11 Signs Your Coworker Is Threatened by You (+ What To Do)

Do you think – or know – that one of your coworkers is feeling threatened or intimidated by you?

Whether it’s due to how you’re conducting yourself or not, some people will feel threatened by others in the workplace – it’s just the nature of the working environment.

The problem is, however, that when someone feels intimidated, they’ll often be defensive, display toxic behaviors, and be generally unhelpful in an attempt to protect themselves.

Not ideal and not helpful to creating a productive, conducive, working relationship!

Here are 17 signs your coworker is threatened by you, and what you can do about it!

17 Signs Your Coworker Is Threatened by You

1. They Rarely – or Never – Approach You

If your coworker seems to go out of their way to avoid you, it’s a sign they might be feeling threatened.

This is often because they feel like they need to protect themselves from you or that any interaction might end badly.

What you can do:

Make an effort to approach them first and make conversation. This will help show them that you’re not a threat and that you’re just looking to chat.

2. They Make Snide Comments or Jokes

Oftentimes, when someone is feeling threatened or intimidated, they’ll try to cover it up with humor.

If you notice your coworker making snide comments or jokes directed at you, it might be a sign that they’re feeling threatened.

What you can do:

Try not to take the comments too personally and brush them off. If you can have a sense of humor about it, it’ll diffuse the tension and might even make your coworker feel more comfortable around you.

3. They Don’t Make Good Eye Contact if They Do Speak to You

When someone feels threatened, they might have a hard time making eye contact.

This is just basic body language, it shows you that you don’t feel confident around you, or that they are shy or feel overpowered by you.

What you can do:

Make an effort to make good eye contact when you speak to them and be respectful in your body language without being too ‘in their face’.

Related Here are some tips for dealing with sneaky coworkers!

4. You Get the Feeling They’re Avoiding You

If you feel like your coworker is going out of their way to avoid you, it’s probably because they are.

Again, this is a strong sign they feel threatened by you or intimidated and don’t want any interaction with you.

What you can do:

Make an effort to approach them and make conversation. See if there’s anything you can do to put them at ease or make them feel more comfortable around you.

5. People Are Telling You They’ve Said They Feel Threatened By You

If other people have come to you and said that your coworker has told them they feel threatened by you, it’s a pretty clear sign that there’s an issue.

Your coworker might not feel comfortable enough to tell you directly, but they’re obviously feeling threatened if they’ve confided in others about it.

What you can do:

Make it clear to the people they’re confiding in that you don’t want to come across as intimidating and there is nothing to be afraid of.

6. They Compete with You Within the Workplace

If your coworker is always trying to one-up you or compete with you, it might be because they feel like they need to prove themselves.

This is often a sign of insecurity and that they don’t feel confident in their abilities – likely because they’re feeling threatened by you.

What you can do:

Make an effort to praise their successes, give them credit where it’s due, and try to create a collaborative environment instead of a competitive one.

7. They Cross Their Arms when You Approach Them

If you notice your coworker crossing their arms when you approach them or enter the room, it’s a sign they’re feeling defensive.

This is another basic body language cue that shows they feel threatened or intimidated and are trying to protect themselves.

What you can do:

Make an effort to be respectful in your body language and try not to come across as confrontational with your own body language.

8. They Never Share Their Ideas or Even Helpful Information

In a workplace, it’s important to be able to share ideas and information freely.

If your coworker is never sharing their ideas or helpful information with you, it might be because they’re afraid you’ll steal them or use them against them.

This is another sign of insecurity and that they feel threatened by you.

What you can do:

Make it clear that you’re not looking to steal their ideas and demonstrate you’re willing to share yours. Create an environment where it’s safe for them to share their ideas freely.

Related How to act when a coworker tries to make you look bad.

9. They Just Agree with Everything You Say

If your coworker is always agreeing with everything you say, it might be because they’re trying to appease you.

They might be afraid of disagreeing with you or saying something that will make you angry.

What you can do:

Make it clear that you’re open to hearing different opinions and that disagreement is okay. Encourage them to share their own thoughts and opinions with you.

10. They Have Never Tried to Get to Know Anything About You

If your coworker has never tried to get to know anything about you, it might be because they’re afraid of getting too close.

They might feel like they need to keep their distance from you to avoid any conflict or confrontation.

What you can do:

Make an effort to get to know them better and share some things about yourself. Be personable and show them you’re genuinely interested in knowing more about them.

11. They Leave You out When Arranging Social Events

If you notice your coworker is always leaving you out when arranging social events or getting together outside of work, it’s a sign they’re not interested in being friends with you.

They are probably afraid of getting too close to you or having to spend time with you outside of work.

What you can do:

Make an effort to invite them to social events or get-togethers outside of work. Show them you’re interested in being friends and that you’re fun and easy to approach – not scary at all!

12. They Leave a Small Room or Space when You Enter It

If you notice your coworker leaving a small room or space when you enter it, they might just be feeling claustrophobic or uncomfortable.

However, this is often another sign of insecurity and that they feel threatened by you and don’t want to be near you and feel ‘trapped’.

What you can do:

Make an effort to give them some space and respect their personal space. Try not to crowd them or make them feel like they’re trapped.

13. They Look Fidgety and Nervous when You’re Around

No one wants to make someone else nervous. Look for signs your coworker is fidgety and nervous when you’re around.

Things like playing with their hair, readjusting their clothes, clicking a pen, tapping on the desk, etc.

What you can do:

Make an effort to put them at ease and show them there’s nothing to be nervous about. Be friendly and approachable, and try to make conversation that will help them relax.

14. You See Them Loose and Joking Around with Other Coworkers

If you see your coworker all loose and joking around with other coworkers, but not you – it’s a sign that being around you has a different effect on them.

They might also be overcompensating or trying to prove to others that they feel comfortable around them.

What you can do:

Make an effort to be more friendly and approachable. Try to join in when they’re with other people and take a back seat and allow them to be themselves.

Related Here’s how I dealt with the sadness of a coworker leaving.

15. They Get Other People to Pass Messages to You

If you notice your coworker always getting other people to pass messages to you instead of doing it themselves, it might be because they’re afraid of talking to you directly.

They might feel like they need to keep their distance from you or avoid any conflict.

What you can do:

Make an effort to talk to them directly, and if you notice they’re passing messages via someone else, ask them politely to come to you directly.

16. They Email You Instead of Speaking to You In Person

Email is often the preferred method of communication in the workplace, but if you notice your coworker only ever contacts you via email – it might be because they’re avoiding you.

They might feel like they need to keep their distance from you or they don’t want to have to talk to you directly.

What you can do:

Make an effort to talk to them directly or invite them to have a conversation in person. Show them you’re interested in talking and getting to know them better.

17. They Have Applied for Internal or External Roles that Don’t Seem Logical

If you notice your coworker is applying for internal or external roles that don’t seem logical, or almost desperate, it might be because they’re looking for a way to get away from you.

They might feel like their best option to simply get away from you. If you’re not trying to intimidate them, don’t be offended!

What you can do:

Make an effort to reassure them that you’re not a threat in any way and that there is room for both of you to progress your careers (if that is the case).


Image credits – Photo by TheStandingDesk on Unsplash

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