Please Susan, act your wage

How to deal with manipulative co-workers

Just like every other aspect of our lives, building relationships in professional environments plays a large role in our happiness, satisfaction, and success.

When we work with a manipulative co-worker, our happiness and work satisfaction can take a huge blow.

Unlike other relationships in our lives, we can’t just walk away. We have to endure a day-in, day-out routine with this person until someone moves on or moves up.

This makes it difficult to find a good way to deal with this person.

Whatever you do will have lasting consequences that you have to deal with on a daily basis.

Worse still, your interactions with this person can also affect your success with the company you work for.

Since you can’t walk away or boldly call your co-worker out on their toxic and manipulative behavior, it is important to deal with the situation delicately and professionally.

Here are 3 ways to deal with a manipulative co-worker:

Don’t do their work for them.

Some manipulative co-workers manipulate you in an attempt to get you to do their job for them. They will take all the credit yet do nothing to earn it.

They might sweet talk you, compliment you, and boost your ego by saying that you’re so much better at the task then they are, or that they will just mess it up and it would be so much better if you did it because of your expertise.

It can sound great, and even blur the lines of a person genuinely asking for help, but it’s not.

When you know that they are more than capable of completing the assignment themselves, then you know that they are trying to manipulate you.

Instead of doing the task for them, offer to support them while they do it.

That way, you are giving them the benefit of the doubt and offering to professionally guide and train them, versus just doing it for them.

This sets a clear boundary with this manipulative co-worker that you won’t play their games and complete their tasks so they can take all the credit without any of the work, and it does so in a positive manner.

To your other co-workers and superiors, you are offering assistance and being available for training, turning this task into a teachable moment.

You might need to reinforce this boundary a couple times by using this method, but after you have made it clear you have no intention of doing their task, they will either stop asking you or genuinely learn how to do it themselves.

Limit interactions with them.

If they are your co-worker, then you already know that you are going to be seeing and spending time with them on a regular basis.

However, you can limit those interactions to protect yourself and your emotional well-being. Participate in the normal pleasantries and then excuse or distance yourself.

Remember: you are both there to work, so use that as an excuse or tool for putting space between you and the manipulative co-worker.

You can’t have lunch with them, you have a project you have to work on. You can’t chat with them now, you’re really focused on what you are doing.

You should also feel empowered to go to your boss and let them know that you don’t perform best when you are paired with this co-worker on projects.

Ask if it would it be possible to work with someone else that your skills compliments better.

Doing it this way gives a professional reason for distancing yourself, focusing on your ability to be productive and avoiding blaming or venting about the other person.

Focusing on productivity instead of personalities will benefit both you and your boss and is more likely to get you the result you want.

Careful about asking for help.

Asking for help when you need it is a great characteristic to possess.

It is difficult to take everything on all by ourselves, and sometimes we do need guidance or training, or just someone to pick up the slack.

If you have a manipulative co-worker, try to refrain from asking them for help. Find another, reliable source in your workplace who will be able to offer you what you need without an ulterior agenda.

Knowing who is a good source to ask will be difficult to navigate at first.

Chances are, manipulative co-workers will seem like a good option until they reveal themselves to be otherwise.

Manipulative people and co-workers will use your vulnerability against you. They may take this as an opportunity to become a micromanager, telling you how to complete every little task you take on.

Or, they may use it as means to lower you and your success, boosting themselves upward with your loss.

A malicious manipulative person will be able to take that one task you asked for help on and twist it to make it seem like you are not competent enough to be able to do your job.

If you accidentally turned to your manipulative co-worker and this is how you found out their true nature, there are a few ways to bounce back:

Prove yourself through your work.

If they are trying to convince your superiors that you are incompetent, prove them wrong by doing a great job.

Let your work and productivity speak for itself.

Ask your boss for additional training, and from whom.

If your co-worker has turned into a micromanager, go to your supervisor and let them know that you do want additional training to get you the support you actually need.

When you ask for additional training, come prepared with a list of tasks or projects you want to be trained on or improve your skill with.

Also, come prepared with a co-worker who has these skills who you would prefer to be trained by. This will remove your manipulative coworker from their position micromanaging you and turn it into a positive experience that will benefit your career.  

When dealing with a manipulative co-worker it is important to maintain your focus on your ultimate goal: a happy, satisfactory work environment.

You don’t want to compromise this possibility by being unprofessional to your co-worker, which is why it is important that all of your focus and solutions revolve around professionalism and building a better job.

Creating healthy, professional boundaries and expectations will help you do this and be successful.