There are few things worse at work than dealing with nitpicking coworkers who are always on your back.
No one likes to be watched, monitored, micromanaged, or have their work nitpicked and questioned.
How you deal with a nitpicking coworker is important, you need to be professional and maintain your own integrity.
Here are some tips and examples on how to respond to nitpicking coworkers the right way:
Why Do Some Coworkers Nitpick at Everything?
Before you can figure out how to respond to nitpicking coworkers, it’s important to understand why they do it in the first place.
Oftentimes, nitpicking is a defense mechanism that insecure people use to make themselves feel better.
By putting others down, they feel like they are raising themselves up.
In other cases, some people are just naturally critical and tend to see the negative in everything.
And then there are the coworkers who are genuinely trying to help.
Maybe they’re perfectionists or have a keen eye for detail and spot the slightest error, or they think they’re doing you a favor.
Whatever the reason may be, it’s important not to take it personally when someone is nitpicking your work.
Instead, try and figure out why they’re doing it.
Once you know what their motivations are you’ll be able to figure out how to respond to them so they’re not offended (hopefully) and what to do to put a stop to their meddling!
How to Respond to Nitpicking Coworkers
If you’re looking for things to say to nitpicking coworkers that are tactful, professional, and aren’t going to escalate the issue, here are a few things you can try:
- “Hey, I appreciate you always watching over my back and pointing stuff out but I really need to be left alone to figure this stuff out for myself.”
- “Thank you for catching that mistake and pointing it out, next time I’ll double check before hitting send, hey.”
- “I know you’re just trying to help but I need to do this on my own, thank you though.”
- “I’m sure you have my best interests at heart, but I don’t need any help, thanks!”
- “Thanks for pointing that out, but it’s hard for me to focus knowing that you’re always breathing down my neck!”
If you want to be a bit blunter because you know they’re not going to go away or take a hint easily, a few things you could say are:
- “Hey, don’t you have better things to do than try and correct my work or find fault in what I’m doing?”
- “Can you please stop nitpicking everything I do, it’s really getting on my nerves.”
- “I know you’re just trying to help but maybe you should spend more time on your own work, not mine!”
- “It feels like you’re undermining me when you nitpick at my work, I don’t need any help thanks.”
- “Appreciate your concern but I don’t need someone pointing out what I’m doing right or wrong.”
These lines should make your position very clear.
Sometimes it’s necessary to be a little harsh to make someone take notice, but if they’re mature about it it’s the right thing to do.
Examples of Nitpicking in The Workplace
If you’re unsure if a coworker is nitpicking or not, some common examples of nitpicking are:
- They’re always pointing out little things that they say you’re not doing correctly.
- They never compliment you when you do something well.
- they try to embarrass or humiliate you in front of your other coworkers.
- They try to micromanage you, even though they don’t have the authority to do so.
- They try to sabotage your work.
- They stick their nose into areas of your work where they shouldn’t be.
It depends on your workplace and the type of work you do, but anything along the lines of the above would be an example of nitpicking.
Basically, if a coworker is always sticking their nose into your work-related business without cause or authority, they’re nitpicking.
Why It’s Important to Set Boundaries with Coworkers
It’s important to set boundaries with coworkers in general, not just when someone starts nitpicking your work.
You don’t have to get all official and note things down to do this, you just simply need to be assertive.
For example, if you have a coworker who’s always asking personal questions and invading your privacy, you need to set them straight.
Likewise, if other coworkers are always bothering you when you’re working, you need to make it clear that you like to be left alone.
Word will soon get out what you do and don’t tolerate, and you’ll be much happier for it.
Of course, some people are not as good at taking a hint (or more obvious signs) as others, but you can always set them straight by being direct with them.
The key is not to just put up with coworkers treating you in ways that you’re not comfortable with.
You should always stand up for yourself and speak up when someone is making you feel uncomfortable.
It’s not always easy, but it’ll be worth it in the end!
Don’t Be Afraid to Escalate Their Nitpicking
If the person nitpicking your work is starting to become a real nuisance and nothing you say or do seems to be working, then it might be time to escalate the issue.
Depending on the organization, this typically means going to their boss or HR and making a formal complaint.
Of course, you should only do this if you feel like the person is really crossing the line and making your work life unbearable.
But if that’s the case, then don’t be afraid to speak up and take action.
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t have to put up with someone making your life difficult at work.
It’s a tough one with nitpicking because often, they have – or say they have – your best interests in mind.
It’s just their way of trying to help, but it’s annoying and undermines your confidence.
The best thing you can do is be assertive, set boundaries, and don’t be afraid to escalate the issue if necessary.
Image credits – Photo by Zest Tea on Unsplash
Phil lives in England, UK, and has around 20 years experience as a professional life, career and executive coach. He started this blog to help others find and define their own self development journey. Blogging about a wide range of topics to help facilitate a better future.