21 definite signs your coworker is threatened by you

Updated on August 18, 2023
21 certain signs your coworker is threatened by you

If you suddenly excel at work, you might notice a shift in the way one or more coworkers behave towards you.

This could happen because they feel professionally threatened by you. In other words, they fear that your skills and talents will eventually overshadow them.

They see you as somebody who is more intelligent and more capable than them. Thus, feelings of fear, jealousy, and anger might begin to bubble underneath their workplace persona.

This can lead to unpleasant situations at work and even conflicts.

Look for at least 5 to 10 signs that а coworker is intimidated by you. Just one or two signs from the list below could easily be misinterpreted.

That is why you should look for a whole cluster of signs indicating hostility.

Signs a coworker is threatened by you

Signs a coworker is threatened by you

Unfortunately, a coworker who somehow feels threatened by you at work could begin to treat you badly.

So here we will explore some of the more obvious signs to look out for as well as some more subtle ones.

1. They ignore you

Do you know how some people avoid their problems? If your coworker starts to avoid you, then this could be because they feel intimidated by you.

In other words, they would be actively trying to limit their interactions with you from now on. They would communicate with you only if necessary.

Of course, there is a chance that something entirely else is going on. You might want to take a look at our guide on how to deal with coworkers who are actively ignoring you for some reason.

2. They refuse to communicate with you

Avoidance usually leads to serious communication blocks that can lead to problems in your work. For example, your coworker might not respond to your emails and DMs from now on.

And if they do, you will only receive vague responses.

3. They withhold information from you

As communication is limited, your coworker won't be actively sharing work-related information with you from now on which is essential for a well-performing team.

You can see how something like this can quickly turn into a terrible counter-productive situation.

4. They talk behind your back

In order to turn other coworkers against you, your coworker might begin to talk behind your back and start rumors.

They might be telling blatant lies which means that you will have to deal with slander at work.

5. They exclude you from important activities

Important emails and updates are not reaching you anymore? Feeling left out from the group? Meeting taking place without you? You are not imagining things.

They are trying to exclude you from group activities as much as possible.

6. They express sudden interest in you

There is a chance you might experience something completely different.

Your coworker might react in a more proactive way when they realize that you threaten them professionally.

All of a sudden, they might become quite interested in you and your work.

7. They micromanage you

One of the ways your coworker might feel in control of the situation is by micromanaging you.

This means that they follow your work closely and give you instructions on what to do, even though you are doing quite well without their guidance.

If the situation is becoming unbearable, then consider these tips on how to deal with a micromanager at work.

This way they feel as if the work you are doing is actually a continuation of their brilliant work.

8. They take credit for your achievements

By working closely with you and micromanaging you as best as they can, your coworker might be taking credit for your work.

Yes, some people would stoop that low but this is one of the harsher realities of working with insecure people.

9. They get angry around you

Your coworker might lose their temper from time to time around you. Anger usually comes from a place of fear.

Particularly the fear of losing something. Your coworker is afraid that you are surpassing them and this makes them angry.

10. They are rude

You might experience some undeserved rudeness. Your coworker is no longer trying to put on a nice facade around you.

They might no longer greet you when they see you. You might notice that they roll their eyes theatrically whenever you say something.

Have a look at our complete guide on dealing with rude behavior in the office.

11. They sabotage your work

Your coworker might begin to actively sabotage your work. Be it by withholding information from you or by providing you with false details about a work project.

Who knows, they might even delete some of your files or tamper with your workplace computer.

12. They gaslight you

Gaslighting is a popular manipulation tactic that aims to make you question your own judgment.

Here are some phrases that manipulators often use to gaslight people at work:

  • “This is not such a big deal.”
  • “No, I never said anything like that.”
  • “You are delusional, you are imagining things.”
  • “You are being way too sensitive about this.”
  • “You are totally overreacting right now.”

13. They create regular conflicts

Inevitably, all this tension between you and your coworker can lead to some unpleasant conflicts in the workplace.

Conflicts at work are major blockers are productivity so the higher management of the company might have to step in to seek a proper resolution.

This is where you are stepping into dark territory because there is a lot of uncertainty. Somebody might lose their job. Let’s hope it will not be you.

14. They blame you

Your coworker might blame you for something that is certainly not your fault.

This is a common tactic that people use when they feel threatened by a coworker.

They aim to make you look bad by pointing out that the responsibility for a certain failure is (mostly) yours.

15. They complain about you

You might hear that complaints and accusations have been made against you.

It would be even worse if the complaints were made anonymously because you won’t be able to face your accuser.

Check our specific tips on dealing with coworkers who have complained about you.

16. They are competing with you

Your coworker doesn’t consider you to be a part of their team. You are seen as a competition. Therefore, the coworker in question will be doing their best to outperform you from now on.

For example, they can say things like “let’s see who sells more today” or “I bet I’m going to write more lines of code than you.”

17. They try to devalue your work

In order to ruin your confidence, your coworker might begin to critique your work in a mean, hurtful way.

Their goal is to make you feel and appear incompetent in front of your colleagues and boss.

18. They question your competence

Your coworker might say things like “I wonder how you got hired at all” and “how did you come up with such stupid ideas.”

You might start to hear a lot of comments about “the lack” of your professional competencies.

19. They question your authority

If you are somehow in the decision-making process at work, then your coworker might attack this aspect of your work.

They might say things like “who approved this” and “how did you come to this decision.”

20. They don’t trust you

Your coworker is aware that you can’t trust them because they are doing whatever they can to get rid of you.

It’s natural that they won’t trust you with anything from now on. If they could, they won’t leave anything to be done by you.

They would prefer to take care of things themselves so that they won’t give an opportunity to shine.

21. They act defensive

This person because quite defensive when you are around. They betray this through their body language.

They might cross their arms and cross their legs. Avoiding eye contact is another sign you should be looking for.

Whenever you critique their work, they might become quite agitated, coming up with all sorts of excuses why something wasn’t done correctly or according to certain standards.

Reasons a coworker might feel intimidated by you

1. Insecurity

Your skills, knowledge, and efficiency might be perceived as superior, causing insecurity and envy in your coworker.

They may worry that your abilities will outshine theirs, leading to a competitive atmosphere where they feel the need to constantly prove themselves.

2. Positive attention from management

Receiving consistent praise or attention from superiors can make coworkers feel overshadowed.

They may feel that your favorable relationship with management diminishes their own standing in the company.

3. Strong relationships with colleagues

Your good rapport with other team members might be seen as a threat to their own workplace relationships. They may fear becoming isolated or less influential within the team.

4. Job security concerns

In a competitive environment, they might fear that your performance could jeopardize their job security.

They may view you as a direct competitor for limited positions or resources.

How to deal with a coworker who is threatened by you

How to deal with a coworker who is threatened by you

If you are certain that your coworker is indeed feeling threatened by you, then you can take certain steps to deal with them. Here are a few general good practices.

1. Don’t trust them from now on

This person has shown you that they harbor a lot of negative emotions toward you.

That is why you shouldn't trust them with anything from now on, be it related to your work on semi-personal matters.

2. Practice psychological safety

Dealing with insecure coworkers can be quite stressful. That is why you shouldn't take anything they say or do personally.

Distance yourself from this person on an emotional level. Understand that nothing they say or do defines you as a person.

3. Ensure psychological safety

It is absolutely possible to get fired because of a conflict with a coworker. That is why you should make sure that you operate in a mode of psychological safety.

Keep track of the job market and update your CV to reflect your professional qualities at their best.

4. Share your problem with coworkers that you trust

In case you get along with one or several of your coworkers, then it would be a good idea to share what you are going through. This way you won’t feel alone in your struggles.

Besides, your coworkers might be able to offer more than just moral support.

Perhaps they have also noticed something weird about your insecure coworker who feels threatened by you. Insecurity could be a sign that you are dealing with a “vulnerable” narcissist at work.

5. Form workplace alliances

In case you are not particularly close to anyone at work, then consider forming a workplace friendship with one or several of your coworkers.

This way you will have somebody who is on your side as explained in the previous point.

6. Collect evidence

It would be smart of you to collect evidence against the coworker who bothers you. This can include private chat conversions, emails, and screenshots.

In case it comes to this, this folder of evidence can be of use later on in case you find yourself in the center of a workplace conflict.

7. Talk to your HR rep and boss

If the situation becomes unbearable, then you should contact your HR office and tell them what you are going through.

It is their job to ensure that all workers are provided with ideal conditions to do their job.

If you are experiencing a lot of stress and psychological pressure because of your “threatened” coworker, then you shouldn’t keep this to yourself.

You should involve your boss or direct manager as well. Of course, the situation would be quite unpleasant if it is your boss who feels threatened by you.

8. Confront your competitive coworker

As a final measure, you can directly confront your coworker and ask them what is going on. At this point, it is clear that they have a personal problem with you.

So you might as well ask them to step up and say what is really going through their head.

If necessary, ask them to talk privately and confront them when you are all alone. Ask them what you have done to deserve such terrible treatment.

Perhaps they will be able to gather their courage and talk about their insecurities. Check out our complete blog series on dealing with various types of difficult coworkers.

My experience with a colleague feeling threatened by me

At my current job, I was promoted to a lead position after only a year of service.

While most of my team was supportive, I noticed that Mark, a coworker who had been there longer, seemed distant and cold.

He started to undermine my ideas in meetings subtly and would often ‘forget’ to copy me on important emails. It became clear that he felt threatened by my rapid advancement.

Instead of letting the tension escalate, I decided to address the issue head-on. I invited Mark for a coffee and calmly expressed that I had noticed a change in our working relationship.

I assured him that I valued his experience and saw us as partners, not competitors. I asked for his advice on a project, genuinely acknowledging his expertise.

To my surprise, Mark opened up about feeling overlooked due to my promotion and was worried about his job security.

We agreed to work more collaboratively and to communicate openly about our concerns. Over time, we became a strong team, and Mark became one of my most trusted colleagues.

This experience taught me the power of open communication and empathy in resolving workplace conflicts.

Frequently asked questions about coworkers intimidated by you

What are some signs that a coworker’s intimidation is turning into harassment?

Signs may include consistent negative comments, attempts to undermine your work, spreading rumors about you, gossiping, aggressive or hostile behavior, and unwanted personal attention.

How should I report a coworker who is acting hostile due to their intimidation?

Document specific incidents, noting dates, times, and witnesses. Then, report the behavior to your supervisor or HR department, providing your records as evidence.

Should I talk to my manager about a coworker’s behavior if I think they are intimidated by me?

Yes, it is advisable to have a calm and factual conversation with your manager. Explain the situation, provide examples, and ask for guidance on how to handle the situation professionally.

How can I continue to excel in my job without intimidating my coworkers?

Focus on your own tasks and responsibilities, be humble about your achievements, offer help and mentorship to others, and foster open communication to address any potential issues proactively.

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.

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