17 chill steps to deal with coworkers who complain about you

Updated on August 23, 2023
How to deal with coworkers who complain about you

Workplace conflicts can be quite unpleasant. Doubly so when you are at the center of the drama. Especially if your coworkers are accusing you of something.

The best way to deal with coworkers who complain about you is to understand what circumstance brought this conundrum. If there are legitimate grievances, then it is best to apologize and return to good terms. But if you are being wrongfully accused, then you should take action to protect yourself.

I’ve had coworkers complaining about me behind my back. I know just how stressful and mentally exhausting this can be.

Worst case scenario, you can lose your job, especially if you are being actively sabotaged.

But who knows, maybe you are indeed at fault for something? So let’s take a look at both how to deal with legitimate complaints and falsehoods that were fabricated by coworkers who wish you harm.

Here I will share with you my best advice on how to protect yourself and come on top.

How to deal with coworkers who complain about you

effective steps to deal with coworkers who complain about you

So, what to do when someone files a false complaint at work against you? Coworkers who complain about you and spread falsehoods – this is a classic example of toxic behavior at work.

Essentially, these people don’t care about your feelings and well-being. That is why you should take active steps to protect yourself. Here is what you can do.

1. Move past self-doubt

Self-reflection and feedback from your peers are important. But if you do not see any good reasons behind the complaints, then something fishy is definitely going on. Remember that complaints are worthless if they are not backed up with facts.

2. Ask the right questions

If your boss and/or HR ask to see you so that you can discuss the complaints, then this will give you the perfect opportunity to defend yourself.

A tactic that you can resort to is to assume the role of an interrogator yourself. You can ask the following questions:

  • What are the complaints against you?
  • Who is your accuser?
  • When did the incident happen?
  • Why would you ruin your reputation like this?
  • Why would you risk your job like this?
  • How come nobody else has ever complained about you like this?
  • Is there any evidence that can back up the claims made against you?

Depending on the specifics of the situation, you can ask a series of questions that will easily expose the falsehoods to your boss and HR. This way they will see that you are innocent.

3. Ask to meet your accuser face-to-face

If someone complained about me at work without any good reason, I’d love to have a face-to-face conversation with them.

If your accuser is so confident in their claims, why don’t they step forward and meet you?

Will they be able to make the same claims when you are there in the room? If it comes to this, it is very likely that they will mix up their story.

Their body language and their behavior will betray their lies. It will become obvious to everyone in the room that they are lying.

4. Distance yourself from the complainers

Both physically and emotionally, distance yourself from these coworkers. Don’t take anything they do personally and limit your communication with them. Talk to them only when work is concerned.

5. Be careful – watch your back

If they see that the complaints against you don’t work, they might come up with another scheme to sabotage you.

You shouldn’t trust them with anything so be very careful when you interact with them from now on.

6. Back up your work

Make sure that your work is always backed up. Be it digital files or physical copies, make sure to protect the work that you do for the company so that people can’t tamper with it.

7. Document everything

Be it email or personal messages, you can document such exchanges to serve as evidence on a later stage.

One of the ways your coworkers might attempt to sabotage you is through false information. If you keep a record, you will be able to prove that you were intentionally misled.

8. Make an appeal to HR

It is best to report the case to the Human Resources department so they can take over. One of the primary functions of HR is to ensure the well-being of workers.

They should be able to resolve the situation and put an end to the mistreatment you are dealing with.

How to handle a legitimate complaint against you at work

In this section, we will focus on how to handle legitimate complaints against you.

The best way to handle a complaint that has been raised against you at work is to apologize immediately.

Find out what are the reasons for the complaint and the people who are involved. If you have made a genuine mistake, show them how sorry you are and ask for forgiveness.

If a formal complaint has been made against you at work, then you probably found out about this through your boss or an HR representative.

Hopefully, they wanted to hear your side of the story as well so they arranged a meeting with you.

It is very likely that the nature of the complaint is quite serious if the management decided to take action and question you.

Serious complaints usually concern one of three things so my guess is that the issue is something related to your:

  • Behavior at work
  • Work performance
  • Coworker interactions

In all cases, here are the steps that you can take to deal with the complaint against you.

9. Self-reflect on your actions and behavior

Be honest: did you do something wrong? Do you know in your heart that the complaint is legitimate? If you are indeed at fault, then it is best to…

10. Apologize in writing

Draft an email with your apology and send it to all parties involved. You can go for something like this:

Hey guys,

I just wanted to address the complaint that has been made. I am terribly sorry about [my behavior/the mistakes I made/what I did/what I said].

I promise that this won’t happen again. I hope that you will be able to forgive me.

If you are at fault for something, your boss, HR, and your coworkers want to see that you are able to recognize your own mistakes/deficiencies so you can correct them.

Because if you don’t, then they will conclude that you will cause more trouble for them. And this can lead to work probation and eventual termination.

11. Ask for feedback

Talk to your coworkers or your manager. Ask them about what you did wrong and how you can improve.

Also, apologize to your coworkers in person. Tell them that you didn't mean any harm and that you are sorry.

Say that you will do your best to be better and that you hope that they will be able to forgive you. If your coworkers are kind and understanding, they should be able to forgive you. This way you will forward on good terms.

12. Maintain open communication

Communication is key when it comes to dealing with coworkers who complain about you.

Just be open to talking and try to create a comfortable space where everyone can share their concerns. That way, you'll understand their issues better and work together to find a solution.

13. Practice active listening

Now, when someone has a complaint, it's super important to really listen to them. Be all ears, don't interrupt, and show that you're paying attention to their feelings.

Trust me, this will help you get the full picture and make the other person feel respected and heard.

14 Show empathy and understanding

As you chat with coworkers who have complaints, remember to be empathetic and understanding. Try to see things from their perspective and let them know you get where they're coming from.

This approach will help build trust and can often lead to a smoother resolution.

15. Address concerns professionally

When you're responding to complaints, stay cool and professional. Keep your emotions in check, and focus on the facts.

By addressing the issues calmly and rationally, you'll be more likely to find a common ground and resolve the situation.

16. Build positive relationships with coworkers

A great way to handle complaints is by building strong relationships with your coworkers. Get to know them, join them for lunch, or catch up during breaks.

The more you bond, the easier it'll be to work through any issues that may come up.

17. Improve your interpersonal skills

Lastly, don't forget to brush up on your people skills. Work on your emotional intelligence and learn some conflict-resolution techniques.

That way, you'll be better equipped to handle complaints and maintain a positive, harmonious work environment.

How to deal with slander at work

How to deal with slander at work

If you are dealing with slander at work, this means that somebody is making false claims about you with the intention to harm your reputation.

The false claims can be about your character and the purpose would likely be to alienate people from you.

Defamation at work is a civil wrong. This means that you can take legal action against the person who is spreading falsehoods about you.

If slander at work has brought you severe harm in any way, you can consult with a lawyer to take further legal action.

My experience dealing with coworkers who complained about me

I'll never forget the morning I arrived at the office, full of energy and excitement, only to discover that my colleagues were avoiding me.

At first, I thought it was a coincidence, but as the day wore on, the tension in the air became palpable.

That's when I found out that several coworkers had lodged complaints against me.

As a young and inexperienced project manager at an international tech company, I had been eager to prove myself. The news of these baseless complaints hit me like a ton of bricks.

My heart raced, and I could feel the sting of tears threatening to spill over.

How could this happen? I had always strived to be fair and professional.

I retreated to my office, my mind spinning as I tried to make sense of the situation. Once the shock began to wear off, I decided that the best course of action was to reflect on my behavior and identify any potential reasons for the complaints.

I considered every interaction I'd had with my team, searching for clues. Yet, after countless hours of introspection, I was confident that I had treated everyone fairly.

Determined to resolve the issue, I mustered the courage to approach the complaining coworkers.

I found them huddled in the break room, sipping coffee and whispering. My heart pounded as I stepped forward and initiated a conversation.

I listened attentively and empathetically to their concerns, doing my best to understand their perspective. In return, I shared my own thoughts, addressing any misconceptions and seeking common ground.

Despite my attempts at resolution, it became clear that I needed additional support. I gathered my thoughts and evidence, then arranged a meeting with my manager and the human resources department.

As I sat in the conference room, sunlight streaming through the window, I presented my case in a calm and professional manner.

The evidence I provided helped dispel the baseless complaints, and my manager and HR provided guidance on how to move forward.

Throughout this ordeal, I made a conscious effort to maintain a positive attitude. I focused on my work and personal growth, using the situation as an opportunity to learn and improve.

I also sought to build healthy relationships with other coworkers, joining them for lunch and after-work activities. As we bonded over shared experiences and laughter, I could feel the tension dissipating.

I dedicated myself to improving my interpersonal skills and attending workshops on emotional intelligence and conflict resolution.

These newfound skills not only helped me navigate the current situation but also prepared me for future challenges in my career.

In the end, my persistence and dedication paid off.

The baseless complaints were put to rest, and my name was cleared. The experience, though painful, taught me valuable lessons that continue to shape my professional life.

Today, I stand strong as a project manager, armed with resilience and a wealth of knowledge that will serve me well in the face of future challenges.

Frequently asked questions about dealing with coworkers who complain about you

How do I differentiate between a genuine complaint and unnecessary criticism?

To differentiate between a genuine complaint and unnecessary criticism, consider the content and the context of the feedback. Genuine complaints usually focus on specific actions or behaviors and aim to improve the situation. Unnecessary criticism, on the other hand, might be vague, personal, or unfounded. Reflect on the feedback and see if it aligns with your experiences or if it can help you grow professionally.

Can I be fired if someone complains about me at work?

Although it's possible to be fired due to a complaint, it typically depends on the severity of the issue and the company's policies. Employers are often interested in resolving conflicts and improving work dynamics. If the complaint is baseless or minor, it's more likely that management will work with you to address the concerns and find a resolution, rather than resorting to termination.

How do I know when it's time to involve management after a complaint against me?

It's time to involve management when you've tried to address the issue directly with the complaining coworker but haven't been able to reach a resolution, or when the situation is impacting your work environment and mental well-being. If the complaint is severe, involves harassment, or affects multiple individuals, it's crucial to involve management or HR as soon as possible.

Written by:
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co-founder / office worker
Alex has been an office worker for more than 10 years. He is dedicated to helping other office workers to achieve the perfect life-work balance through well-being, effective communication, and building productive habits.

2 comments on “17 chill steps to deal with coworkers who complain about you”

  1. A coworker yelled at me stating I was not doing my job and I needed to focus more and I better step up the pace because I was stressing everyone out I explained You have no right to say anything to me if that was the case the supervisor should tell me about my job performance not you so I reported her immediately now I feel very uncomfortable at work because she said I was stressing everyone out I have been on the job about a month what should I do I'm afro american and I feel I was targeted because customers always compliment me and I always get tips they compliment me on the way I dress constantly and I think it might be jealousy

  2. Thank you so much for this information. It will help me tremendously with a co worker who is trying to sabotage me at work I like how you gave detailed and precise information. I also liked how you shared your story. It really shows me that the situation needs to be brought to your boss attention.

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