Reclaiming Your Influence: Strategies to Overcome Undermining in the Workplace


Have you ever felt a sinking sensation or an unsettling feeling that despite your sincere efforts focused on the customer – and even though you are always trying to make the world a better place, in some way… and even though you are motivated and driven from heart-felt purpose… that you were being deliberately undermined at work? 

If so, you’re not alone. 

Working in a large organization or corporation can be challenging, especially if you thrive in deep-work and meaningful, one-on-one interactions, and – not to mention that you truly want to believe everyone else is coming from a similar good and moral motivation as you. That everyone is on the same team, and that everyone is moving in the same direction.

First, I think it is very important for me to remind you: your purpose-driven motivation and general positive belief in humanity is NOT a handicap. In fact, it’s a strength that provides you with unique attributes such as creativity, focus, and a knack for deep listening and understanding – and the willingness to tackle really hard problems that other people wouldn’t ever attempt because they’re unable to see the future possibility that seems crystal clear to you. Your introverted personality it a GIFT – embrace it!

However, in an environment where extreme assertiveness is often rewarded, not to mention when you are driven primarily by purpose and have zero desire to succeed for the sake of succeeding alone, there may be times when you find out that someone who you trusted and who you thought was 100% on your side was in fact, working directly behind the scenes to block progress of something you care about.  It’s hard to comprehend, but there are a small number of people who do spend most of their energy trying to stop other people from moving forward. They are more concerned with how they could be diminished when others shine bright. Where any small error or mistake you make is their chance to pounce and pounce hard. It seems they are literally lurking in the shadows waiting for you to show just a bit of weakness.  I know… you could go to them 100 times and ask for their partnership and collaboration… they will smile, and say all the right things. They will look in your eyes and shake your hand and nod their head, “of course – they are on your team,” They say.

If you are idealistic, like I tend to be, and very busy trying to make the world a better place… you might not realize who these people are soon enough. In spite of your belief, in them, eventually something happens which completely takes the wind out of your sails…  you think, if it would have been a physical punch, it would have hurt less. It is that moment you discover they have actively gone behind your back and directly worked against you. 

It is in these moments; you might feel literally cornered and undermined. It is a sickening feeling.

Depending on how close you thought you were to this person who unexpectedly turned on you, it might cause you to question all the relationships you have across the organization, especially if the person working against you was outwardly well-respected. You might start to doubt your ability to read people and start losing trust in others and worse – you might start doubting yourself. 

So, that’s what we’re going to cover in this episode. We’ll delve into how you can address these issues head-on, regain your confidence, and ensure your reputation remains intact and that you remember you are a hardworking, well-respected professional. You remain worthy of continuing to move forward into the full possibility that your future holds.

This has happened to me:

I did have one story several years ago when I had someone who worked on my team, who had been in a more senior person than me, at one point earlier in our careers.  I had multiple people telling me that this person was disrespecting me behind my back.  I honestly did not want to believe that was the case, even though I had seen some of my own indications as well. Afterall, I had known him for years and I thought we worked very well together. I really liked this person overall and had high respect for the career they had built for themselves.  1:1 I felt we had a good report and over the course of a decade, I built trust in them.  I found out later that there were several changes I was trying to make where this person decided to go against me behind my back while telling me, to my face, that they were executing in alignment with my wishes. It wasn’t until one more minor situation occurred where I accidentally “caught” them actively going behind my back that I was confronted with the full truth. It was at that moment, the entire relationship played back in fast succession in my mind, and I realized that they never really had my back at all. I knew it the whole time – I just WANTED to believe that everything was ok. 

Weirdly…  in my case it happened just before they changed jobs and left the company I was working for at the time. Looking back, the fact that they were leaving may have been the reason I found out – they essentially didn’t even try to hide it at the end.

I want to prevent these moments from happening to you and I want you to spot these traps as soon as you possibly can.  I believe if you nip them in the bud, it will be better for you, for them, and the entire organization.  

What is behind the Underminers of the world?  What drives them?

Top 5 reasons why someone might exhibit undermining behaviors:

  1. Insecurity: You know, when people feel threatened or insecure about their own abilities, they might try to undermine others to protect their turf.
  2. Jealousy: Sometimes, it’s just plain old jealousy. If someone’s envious of another person’s success, they might resort to undermining them to feel better about themselves.
  3. Competitiveness: We all know that one super competitive person, right? They might see success as a win-lose game and use undermining as a way to get ahead.
  4. Ego Protection: You’ve got folks who can’t handle admitting their own limitations. So, instead of acknowledging someone else’s achievements, they’d rather undermine them to feel superior.
  5. Ingrained Bias: Sadly, unconscious biases can also play a role. When people hold prejudices, like gender or racial bias, they might unconsciously undermine colleagues who don’t fit their biased expectations.

Understanding these five factors can shed light on why someone might resort to undermining behaviors, which may help you deal with these situations more effectively

How to know if someone is undermining you

The first step in dealing with being undermined at work is recognizing the situation. Being undermined often comes in subtle forms; it may be someone stealing your ideas, interrupting you during meetings, or consistently giving you less important tasks despite your proven abilities. It could be someone on your team, sharing negative information with leadership, or it could be one of you peers who actively works behind the scenes to make themselves look better by pull you down. It’s these moments that reminds me of “Game of Thrones” Being aware of these occurrences is essential. But remember, do not blame yourself or question your worth or abilities; it’s about them, not you.

Luckily you have Introvert’s Intuition: And the ability to Decode the Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

Introverts often possess an uncanny ability to observe and understand the intricacies of human behavior. While they might not always be at the forefront of conversations or the loudest voices in a room, they excel in their role as astute observers. They pick up on nuances, reading between the lines, and often sense shifts in the atmosphere that others might overlook. This intuitive nature is a unique gift, allowing them to sense a wolf in sheep’s clothing, often long before the mask falls away.

However, as with any superpower, there’s always a margin for error. Human dynamics are intricate and multifaceted, and while introverts might be adept at reading people, there are instances when they can misinterpret intentions. Trust, after all, is a fragile bridge built over time, and any misjudgment can send ripples through it. So, the question becomes: how can introverts, armed with their intuitive skills, recognize when someone they trust is subtly undermining them in a professional setting?

  1. Consistent Inconsistencies: A person who’s undermining you might consistently agree with you in private but publicly voice opposing opinions or doubts. This inconsistency can be a clear red flag. Introverts, with their keen observational skills, are primed to spot these discrepancies.
  2. Evasive Behavior: If someone is avoiding direct communication, always seems unavailable for one-on-one discussions, or dodges answering straightforward questions, it’s worth probing deeper. These behaviors can signal that there’s more going on beneath the surface.
  3. Credit Where Credit’s Due: Underminers often take credit for others’ work or downplay the contributions of those they wish to overshadow. If you find that your efforts are consistently being sidelined or appropriated, it’s essential to address it.
  4. Listen to the Grapevine: While office gossip isn’t always reliable, consistent patterns or whispers can hold grains of truth. Introverts often have the advantage of being trusted confidants, giving them access to information that might shed light on someone’s true intentions. In my case, I did have numerous people telling me that this person was actively undermining my authority, my reputation, and my direction.
  5. Trust Your Gut: The introvert’s intuition is powerful. If something feels off, it probably is. While it’s crucial not to jump to conclusions, it’s equally vital to consider your feelings seriously and investigate any concerns.

In the intricate dance of workplace dynamics, introverts wield a unique advantage. Their intuitive insights, combined with their ability to deeply understand human behavior, make them adept at navigating the maze of professional relationships. Yet, even they must remain vigilant, constantly refining their discernment skills, and ensuring that their trust is well-placed.

Strategies you can use if you discover that you are being undermined at work:

Practice Assertive Communication

Communication is crucial, and while being assertive might feel unnatural to many introverted women, it is a skill that can be developed with practice. Express your thoughts and ideas confidently, maintaining eye contact, and using clear, concise language. Make sure to stand up for your ideas but be open to constructive criticism. It’s a balance, but once you’ve mastered it, you will feel more at ease expressing yourself even in challenging situations.

Find a Mentor

Having a mentor can be incredibly valuable in navigating your corporate journey, particularly if you’re feeling undermined. Look for someone within your organization (or even outside of it) who has navigated similar situations successfully. They can provide advice, support, and perhaps more importantly, reassurance that what you’re experiencing can be overcome.

Build Your Support Network

Your support network can be a mix of colleagues, friends, and family who understand your situation and offer emotional support and guidance. Try to build relationships with colleagues who respect your ideas and abilities. Share your experiences and seek their perspective. Remember, it’s not about having the most connections, but the right ones.

Ask for Feedback

Regular feedback can provide insight into how your work is perceived by others and where you can improve. Ask for constructive feedback from your superiors or peers. Use it as a stepping stone for growth and development, and not as a criticism of your abilities.

Bring it to Your Executive Coach

If you find that the situation at work is affecting your ability to think clearly, it’s essential to seek professional help. Executive or Career coaches who specialize in workplace issues can help you untangle what’s going on. 

Take Care of Your Health

Feeling undermined can lead to stress, which can in turn, adversely affect your physical health. Make sure to take care of yourself physically. Exercise regularly, maintain a balanced diet, get plenty of sleep, and practice stress-relieving activities such as meditation or yoga.

Look for Other Opportunities

If you’ve tried everything and are still feeling undermined, it might be time to consider other opportunities. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve failed. On the contrary, it means you’re strong enough to recognize when a situation isn’t serving your best interests.


As we journey through our careers and lives, we’re bound to cross paths with people who, for various reasons, might attempt to undermine us. But, here’s the bright side – these moments don’t have to be the be-all and end-all.

In the grand scheme of things, they’re just blips on our radar. They don’t define who we are, our potential, or where we’re headed. Our dreams and goals are far too valuable to be swayed by the actions of one person.

What truly matters is how we react. It’s about addressing these situations head-on, reminding ourselves of our worth, and not allowing negativity to knock us off course. In reality, these moments can be catalysts for growth, making us more resilient and determined.

So, when you encounter a ‘bad apple’ on your journey, see it as an opportunity for growth. Embrace it with a hopeful spirit, knowing that your response is what will ultimately define your path. Your career and life are an adventure waiting to unfold, and it’s your ability to navigate through these challenges that will make the journey truly remarkable.

SHOW NOTES for Episode 76:

To listen to the episode about “Having your own Fan Club,” mentioned in this episode: LISTEN HERE.

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