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.