Workplace politics is a dirty game, and if you’re not careful, it can get the better of you. The good news is that by spotting the warning signs early on, you’ll be able to nip things in the bud before they get out of hand. It’s time to face facts, don’t ignore reality just because it’s not what you want to see.
Signs You are Being Sabotaged at Work
They’re more than just competitive colleagues.
Recruiting new staff is expensive and time-consuming, so it’s no surprise that some of your colleagues may feel threatened or demotivated by the presence of a new hire. Yet, in some cases, the problems may run deeper than simple workplace one-upmanship. What starts as competitive banter can quickly escalate into something more malicious if you don’t confront issues early on.
They put you on the defensive.
A colleague who seems to take pleasure in putting you on the back foot is a recipe for disaster. You might find yourself constantly having to defend your actions or choices if someone is determined to make you feel wrong about them. This can affect how well you do your job, as well as cause stress and conflict.
They undercut your ideas.
If you’ve come up with a creative solution to a problem and someone else is shamelessly championing their idea, it’s easy to feel dejected. Yet when they’re in the habit of discrediting your work, you could find yourself struggling even if your idea is objectively better. Don’t let them get away with this – point out alternative approaches if necessary.
They blame you for their own mistakes.
If your colleague is constantly blaming you for their failings, it could be a sign of something more sinister than simple laziness or forgetfulness. It may come down to personality clashes – do they work well with others? Or are they simply trying to make themselves look better?
They gossip a lot
People who spend a lot of time gossiping may not be doing it for malicious reasons, but if you’re being bandied about as the subject of office chatter, you might have an issue on your hands. To add insult to injury, they could spread untrue rumors – and even if they’re making them up, part of the problem is the fact that they’re talking about you behind your back.
They’re always sticking their nose in
It’s easy to feel flattered when a colleague takes it upon themselves to help out with everything. However, if the conversation is always centered around them or their role, rather than being focused on helping you do your job better, it could be a sign of something more sinister. If their suggestions overshadow your ideas, it may be time to chat with them about where you feel you fit in.
They’re always trying to one-up you.
When a colleague constantly feels the need to try and upstage you, it’s easy for resentment to build up. If they refuse to let a situation drop, it could be a sign of a bigger issue with your role or abilities.
They hold on too tightly.
There’s a time and place for everything – some things are worth fighting for, but others will not only fall apart if you force them, but they’ll also leave lasting damage that may prevent future success. If someone is unwilling to let go or share tasks, it may be a sign of insecurity – either of their role or your abilities.
They’re afraid to trust you.
It’s never fun being the ‘new guy at work, especially if some roles have been filled for years. Yet if you find that other people are reluctant to trust you with anything, that could affect how well you settle in and learn the ropes. If someone doesn’t want to give you any responsibility or seems to make things more difficult rather than more manageable, it’s time for a chat.
They’re always looking over your shoulder.
No one expects their colleagues to be mind-readers. However, if someone is constantly checking up on you and asking you what you’re doing and why it could be a sign that they’re trying to second guess your role, instead of wasting time worrying about whether they’re going to undermine you, take the lead by proving them wrong.
They try to distract you.
When someone is constantly trying to distract you or take your attention away from your work, it could signify insecurity. If you’re not letting them get under your skin and their attempts fail, they may seem to give up in the face of such determination.
They tear down others’ ideas.
If you’ve found that someone seems incapable of accepting a good idea from someone else, it could be a sign that they’re not as skilled as they claim to be. If you find yourself being undermined by this person, point out their habit and ask them to consider why it might be happening.
They undermine your confidence.
Workplace bullies come in all shapes and sizes – and they don’t just operate behind the scenes. If someone is constantly telling you that your work isn’t good enough or that you’re not up to scratch, it could be a sign of insecurity on their part. Instead of letting them get under your skin, focus on how hard you’ve worked to get this far – even if they try to undermine your efforts, their opinion won’t matter in the long run.
They leave you out
When someone loves to make you feel as if you’re an outsider, whether they do it by sharing out-of-date information or giving you the cold shoulder, it can leave a lasting impact. If a colleague seems to take pleasure in excluding you from group chats and meetings, don’t let it bother you – instead, use your time constructively on other tasks.
They always have an excuse.
Some people are unlucky in their jobs – but when someone seems to be making excuses every time something goes wrong, it’s a sign that they’re either unwilling or unable to accept responsibility. If this is the case, don’t bother pointing out the error of their ways – instead, use your energy to focus on the future and ensure you won’t have to deal with this in the future.
They take up too much space.
It’s never a good sign when someone fears that their office will become crowded – even if it’s only an issue of inches. If someone seems like they’re trying to steal pieces of your workspace, try not to let the problem become personal – instead, talk to them about how they can find somewhere else to work if they’re feeling cramped.
They spread rumors about you.
It could be a tough habit to break if someone is trying to sabotage you by spreading rumors about your work or character. If the rumor originally comes from them, point out what they’re doing. If it’s coming from anyone else in the office, confide in your colleagues and ask for their support in ending this cycle of gossip before it’s allowed to get out of hand.
They spread rumors about others.
If you’ve found that someone is trying to sabotage you by spreading malicious rumors about other people in the office, it could be a sign that they’re afraid and powerless and want to make themselves feel better at your expense. Don’t let yourself down – if this behavior is allowed to continue, it won’t be long before they shift their focus to someone else.
They’re overstepping their rank.
If you’ve found yourself dealing with a colleague who seems to think that they have authority over your role, it could be a sign of jealousy on their part. Suppose the situation continues to escalate, and you find yourself being undermined by this person. In that case, try talking to them about how they can be a leader instead of a saboteur – often, the best way to diffuse a tense situation is to talk it through and look for the root of the problem.
They socially undermine you.
It’s never a good sign when you find that someone has started to socially undermine you, whether it’s in your direct team or not. If this person begins to treat you differently than before – refusing to acknowledge your presence or being rude towards you – don’t let them get away with their behavior. Whether this is a calculated move based on insecurity or not, it’s important to call people out when they’re undercutting someone’s position.
They make excuses for their bad behavior.
While some people are just brought up on manners – it can be frustrating when someone constantly makes excuses for their bad behavior instead of taking responsibility. Suppose you find that this person continues to use their upbringing to excuse their rude and unprofessional behavior. In that case, there’s only one thing you can do: take the high road and continue to support them in becoming better person.
They don’t want you to succeed.
Some people are so threatened by someone else succeeding that they will go out of their way to sabotage them – even if it means being a detriment to themselves. If you find that this person is unwilling to support your journey, don’t let it get you down – instead, use their lousy behavior as inspiration not to fall into the same trap.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do I do if they’re sabotaging the team as well as me?
If you find that this person is hurting everyone and not just yourself (or if their behavior extends outside of work too), it may be time to sit down and talk privately with them about how their actions affect those around them. If their behavior continues, consider talking to another colleague or supervisor about your concerns.
What if they’re my boss?
If they’re your superior, it might be time to have a private conversation with them – instead of nitpicking at their behavior, try being more constructive in your feedback by pointing out how you’ve noticed that they come off as inconsiderate or unapproachable. Pointing out their flaws in a constructive way can encourage them to reflect on their behavior.
If you find yourself in a situation where someone is trying to sabotage your work, it might be time to re-evaluate your relationship with that person and how you treat them.