Dealing with Nasty People Who Undermine You

Have you ever come across colleagues, coworkers, or “frenemies” who undermine you?

Or worse, have you had this happen to you and not even know that it was happening?

And how might you know if someone is working under-the-radar to cause you harm?

Understanding Sabotage

My intuitive senses are quite developed, but even for me it takes a few instances to figure out that someone is undermining me. Why? Because it is done in a subtle or gradual way and it often comes from people who you wouldn’t suspect such a thing.

These people could be your close friends or co-workers with whom you often hang out.

Most of the time undermining is done in a subtle way, but in other times it could be obvious. When it is subtle, it can be slipped in as a disguised compliment. You are left confused whether you were being complimented or slighted. It is only after a few repetitions that one figures out that they are being undermined.

So What’s Going On?

I am not a psychologist, but as far as I can tell, the following could be some of the reasons why people undermine others:

  • They genuinely believe that they are better than you. By undermining you, they are validating their beliefs to themselves and it makes them feel better.
  • Life is a competition for some people. I tend to think there are two kinds of competitive people. Some are too busy achieving and then there are others who seem to think that success is limited. When they see someone else’s success, to them it means their failure and therefore they try to undermine others in order to feel superior. In my humble opinion, I believe that success is unlimited. Moreover, success means different things to different people. One person’s success doesn’t mean other person’s failure. Aren’t we all on our own life path?
  • Co-workers may try to undermine you in order to get ahead or if they perceive you as boss’ favorite.
  • Some people feel that they haven’t gotten their dues in life. When they see someone who has gotten success easily, they may undermine their success.

Causing Harm

I have stated some of the reasons above and I am sure there are other reasons for which people may justify undermining others. However, it is a very negative experience for the person who is being undermined.

There is really nothing tangible to be gained from such an experience except for frustration and a bad taste in the mouth.

The person being undermined is often left with a confused feeling about his friend or co-worker and might also start thinking “What did I do wrong?” The fact is that he didn’t; the fault lies with the person who is undermining. It has probably become a habit with them and they do it subconsciously.

Dealing With Undermining People

In order to deal with undermining people, the best strategy is to ignore their opinions and not let that affect you. After all, they are undermining you because they think they are being heard or have a say.

Perhaps you gave their opinion of you a little too much weight in your life. Once you take that power away from them, they will likely stop or find someone else to undermine. T

his might be easier said than done but it is a good solution to walk away from a negative situation. Clearly such coworkers or fr-enemies are not adding any value. Instead they are trying to erode your self-esteem and in the process self-serving their own false beliefs.

So have you ever been a victim of work place sabotage? what did you do about it?  Or have you been guilty of doing this yourself? Why did you do this? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Aditi Chopra
Aditi Chopra is an experienced leader in the software industry
She is a consultant, writer and a leader
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  1. John Smith on June 10, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Reblogged this on THE STRATEGIC LEARNER.

    • Aditi Chopra on July 18, 2014 at 10:36 am

      Thanks for re-blogging!

  2. Doug Ramsey on June 14, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    This is a very good issue and learning. Unhealthy competition, envy, fear, the myth of scarcity, ego and many other immature beliefs and behaviors can be added to your list. We are still stuck in the world of win-lose. It seems to be the deeply entrenched human condition. In my opinion, the people who play at this harmful level lack the depth of a healthy, kind and compassionate personal moral code. That said there are jerks out there and slimy behavior and reactive meanness are a reality in most companies. But you can choose not to be in this camp. Unfortunately, you cannot choose when you will be a target. Only how you respond if you find yourself in this position.

    When we don’t think there are more than enough goodies to satisfy everyone’s goals, when we believe that somehow anything good that happens to you harms me in some way, when we are not self-honest, and when our lack of personal growth allows a biased, harshly judgmental, and mean spirited response towards others, we are capable and prone to do harmful things. Political infighting is a long established norm in business. We seem to think, in some sick, misguided way, that we benefit from such actions.

    We all need to learn to play hardball if necessary to survive and thrive in the game of business as it is naïve to think everyone you work with wants what is good for you. Would that it were so but I fear it may never be. That said, trusting others is still a right action as you develop as a professional. Do I turn the other cheek? Usually no. But I do stay true to my values and integrity. As the saying goes, “when you wrestle with pigs everyone gets dirty but the pigs love it.” I hate it. My opinions and I could be wrong. Thanks for the post.

    • Aditi Chopra on June 14, 2014 at 5:25 pm

      Thanks for your insightful comments!

  3. micheleframe on November 2, 2014 at 11:36 am

    I really like your advice to ignore. Above and beyond that I think it is also a good strategy to build love, trust, and respect in almost ALL your biz relationships. The better you get at doing this, then the less effect undermining efforts against you become: Others will ignore that person too. In addition, I am surprised at how many of “the underminers” can be won over so that they don’t use you as a target. You can get to the point where most people won’t even perceive you as a possible target in the first place.