker comes from. If that’s the case, you might work on some things yourself as well.

It’s important to reflect on the situation to be safe. Some coworkers will feel threatened even if you’ve done nothing to make them feel that way. But it’s reasonable to consider if you’ve done something (intentionally or not) to upset them.

Speak with Them

In some cases, you can work things out with your coworker directly. Communication goes a long way.

Open an honest discussion if you believe the issue is small and easily mended. You can calmly discuss your grievances and give your coworker room to do the same. Use the conversation to iron things out and find a way to move forward professionally and maturely.

Stay focused and use facts. It helps to plan out what you want to say in advance and anticipate possible scenarios. 

You don’t have to become friends, but speaking up can allow you both to forge a healthier path forward with less drama.

Talk with HR

If all else fails, don’t be afraid to contact HR or your boss. It might seem like a drastic decision, but you shouldn’t have to deal with the childish behavior of someone who’s threatened by you, especially when you’ve done nothing to make them feel that way. Everyone deserves the right to be productive and successful.

Here’s where your documentation comes in handy. Bring your evidence to HR or your manager and discuss how your coworker’s behavior has impacted your work and career.

The best-case scenario is that HR has a conversation with your colleague. Depending on the situation, HR might recommend some changes in the workplace arrangement, allowing both parties to succeed without interference and drama. In the worst-case scenario, disciplinary action might occur.

Either way, don’t be afraid to speak with HR. A coworker that’s acting this way can do a lot to harm your career, and you should take action to prevent that.            

Conclusion

Recognizing signs that a coworker is threatened by you is fairly straightforward. Once you know what to look for, it will likely become apparent quickly.

Once it’s clear that this is the situation you’re dealing with, reflect on the appropriate way to address it. It might require some patience, but it’s often possible to sort things out and move forward amicably.

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