3 Tips for Dealing With a Sneaky, Manipulative Co-Worker

Proving yourself to your boss is hard enough. Add those manipulative co-workers to the mix and you have yourself an impossible situation – or do you? We’ll examine how to identify who those wheeler-dealer colleagues are and how to effectively deal with them so that you can shine bright in your career.

how to deal with manipulative co-workers

(Photo Credit: otakuchick/Flickr)

The workplace can be a cut-throat environment, with everyone trying to get ahead in some way, shape, or form. It’s no surprise that there are those downright malicious people who will do anything and everything to get a leg up on the competition and win the spotlight, especially in front of the boss. If you’re just not that into scheming your way to the top, here are a few tips to help you steer clear of the manipulators in the office so that you can continue your climb up the corporate ladder.

1. Identify

The first step is to know how to identify who the connivers are amongst your co-workers, which can be a tricky task. Be careful not to immediately assume that someone’s request for assistance is manipulation. First, take a step back and evaluate the situation for what it is. Are you being asked to contribute your efforts because a co-worker needs your help? Or are you being asked to perform someone else’s work while they reap the benefits of the final product?

Manipulative people are usually very good at disguising themselves as your friend when they need something, but could care less about you otherwise. Pay attention to how consistently you are being asked for help by this person, as well as how apt they are to acknowledge you or your contributions in a group setting.

Another indicator of a schemer is whether they are prone to bad-mouthing or gossiping about others in the office, including the boss. In general, anyone who always has something negative to say about other co-workers is probably not the person you want to surround yourself with, nor lend your assistance to. Like Mom always said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Plus, you don’t want to get caught up in the drama when people find out about this control freak’s gossiping – trust that you will be thrown under the bus when “stuff” hits the fan.

2. Just Say No

After you’re able to differentiate manipulation from simply asking for help, don’t be afraid to say “no” to these cancers of the office, because they’re only out to advance their own careers, and definitely not anyone else’s. If you are asked for help by a manipulative co-worker, the best thing to do is explain that you’re busy trying to meet such-and-such deadline, and then maybe lend some advice to help that person complete the task. This way, you aren’t being rude or abrasive when declining to help, and are still offering free advice in the end.

3. It's Them, Not You.

Don’t take things personally – understand that it’s them, not you. These “wolves in sheep’s clothing” are taking out some personal issue or insecurity on you and it’s usually unwarranted. It’s crucial to maintain professionalism when dealing with such characters in the workplace, which oftentimes means biting your tongue when you want to lash out. The best way to deal with a manipulator’s continuous wickedness is to address the issue, professionally, with the person privately. If the behavior continues, then the next step is to consult your supervisor. Your last resort is to escalate the issue to Human Resources and get your complaint in writing and on record.

The absolute worst thing you can do when you’re being manipulated or taken advantage of in the workplace is to ignore the behavior, because it will only get worse. Take action as soon as you are aware of the cunning behavior before it ends up costing someone their job – and that someone will probably be you.

The next time your corrupt co-workers starts his spiel about how much he needs your assistance (a.k.a. for you to do his work for him), you will have the know-how to effectively divert his requests and let him down easy.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have manipulative co-workers? How do you dodge their requests and still manage to pave a successful career path? Share your pearls of wisdom with our community on Twitter or in the comments section below.


  1. 6 rosie 09 May
    I have just realised the best way to deal with sneaky people is the less communication with them the better,they are very cunning people and can be quite evil,I have had experience with one for quite a few months now and as you said will be your friend only when she needs something and will benefit out of it.An incident happened where she was being very dishonest and made me feel I was going insane even tild me I was being paranoid but my gut feeling was telling me different week later truth came out and I was right and not being paranoid like she was telling me.So now I have very little contact I only speak and be polite when I have to be and stopped all contact,eAnd its the best thing I ever did.Them people will just drag you down as they get a buzz out of it I feel.They can be quite dangerous and I do believe there is a bit of evil in there behaviours.So as little contact as possible its worked for me
  2. 5 olegs evil friend 18 Apr
    Our coeworker is pure sneaky lazy and old super sneaky ao what i do is say. Ohh super sneakyness i detect here you very sneaky and walk away
  3. 4 Victorious 01 Oct
    Tips for Surviving the Manipulative 1. Document conversations and blind copy people that need to be privy of tasks where the manipulator is trying to take credit. If the manipulator asks you for something make sure that people know the manipuator is asking you. 2. Don't trivialize your knowledge base and experience. Consider for a moment why a manipulator asks you the questions instead of the boss or another colleague? You are being asked because you know and are valuable! Don't ever let an insecure person convince you otherwise. 3. Know the value of your skills and role. If manipulators try to minimize you, do your work or take credit for work they have solicited you to complete, set clear boundaries. Say no with your actions because after all "actions speak louder than words". 4. Remember a manipulator is one person. Don't worhip a manipulator or make them a god by allowing the manipulators opinion and actions of you to out weigh the good opinions you have of yourself. 5. Trap a manipulator in their own dishonesty by stating facts via email, in ear shot of those who know the truth and in the manipulators face. This tatic disarms the manipulator. 6. Read the 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene and find a couple of laws that you can practice in good conscience. 7. Practice assertion. 8. A manipulator is usually a habitual distorter of the truth. Take control of the story that the manipulator is seeking to sabotage you with. 9. The stress from working with a person like this can be paralyzing. Find outlets for the frustration such as exercise, blogging, journaling but most importantly, direct confrontation with your manipulator. 10. Laugh by whatever means necessary.
  4. 3 emi 25 Sep
    I work with two sisters who try to "advise" our bosses at any given chance. They are so competitive that everyone else at work avoids them. I give free tutoring to one of their daughters and STILL they want to say negative things about me and several other teachers. It has gotten to a point where I just want to change jobs since my bosses are just falling for manipulative tactics.
  5. 2 Sibo 16 Sep
    My office assistant is so malicious and vindictive, its actualy spiralled out of control. I have no idea what i have done but she continues to do wierd things that i just cannot understand why shes being like this. I appointed her, I motivated for her to get an increase which she wasnt greatful about . Why me and how do i deal with this because these days i resort to avoiding her by all means. Oh she even went to a website called Tip offs at work and made false accusations about me abusing work vehicles. and accusing my husband and i for having an affair in the work pace?? We married and the board knows this!! If theres anybody out there please help me, this is a dilemma. Regards Sibo
  6. 1 Pojeh 14 Sep
    That picture is creepy.


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