How To Know If Someone's Sabotaging You At Work — Or If You're Doing It To Yourself

Looking for patterns in your past can help you identify the person at center of your career challenges.

workplace stress and drama courtneyk, PeopleImages | Canva 

In the fast-paced world of today’s typical workplace, it's not uncommon to encounter coworker challenges and obstacles that can get in the way of your success. One example is workplace sabotage, which can be detrimental to your career and overall well-being.

Whether it's intentional or unintentional, understanding how to identify and overcome workplace sabotage is crucial for your professional growth and personal peace of mind. But how can you recognize if someone is sabotaging you or if you're unknowingly sabotaging yourself?


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How to know if someone's sabotaging you at work (or if you're doing it to yourself).

First, we need to start by being able to recognize workplace sabotage.


1. You have enemies.

In a highly competitive work environment, it's not uncommon for individuals to engage in behaviors that create animosity instead of collaboration. Examples of this behavior may include spreading rumors, undermining your authority, or even taking credit for your accomplishments.

To identify if you have enemies at work, pay attention to the following signs:

Unexplained hostility: If you notice certain individuals consistently display hostility towards you without any apparent reason, it could be an indication they view you as a threat or competitor.

Isolation and exclusion: If you find yourself consistently left out of important meetings, projects, or social gatherings, it may be a deliberate attempt to undermine your involvement or contributions.


Gossip and rumors: If you frequently hear rumors or gossip about yourself that seem to originate from specific individuals, it could be a sign that they are attempting to tarnish your reputation.

2. You see demonstrations of emotional carelessness.

Emotional carelessness is another form of workplace sabotage that can have a significant impact on your well-being and professional relationships. This type of sabotage occurs when individuals disregard the emotional needs and boundaries of their colleagues and leads to strained relationships, as well as decreased productivity.

Here are some signs that emotional carelessness may be occurring in your workplace:

Insensitive comments: If you frequently hear insensitive or dismissive comments from colleagues or superiors that disregard your feelings or personal circumstances, it could be a sign of emotional carelessness.


Lack of support: If you consistently feel unsupported or invalidated in expressing your emotions or concerns, it may indicate a lack of empathy and emotional care from those around you.

Disregard for personal boundaries: If individuals consistently violate your personal boundaries, such as invading your personal space or prying into your personal life, it can be a sign of emotional carelessness.

3. You smell the burning bridges.

Burning bridges refers to the intentional or unintentional actions that damage professional relationships and hinder future opportunities. It can occur when individuals engage in behaviors intended to alienate or create animosity with colleagues, clients, or superiors.

Look out for the following signs of burning bridges:


Frequent conflicts: If you find yourself frequently involved in conflicts or disagreements with colleagues, it may indicate a pattern of burning bridges.

Lack of cooperation: If individuals consistently refuse to collaborate or work together effectively with you, it can signal damaged relationships and hinder progress.

Negative reputation: If you notice your reputation within the workplace is increasingly negative or others view you as difficult to work with, it may be a sign you have unintentionally burned bridges.

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How to overcome someone sabotaging you at work

Overcoming workplace sabotage is possible, but like any kind of damage control, it takes some serious effort to repair everything.


1. Address the sabotage from others

When faced with workplace sabotage from others, it's crucial to address the issue directly and assertively, but with a constructive tone. By taking proactive steps, you can minimize the impact of sabotage and create a healthier work environment. Here are some strategies to overcome workplace sabotage from others:

Communication: Initiate open and honest communication with the individuals involved. Express your concerns calmly and assertively while focusing on the impact their actions have on you and the work environment.

Seek support: Reach out to trusted colleagues, mentors, or supervisors for advice and support. They can provide guidance on how to navigate the situation and offer insights based on their own experiences.

Document incidents: Keep a record of instances of sabotage, including dates, times, and specific actions. This documentation will serve as evidence if further action needs to be taken with your Human Resources department or your manager.


2. Make space for self-reflection and growth

In some cases, workplace sabotage may stem from self-sabotaging behaviors or attitudes. It's essential to engage in self-reflection and identify any patterns or habits you are exhibiting which may be contributing to the problem. Here are some steps to foster self-reflection and growth:

Self-awareness: Take the time to reflect on your own actions, attitudes, and behaviors. Consider how they may be contributing to workplace sabotage or hindering your professional growth.

Seek feedback: Request feedback from colleagues, supervisors, or mentors to gain insights into areas for improvement. Be open to constructive criticism and use it as an opportunity for growth.

Professional development: Invest in your professional development by seeking out training, workshops, or courses that can enhance your skills and knowledge. This continuous learning can help you overcome self-sabotaging behaviors and excel in your career.


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What if you are the saboteur?

After reflection and feedback, you may discover the sabotage has been self-inflicted. While this may make you feel some shame or discomfort, do not stay in that mode for long. You can rehabilitate your reputation and form some new behaviors which can help you go forward as your career progresses.

1. Utilize effective communication

Effective communication is key to fostering a positive work environment and minimizing the occurrence of workplace sabotage. By promoting open and respectful communication, you can build strong relationships and address issues before they escalate. You can decrease your self-sabotage tendencies by focusing on your communication style in the following ways:

Active listening: Practice active listening by giving your full attention to others when they are speaking. Avoid interrupting and seek clarification when needed.


Clear and concise expression: Articulate your thoughts and ideas clearly and concisely. Use assertive communication techniques to express your needs and concerns effectively. Practice how you would present a new idea or concept. The more confident you feel about what you are saying, the clearer and more concise you will be.

Feedback culture: Encourage a culture of feedback, where individuals feel comfortable providing their honest thoughts to you. While you don’t have to accept feedback which is not constructive, listening to others can give you an idea of how you are perceived. Keep the feedback you give others constructive. Make it direct but kind feedback is easier to receive and bolsters your reputation as someone who can be trusted to be fair. This fosters growth and development for all team members.

2. Cultivate collaboration and teamwork

Promoting collaboration and teamwork is essential in creating a supportive work environment that discourages workplace sabotage. By fostering a sense of unity and shared goals, you can minimize your destructive behaviors and maximize your productivity. Consider these strategies for promoting collaboration:


Team-building activities: Participate in team-building activities or events to encourage teamwork and camaraderie. This may be uncomfortable at first, so go slowly. This helps build trust and positive relationships among team members towards you.

Honesty is the best policy: It’s okay to admit your self-sabotaging behaviors may have caused issues in the past. Let some coworkers you trust know you are working on improving your office relationships and self-awareness. When you authentically admit you are working on yourself, most of the people around you will lend their support…and possibly tell you about how THEY also have the same tendencies.

Recognition and appreciation: Regularly acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of those around you. This strengthens trust and relationships and allows for those around you to see another side of you.

3. Be positive and supportive

Workplace sabotage can have significant consequences for your career and well-being. By recognizing the signs of workplace sabotage and implementing strategies to address and overcome these issues, you can create a more positive and supportive work environment. Remember to foster effective communication, promote collaboration and teamwork, and engage in self-reflection and growth.


Whether the sabotage is external, or you are unintentionally sabotaging yourself, these strategies will help you rebuild your confidence in the office.

By taking proactive steps, you can navigate workplace sabotage effectively and thrive in your professional journey.

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Amy Bracht is a coach and consultant with a knack for transforming high-level concepts into practical solutions. She crafts innovative strategies designed to guide individuals toward their full potential.