Insecure coworkers are a drag, they make carrying out your own work more difficult and their negativity can be contagious if you’re not careful.
The keys to navigating coworkers who are insecure are being able to spot the telltale signs they’re feeling insecure, and not getting involved in their drama!
If you think you have a coworker who is insecure, here are 16 signs of insecure coworkers to look out for and how to handle them:
16 Signs of Insecure Coworkers
1. They’re Always Asking for Reassurance Before Making a Decision
One of the most obvious signs that someone is insecure is that they are always looking to others for reassurance.
This is especially true of coworkers who are not able to make decisions by themselves and always ask other coworkers to help them out.
They do this because they don’t believe in their own judgment and also want someone else to blame if something goes wrong.
Helping a coworker is fine, putting yourself on the line to take the blame is not – be wary of this behavior!
2. They Are Overly Critical of Themselves and Their Work
Insecure people are usually very hard on themselves.
This manifests in the workplace as a coworker who is always pointing out their own mistakes and being overly critical of their work.
They might also try to mask this behavior by being critical of others’ work as well, and negative in general.
It’s best if you don’t agree or disagree with them as they can twist your answers to suit the situation, I always just ignore negative or critical comments.
3. They Either Don’t Take Part in Social Events or Keep to Themselves
When someone is insecure at work it doesn’t always just relate to their work.
Some insecure coworkers will also feel insecure and out of place in social settings and when socializing with their coworkers.
This might mean they keep to themselves and don’t take part in work events, or it might just mean they’re always the first to leave when everyone goes for drinks after work.
In either case, coworkers behaving like this are likely feeling insecure about themselves and their place in the company.
4. They Have Poor Communication Which Often Leads to Issues
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how important good communication is at work.
Insecure coworkers often have poor communication skills as they doubt themselves, which can lead to misunderstandings and issues arising from miscommunication.
They might also avoid communicating altogether out of fear of saying something wrong.
If you find yourself constantly having to clarify things with a coworker or running into issues because their communication is poor they need to work on their confidence.
5. They Always Look Highly Stressed
Looking stressed at work is nothing to be super surprised about and it doesn’t always mean someone is insecure, but it’s a strong indication they might be.
Insecure coworkers tend to be highly stressed because they’re constantly doubting themselves and their abilities.
This can lead to them taking on too much work, or being afraid to delegate tasks and ask for help, all of which add to their stress levels.
If you see a coworker looking stressed all the time, ask if they need help – they might just open up and ask for help.
6. They Don’t Give You Straight Answers to The Simplest Questions
Insecure people often have a hard time giving straight answers, especially if the question is something they feel insecure about.
This can be frustrating when you’re just trying to get some simple information from a coworker, but it’s a common sign of insecurity.
Questions that might trip them up and lead to evasive answers include asking about their work, their opinion on something, or anything that might make them feel like they’re being put on the spot.
7. They Make a Lot of Excuses for Missing Deadlines or Making Mistakes
If your coworker is always making excuses for why they missed a deadline or made a mistake, it’s likely because they’re insecure about their work.
They are probably afraid of being seen as incompetent or lazy, so they make up excuses instead of admitting they made a mistake or asking for help.
This behavior is not only frustrating, but it can also lead to bigger issues down the road if deadlines are consistently being missed.
8. There Always Seems to Be Some Drama Following Them Around
Insecure people often create drama because their outlook and attitude cause it.
This might manifest in the workplace as a coworker who is always starting arguments or stirring up drama, or it might just be that there’s always some sort of issue hovering over their work.
In either case, it’s a sign that a coworker is insecure and it’s causing problems that are spilling over into the rest of the team.
9. They Make a Lot of Effort to Impress Their Boss
One way someone who is insecure about their work or even their position will try and cover their tracks is by being nice to the boss.
They might just outright suck up to them, do extra work that’s not asked of them, or generally just try to show off.
While there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, wanting to do a good job, or demonstrating you’re trying your best, if it’s excessive it might be because they’re trying to cover the fact that they’re not doing a great job.
10. They Get Involved in Gossiping About Others
I hate workplace gossiping, backstabbing, and any form of talking about others behind their backs.
Insecure people often engage in gossiping about others because it makes them feel better about themselves.
By putting other people down or talking about their flaws, they feel better about their own insecurities.
It’s a toxic behavior that can quickly spiral out of control and damage relationships between coworkers and certainly something I steer well clear of.
11. They Try and Make You Feel Bad About Your Performance
In an attempt to make themselves feel better, insecure people will often try and bring others down.
One way they do this is by making comments about your performance, either to your face or behind your back.
These comments might be disguised as “constructive criticism”, but they’re usually just the person projecting their own insecurities on others.
It’s something to ignore, distance yourself from, and put a stop to if possible.
12. They Can’t Take Constructive Criticism without Getting Offended
If you give a coworker some constructive criticism and they react badly, it’s usually because they’re insecure.
They might get defensive, start arguing or even lash out as a way to defend themselves.
They’ll do anything other than listen to what you’re saying and take an objective look at whether or not you have a valid point.
It can be difficult to work with someone who reacts this way to criticism, but it’s important to remember that it’s not personal, they’re just insecure and find it difficult to deal with what you’re saying.
13. They Are Jealous of Others’ Success
Insecure people often have a hard time dealing with others’ success, especially if they perceive that person as being in a similar position to them in the company hierarchy.
Instead of being happy for that person, they will get jealous and might even try and do something to bring that person down.
It’s an ugly trait that can damage relationships and creates an overall negative atmosphere in the workplace.
14. They Are Quick to Blame Others
Another clear sign of being insecure is when people are quick to blame others because they don’t want to take responsibility for their own actions.
It might be that they made a mistake, didn’t do their job properly, or just generally caused some sort of problem due to not being proactive.
Whatever it is, if you have a coworker who always looks for someone else to blame instead of just admitting they did something wrong this may be why.
15. They Go Over the Top and Boast when Something Goes Well for Them
When something good happens, such as getting a big project or being given a promotion, people who are insecure will often go over the top and start bragging about it.
They need to tell everyone about it and make sure that everyone knows just how great they are.
Yet, inside they’re full of doubts and can’t believe they’ve been promoted and are probably more scared about the future than they are excited.
16. They Are Passive Aggressive and Hold Grudges
This is another toxic workplace behavior that I’ve seen a lot over the years and can do considerable damage to the team and workflow.
Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes issues arise and can’t be avoided.
How you handle issues at work says a lot about your character and how you feel about yourself.
If you can’t get over someone or something and feel the need to be passive-aggressive or hold a grudge, you’re not emotionally mature.
In my experience, one of the underlying reasons for this is when someone is insecure.
How Should You Handle Insecure Coworkers?
Let’s not mince words here, insecure coworkers can make your life at work a living nightmare.
They might not even realize they’re doing it, but their actions can cause a lot of damage to your mental health and well-being by making your job more difficult.
The real issue here is that there isn’t a lot you can do to help them deal with their insecurities, not deep down.
You can help them out with work-related problems and chip away at some of the things that they find difficult.
But you’re not going to change the way they think and feel, and it’s not your job to do so either.
As much as you want to help them, if they’re affecting your work the best thing for you is to go through the proper channels.
This typically means speaking with their boss – or yours – and highlighting the issues they’re causing you.
You should never feel bad about doing this, you’re not being mean or vindictive, you’re just looking out for yourself (and them).
And if they are adversely affecting your work, it’s important that their boss is aware of the situation so they can help them out too.
You should also distance yourself from them if possible, as their negative attitude and the ways they handle their insecurities can be contagious.
In short, the best way to deal with insecure coworkers is by being patient and understanding, but also taking care of yourself first and foremost!
Image credits – depositphotos.com/stock-photo-two-businessmen-in-office-drinking
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.