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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.

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.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

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.

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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25 Comments on "3 Tips for Dealing With a Sneaky, Manipulative Co-Worker"

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I’m dealing with a lot of insecure, jealously, angry, and co-workers that love to talk down to people to make themselves look better. I’m so frustrated and I cry everyday for a way out. Going to the supervisor or manager will not do any good. They protect the ones they like. Every morning I put the armor of God on and pray that I make it through the day.
Any comments or ideas will be greatly appreciated.

Maricela Lopez

Absolutely right Ann .


well my husband is going thru this, and he’s currently looking for a different job.
Yes you can pray and yes you can put on the whole armor of God but my belief
is if it’s not working , there is something better out there for you. Fasting I know helps
but best to move on

God Bless!

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… Read more »
I get a kick out of how the manipulative cunning co worker, tries to turn things around to make it so they are the victim….and the boss usually falls for it because he has himself been manipulated to the grandest way… the manipulator starts her texting, to everyone, changing the situation, getting positive feedback from her groupies, inc the naive boss, and others are made to look like the beasts. All the while, she gets away with things, feels renewed, and continues on, smile in hand. She makes tons of mistakes at work, others rarely, but she lies about this… Read more »

To justreallysickofit: Keep your faith and hold your head high, God is watching. Don’t let the negativity get your down! 🙂


For those being taken advantage of, it’ important to encourage them to be proactive in sticking up for themselves. Meek and “good” people are plentiful, but realistically don’t inherit the earth (have you looked around recently?) when they wait to be saved in good faith like a doormat, and they certainly shouldn’t have to keep quiet, suck it up, and wait till they die to be rewarded for their good nature. Keeping management Bcc’d on emails is a great and practical way to keep co-workers’ workloads accountable, when push comes to shove.

Criminal minds

my coworker is constantly checking up on my work . She is not my boss and im not sure how to handle this. She has a long list of her own responsibility and went to my boss and said she needed to help me catch up. She doesn’t know i know how to check her list of task and she blantonly lied to me saying she was caught up. i think she is trying to make me look bad. what should i do?

just really sick of it
just really sick of it

Why do the ones whom stay positive like myself get bullied by these ugly people? People like myself don’t want to be pressured day in and day out by someone whom intimidates the workforce by their ugly perceptual attitudes. I have one and he is a disgusting person went to management and they hide their noses. These people are truly the cancer of the work world today. 8 hours around a filthy human being all for what? a buck.


You will find good and bad people everywhere. Best thing to do is to learn about how to deal with people in smart way.

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… Read more »
We have a manipulator in our workplace and it has taken us a long time to identify her as she disguised herself as everyone’s best friend. Although I am not her target, I can see how much damage she is doing to our group. The most important thing that has worked so far is to NOT keep your mouth shut. Be has loud as you when if you identify the manipulative behaviours, although at the beginning it is hard for people to believe you but once they are advised, sooner or later it becomes as clear as day. Once I… Read more »
My partner deals with one who works for him. From day one of us arriving in this workplace he has tried to schmooze his way into my partner’s good books; he is very charming and polite, complimentary and eager to listen to your opinions and advice on work. This person had already wormed his way “in” with the two other supervisors and was initially working for one of them, with whom he got on very well as not much was expected of him and in that environment of mediocrity he was one of the “stars”. He would always appear uninvited… Read more »

Ignore them it will drive them crazy hopefully they will get tired and leave you alone.

I had dealt with one in the past and now my daughter is to and she read this article and felt better. My daughter’s coworker didn’t like how she was being called out for her inappropriate behavior by her boss. She she went above her boss’s head and lied that her boss had called her names and that others had done the same type of thing. Then she told a co-worker who was very impressionable that the same thing was going to happen to her if she didn’t back her up. It is so sad how pathetic adults can be.… Read more »
In a previous position, a manager from another department asked for a particular file that stored in the accounting department. Our auditors were there, and they needed to see it. When I went to retrieve the file, it was not there. There was no reason why it should not have been there. A coworker of mine who worked with me in that department and our supervisor were suddenly blamed me for misplacing the file. I ended up finding the file, but this incident made me look bad. My coworker also had access to the filing cabinet that file was stored… Read more »
I was in the same position as you. Fair and good people who want to see others succeed and not fail usually get hurt in the end. I think you should have stopped her, stopped helping her, or went to your supervisor to let them know what was going on. Your boss should have caught on that she was only asking for your help when your boss was away. When I found out I was dealing with a master manipulator in my early days, I documented everything and sent an email to the employee I helped laying out everything. I… Read more »
Workplace Happiness Warrior
Workplace Happiness Warrior
If you can find a way to relate any complaints about the individual to HR by tying their behaviors to detriment of the company’s success, that can be extremely helpful. I found that when making it personal, they usually just write it off as a personality-related conflict. I found that when I approached HR and let them know that this person was intentionally trying to negate the results of our goals to sabotage another coworker, and documented instances where the individual admitted it, I was able to gain some leverage and got the message to the right people at the… Read more »

My work colleague is a soft spoken but very cunning. She has been piggybacking on everything I do as we both share a role. Its so frustrating that I have to share all credit for my hard work. She even got nominated for best employee award for something I help her to do.

I have a very manipulative coworker. I work in an office of 7 women. Before Miss Manipulator started, we all got along great. Now I feel like she is turning everyone against me. In the beginning we had a great relationship. She’s a smart friendly girl who won everyone over with her good looks and perky personality. Standing back and watching from a far, you can see how she goes over and above what is expected or required to put herself in everyone’s good graces. Now, that being said she does this with everyone except me. I seem to be… Read more »
olegs evil friend

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


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.

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… Read more »

That picture is creepy.

It is so nice to read the comments and suggestions here. I am dealing with a similar situation. We have a coworker who manipulates and lies constantly. Every time we confront him wither management, he lies. He is the typical manipulator who plays the sympathy card when he is accused. Every group he has ever worked in, there has been a conflict and now that I have to work with him it is clear that he was the cause. I think the best way to catch him, is to document everything, the times he plays like he can’t do his… Read more »
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