When Someone Belittles You At Work(A Complete Guide) | OptimistMinds (2023)

This article will take a look at why someone would belittle you at work and how. It will describe the types of comments or behaviors such individuals make and the purpose of doing so. Furthermore, the article will highlight how one can deal with such people at the workplace.

When Someone Belittles You At Work

When someone belittles you at work it could be because of the following reasons:

  • Perceive You As A Threat
  • Do Not Want To Deal With You
  • Want To Be In Control
  • Insecure
  • To Make Others Like Them

Let us take a look at each of these reasons in detail!

Perceive You As A Threat

It is possible that the person who belittles you actually perceives you as a threat that they want to diminish or eradicate! They may consider you a threat due to a number of reasons such as your skills, educational qualification, interpersonal skills, physique or looks or even your experience in your career life. Nonetheless, they will try their best to make you feel inferior so that you no longer possess the potential to ‘harm’ them in any way.

It is not that they do not like you but they are fearful that you may take away opportunities from their hands. For example, a fellow coworker may be afraid that their boss offers you the promotion that they have been working for so hard. Hence, to push you off track and possibly hamper your efforts and affect your work, they will start belittling you. Their aim is to make you doubt yourself and underperform. It is possible they want you gone entirely from the scene!

A fellow coworker may hence be out to get you because they think you might perform better than they do and get the credit. So before that happens they will try and make you feel bad about yourself by passing belittling remarks – they can’t do much but talk down to you.

Do Not Want To Deal With You

A person may be afraid of you! They fear you will catch on to the loopholes in their stories or their work. Hence to put some distance between the both of you they adopt a non-likeable attitude where they constantly belittle you! The purpose of this is to keep you away from them. If you try to get close to them for the sake of asking questions or finding out why something went wrong, they will resort to their typical attitude of belittling you and passing negative remarks to get you off their back!

Be watchful of such people! Not only are they adopting a condescending attitude but they may be hiding something important which you need to expose. They might be meddling with work affairs or taking part in something illegal because of which they do not want you around!

This is extremely important to take note of in the workplace because as we mentioned before the toxic coworker may be hiding something! This is why they resort to belittling you whenever you approach them so they don’t have to deal with the issue at hand!

Want To Be In Control

People belittle you because they want to show that they know better and are in a position to tell people how they should behave or have the authority to point out mistakes. They want to feel above others and do so by putting others down!

This is common in the workplace where there is that one person who wants to show others that he or she is in control of how things operate in the workplace. They want to exert their dominance on others and make sure everyone knows that they need to be asked for ‘permission’ before any changes can take place.

To be in control is an addictive behavior where you cannot stand if someone does something without your permission. Even if that person is not required to take your permission, your behavior and expectations will force that person to ask you for your consent; this is actually toxic behavior. One way to feel in control is by passing belittling remarks to make others feel as if they are less than you!


Yes someone may belittle you because not only do they want to feel superior but they are also insecure because of you. They are afraid you are better than them at a certain skill or area in life and hence tell you the opposite of what they fear – to put you down of course!

Like other feelings and behaviors at the workplace, this is also a common one mostly because behavior is motivated by reward and punishment. If people perform better than others they will definitely get a reward in the form of recognition, a promotion or a bonus.

Hence, to make themselves feel as if they are in a better position than others, these individuals resort to belittling others with regards to their work! They will tell them that the presentation they made is very basic or that they take too much time doing their tasks. If they recently received a reward they will whisper into their ears that getting that reward was more of a sympathy move rather than something actually based on their performance.

To Make Others Like Them

One of the old tactics indeed! People often resort to wreckless or mean behaviour to impress others or make them like them. Here is a similar case where your coworkers or boss may try to put someone down in order to show others who is the decision making authority!

This is a behavior that is intended to make one feel good about their own selves rather than to actually put the other person down. Instead of making a real effort so that people actually like you, the individual belittles those around him or her to show others that they know how work is done and people listen to them.

How To Deal With Someone Who Belittles You At Work

Here are a few ways to deal with someone who belittles you at work!

Keep Your Cool

If the coworker is out to get you then the worst thing you could do is show them you are angry at what they keep on doing. That is what they want! They want you to get annoyed every time they point out a mistake in your work.

The best thing you can do is keep your cool. Don’t let them see how frustrated you are inside or even the fact that you are on to them. Make them feel that you consider this normal and actually appreciate their advice. However, a fun thing to do would be to start ignoring them after sometime. Allow them to come over to your cubicle and talk to you about your work. Once there are with you and have begun their lecturing then start ignoring them. They will probably feel embarrassed.

Confront Them – Ask Them To Let You Finish The Job

If you think enough is enough then confront your coworker. Some coworkers need to be questioned, only then will they back off and leave you alone. Next time they come up to you openly ask them about their habit of constantly giving you advice. Tell them how you feel and that you will not tolerate this anymore. Tell them how you can do your work perfectly fine and that not everyone has to follow their way of work.

Inform Upper Management

Issues between coworkers can go from bad to worse and even become toxic! If you feel your coworkers habits of correcting your work are somewhat resembling any form of harassment, immediately inform upper management. They will tackle the situation without compromising your request.

In case the person belittling you is your boss then you might have to get company representatives involved. However, in most cases, if the most senior person is putting you down and you are not able to resolve issues with them, it may mean you will have to leave your job.


This article explained why someone might belittle you at work and their true intention behind the behaviour which may include their insecurity, desire to feel superior or to impress others. The article also looked at a couple of ways on how to deal with someone who belittles you at work.





What do you do when someone belittles you at work? ›

A Foolproof Guide For Handling Condescending Coworkers
  1. Don't Take It Personally. First and foremost, keep calm and carry on, as they say. ...
  2. Call Them On It. You can address bad office behavior by telling people when their actions are not okay with you. ...
  3. Neutralize Your Body Language. ...
  4. Ask For Clarification.
Apr 28, 2016

What is the psychology of belittling others? ›

They are trying to make themselves feel more powerful or important by putting someone else down. They have low self-esteem and need to build themselves up by making others feel inferior. They may be insecure in the relationship and need to control the other person to maintain their status or power within it.

How do you deal with a nasty person at work? ›

Five Ways to Deal With Rudeness in Your Team
  1. Be a good role model. How you treat your people can impact the way that they treat others. ...
  2. Don't ignore it. If you ignore rude behavior, you send out a signal that, in effect, you condone it. ...
  3. Deal directly with the culprit. ...
  4. Listen. ...
  5. Follow up on any offender.

Is belittling someone abuse? ›

Emotional and psychological abuse can take many forms, including belittling, which can manifest as judging, humiliating, criticizing, trivializing or telling hurtful jokes. But belittling is no joking matter. It's a tactic often used by abusers to make their victims feel small, unimportant or disrespected.

What is demeaning behavior in the workplace? ›

Verbal Insults and/or put-downs. Nonverbal behaviours such as rolling eyes, sighing or looking distracted. Physical behaviours such as pushing, shoving, or other aggressive physical actions. Undermining your confidence by questioning your abilities or belittling your accomplishments.

How do you put someone in their place professionally? ›

3 Steps to Deal with Difficult People
  1. Decide what it is that bothers you about their behavior and how you will communicate this to them. Be specific. ...
  2. Choose a time when conflict is low to express what bothers you about their behavior. Don't get defensive; stick to the facts.
  3. Ask for change.

How do you treat someone who belittles you? ›

Use Humor. Try deflecting belittling behavior with humor. Respond with humor or exaggerate the belittling comment and make a joke out of it. Doing this could help someone to realize the outrageousness of what they have said if it is not based on solid facts or evidence.

What is the cause of belittling people? ›

Why do people belittle others? People may put others down for a wide range of reasons. Sometimes, they could do it because they feel bad about themselves and have low self-esteem, and so they put people down to boost their own confidence. Feeling a need to do so could have many different causes.

What type of person belittles others? ›

Narcissists belittle others because they have their own insecurities, fears and flaws, and are afraid of having them exposed to others. In making hurtful comments to others, they reinforce their own feelings of importance and hide the low self-esteem and self-worth that may be lurking within.

How do you outsmart a toxic employee? ›

Things to remember
  1. Foster an environment of open communication.
  2. Give direct feedback to employees.
  3. Enforce consequences for unacceptable behavior.
  4. Separate toxic workers from other team members.
  5. Address underlying issues.
Feb 8, 2023

What to do if a coworker insults you? ›

Seven tips for dealing with office insults
  1. React only when necessary. ...
  2. Don't go into attack mode. ...
  3. Don't confront your insulter via email. ...
  4. Focus on the big picture. ...
  5. Don't take it personally. ...
  6. Accept that not everyone likes you. ...
  7. Share your concerns.

How do you outsmart a manipulative coworker? ›

Dealing with a manipulative coworker
  1. Define your experience. ...
  2. Assess your feelings and use your support system. ...
  3. Try to resolve the conflict together. ...
  4. Let a manager or superior know what's going on. ...
  5. Focus on positive workplace relationships. ...
  6. Lead by example. ...
  7. Practice mindfulness. ...
  8. Show sympathy and empathy.
Mar 10, 2023

Is belittling a form of narcissism? ›

A narcissist will manipulate and control others to feel good, which is why they can be abusive in relationships. They can use aggression and be rude, offensive, and belittling towards their partners to wear down their self-worth. This can turn into a sadistic, abusive relationship.

What are the 5 signs of emotional abuse? ›

5 Signs of Emotional Abuse
  • They are Hyper-Critical or Judgmental Towards You. ...
  • They Ignore Boundaries or Invade Your Privacy. ...
  • They are Possessive and/or Controlling. ...
  • They are Manipulative. ...
  • They Often Dismiss You and Your Feelings.
May 23, 2017

Is belittling a form of Gaslighting? ›

If you feel filled with self-doubt after an encounter with your coworker, you're probably experiencing gaslighting. A common way that gaslighters make you doubt yourself is by belittling the effort you put into your work. Other examples of gaslighting could be a coworker belittling your emotions and perceptions.

What are 3 examples of inappropriate behavior in the workplace? ›

What is inappropriate behaviour?
  • harassment - offensive, belittling or threatening behaviour that is unsolicited, and may be repeated.
  • bullying - repeated abusive and offensive behaviour, which in some circumstances may involve inappropriate physical behaviour.
  • aggression and violence.

What are signs of disrespect in the workplace? ›

These are some specific examples of disrespectful behavior in the workplace:
  • Gossiping or lying.
  • Shouting or speaking in a hostile tone.
  • Saying inappropriate words or statements.
  • Demeaning someone.
  • Displaying biased attitudes or beliefs.
  • Being physically disruptive (e.g., throwing items when angry)
Feb 21, 2023

What is an example of unacceptable behavior at work? ›

Unacceptable behaviour

Aggressive or abusive behavior may include: threats of physical harm or actual physical harm. behaviour or language (verbal or written) that may cause staff to feel offended, afraid, threatened or abused. insulting or degrading language.

What to do when someone disrespects you? ›

  1. Realize that rudeness is nothing new.
  2. Stop the spiral of rudeness.
  3. Don't take rudeness personally.
  4. React to rudeness with kindness.
  5. Use humor to defuse a difficult person.
  6. Call the person out on his or her behavior.
  7. Don't escalate.
  8. Show empathy and sympathy.
Jul 22, 2019

How do you respond to rude comments? ›

How to respond to rude comments
  1. Pause to regroup. When someone says something hurtful, consider taking several seconds — or longer — to breathe, feel your feelings, and consider your response. ...
  2. Detach. ...
  3. Advocate for yourself. ...
  4. State your boundary. ...
  5. Don't waste your breath. ...
  6. Leverage nonverbal cues. ...
  7. Flip the script.
Sep 30, 2021

What are demeaning behaviors? ›

Demeaning behavior is that which is intended to cause a severe loss in the dignity and respect of someone; words or actions intended to debase, lower, degrade, discredit or devalue a person.

How do I stop being belittled? ›

If someone belittles you, you are better off using humor to deflect it, telling them upfront you don't appreciate it, or deflecting it right back on them. An example of deflecting it back on them is just to use the try-hard aspect of their put-down against them.

Is condescending belittling? ›

Aggression such as shouting, yelling and belittling comments are all obvious signs of condescension. However, people are sometimes condescending in more subtle ways, such as talking about people behind their backs or making fun of colleagues in the form of jokes.

How do you handle an employee who thinks they are the boss? ›

5 ways deal with employees who think they're perfect
  1. Give them autonomy - but set clear boundaries. To channel strong-minded employees you need to give them a role that they can take charge of. ...
  2. Be consistent with discipline. ...
  3. Keep things focused. ...
  4. Avoid reacting with emotion. ...
  5. Praise them for high-quality work.
Apr 13, 2023

What are 5 ways to identify a toxic workplace? ›

Signs of toxic workplace culture
  • No room for mistakes. Nobody wants to make mistakes, but when fear of mistakes paralyzes employees, this is a sign of a threatening environment. ...
  • Lack of trust. Toxic work environments typically lack trust among employees. ...
  • Role confusion. ...
  • Excessive stress.
Apr 5, 2023

How do you prove a toxic coworker? ›

Signs of a Toxic Coworker
  1. They are not cooperative.
  2. They rarely tell the truth. ...
  3. They are not accountable. ...
  4. They complain about everything.
  5. They play a victim.
  6. They put down, bully, or offend other coworkers.
  7. They always procrastinate at work.
  8. They use triangulation to draw others into their conflict relationships.
Dec 31, 2021

How do you deal with a rude and negative coworker? ›

If you can't learn to ignore the negativity, then speak to the person. Tell him or her how the negativity affects you. Be prepared to offer specific examples. Empathize with the person, but stress that all that negativity brings you down and you're not willing to listen to it any longer.

What bosses should not say to employees? ›

Here are 10 phrases leaders should never use when speaking to employees.
  • “Do what I tell you to do. ...
  • “Don't waste my time; we've already tried that before.” ...
  • “I'm disappointed in you.” ...
  • “I've noticed that some of you are consistently arriving late for work. ...
  • “You don't need to understand why we're doing it this way.

How do you respond to someone who belittles you? ›

Use Humor. Try deflecting belittling behavior with humor. Respond with humor or exaggerate the belittling comment and make a joke out of it. Doing this could help someone to realize the outrageousness of what they have said if it is not based on solid facts or evidence.

How do you deal with a coworker who disrespects you? ›

How to handle rude coworkers
  1. Don't take it personally. ...
  2. Talk to your coworker. ...
  3. Communicate with other coworkers. ...
  4. Consider the cause of this behaviour. ...
  5. Remove yourself from the situation and observe objectively. ...
  6. Try to limit your interaction with the rude coworker. ...
  7. Employ your sense of humour to dispel any bad feelings.
Mar 16, 2023

What are examples of belittling? ›

The following are examples of what belittling looks like:
  • Yelling or screaming at you to get a reaction.
  • Insulting you — calling you fat, ugly or stupid — or criticizing your parenting skills or intelligence.
  • Ignoring how you feel, disregarding your opinion or failing to recognize your contributions.
Jan 29, 2020

How do you treat someone who hates you at work? ›

What's the best way to deal with co-workers that dislike you?
  1. Attempt To Solve The Problem Privately.
  2. Ask Them for a Favor.
  3. Confront The Issue.
  4. Find Out Where Your Belief is Coming From.
  5. Seek Support from Allies.
  6. Put Your Head Down and Focus on Work.
  7. Try Getting To Know Them Better.
  8. Build a Rapport With Them.
Jun 30, 2022

Why do people put you down? ›

There can be many different reasons why a person may feel the need to put others down. Some possible reasons can include low self-esteem, childhood trauma, being bullied themselves, or a lack of empathy.

How do you outsmart a toxic coworker? ›

Here are some things you can do to make it better for yourself.
  1. Learn About Them. ...
  2. Understand What is Going on With Them. ...
  3. Develop Healthy Coping Mechanisms. ...
  4. Avoid Engaging with Them Unnecessarily. ...
  5. Try Talking It Out. ...
  6. Talk to Your Superiors About It.
Dec 1, 2021

How do you professionally tell someone they are condescending? ›

Be professional. Use “I” language (“I feel devalued as a person when you speak to me in a condescending tone”) instead of “You” language (“You are so condescending in the way you talk to me”).

What is demeaning behavior examples? ›

  • Shaming, humiliation.
  • Demeaning comments.
  • Spiteful behavior, backstabbing behavior.
  • Constant distorted or misrepresented nitpicking/faultfinding.
  • Censuring staff in front of others.
  • Medical “education by humiliation”
  • Insults or insensitive jokes or remarks.
  • Misogynistic comments.
Apr 24, 2014

Is belittling an attitude? ›

belittle usually suggests a contemptuous or envious attitude.

How do you tell someone doesn't like you at work? ›

6 signs that your co-workers don't like you
  1. They rarely include you in group discussions. ...
  2. They show negative body language when talking to you. ...
  3. They never celebrate your successes. ...
  4. They avoid working with you. ...
  5. They give you short and curt replies. ...
  6. They undermine you. ...
  7. You're the newest team member. ...
  8. You often take days off.
Nov 4, 2022

How do you tell if a coworker is intimidated by you? ›

7 signs a coworker may feel threatened by you
  1. They avoid you. ...
  2. They sabotage you. ...
  3. They're overly competitive. ...
  4. They make critical or sarcastic comments. ...
  5. They take credit for your achievements. ...
  6. They always respond negatively to your ideas. ...
  7. Their body language changes when you're around.
Apr 3, 2023


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