Social & Interpersonal Skills

15 Signs of Insecure Coworkers (and How to Handle Them)  

Work can be stressful under normal circumstances when there’s too much to do and not enough hours in the day. The last thing you need is to be dealing with insecure coworkers too. An insecure coworker can make your work atmosphere feel very unpleasant.

But how do you spot an insecure coworker, and once you have, how do you deal with them?

Read on for fifteen signs of insecure coworkers and what you can do about it.

15 Signs Of Insecure Coworkers

1) There’s always an excuse

Insecure coworkers are masters of finding an excuse when they haven’t done the work. Whatever it is, it’s never their fault or their responsibility. They’ll never admit that they had a problem or weren’t sure what they were doing.

Sadly, you can’t rely on them to be there when they say they will and to finish tasks they are given.

2) High drama

One of the biggest signs of insecure coworkers is that they love high drama. They like to create drama over the smallest things, even when there’s really nothing going on.

They positively enjoy pitting people against each other or creating a scene.

This is distraction behavior, designed to take attention from them and their perceived shortcomings.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t create a good atmosphere at work, when you’re never sure what will set them off.

3) Gossip and backbiting

In addition to drama, there’s nothing an insecure person likes more than a good bit of gossip. They love to talk about people behind their backs, especially anyone they are worried might be better than them in some way.

It is mean girl behavior and it can be poisonous if allowed to continue. It’s the type of behavior where one minute they’re friends with you and gossiping about someone else and the next, they aren’t speaking to you. And you just know that the topic of conversation with their new ‘bestie’ is you.

It’s childish and immature and doesn’t do a team any good.

“With any kind of mean girl, or anyone who bullies anyone, there’s always a reason for it. There is that sadness in them or insecurity that makes them feel like they need to act out or hurt other people.” – Maiara Walsh

4) Sucking up to the boss

You can be pretty sure you’ve spotted one of the signs of insecure coworkers if you see someone sucking up to their boss.

Of course, you want to get on with your boss. An atmosphere where you feel comfortable saying thank you and giving praise when it’s due to your boss is a good thing. But there is a huge difference between that and active sucking up.

The insecure coworker will do this to try to get the boss on their side. They think that if the boss thinks highly of them and is their friend, they won’t notice any problems.

5) Trying to get others into trouble

This is distraction behavior at its finest. This is one of the classic signs of insecure coworkers. In their mind, if they can get someone else into trouble, then they can hide their own failings.

If they can make it seem someone else is bad at their job, then perhaps they won’t look as bad in comparison.

Insecure people can become masters of manipulation and it can be hard to work out how they’ve managed to make themselves look innocent. It can be even harder to see how they’ve tripped someone else up and got them into trouble.

Read More: 20 Signs You Are Being Sabotaged At Work

6) The blame game

Following on from that last point, insecure people always love to play the blame game. They love to point fingers away from themselves and at someone else.

In a healthy workplace, failure is expected and not feared. In a healthy workplace, it’s not about placing blame, but about learning from the problem and moving on.

This doesn’t suit the insecure person, as they would then have to admit that they don’t know something. They might have to admit that they were the one who failed.

When someone is low in confidence and feeling fragile, they simply can’t bear the idea of admitting failure. Instead, playing the blame game gives them the opportunity to distract.

7) Passive-aggressive behavior

Passive-aggressive people usually have something to hide. They feel insecure, and instead of admitting that and getting help, they lash out.

You might be getting back-handed compliments from a coworker or being ignored. They might try to leave you out of a project or be highly defensive. These are more signs of insecure coworkers.

Passive-aggressive behavior leaves other team members unsure how to react. They don’t know what to expect from their coworker from one minute to the next. Mean behavior can create an extremely toxic work environment.

8) Making promises they can’t keep

Insecure people are terrified of failing. They’re equally terrified of seeming underconfident or afraid. Instead, they make huge promises that they have no way of keeping. They overpromise and underdeliver, if they deliver at all.

Then you’re back to dealing with excuses as to why the work isn’t done. Not only does this cause a poor working atmosphere, but it can land your team in hot water when tasks aren’t completed or projects don’t run on time.

9) Pushing work off onto others

An insecure person is sure they’re not up to the job. They will find any excuse to push off some or all of their work onto other team members. After all, if they haven’t done it, they can’t be blamed if it goes wrong.

10) Bragging

This might seem like completely opposite behavior. Bragging doesn’t sound like something an insecure person would do, but it is.

Insecure people brag excessively because they’re trying to prove that they are at least as good as everyone else, and preferably better. They’re not just trying to convince you, they’re trying to convince themselves too.

They are being difficult and boastful, again, in an attempt to distract from what they see as their failings.

11) Feeling entitled

Insecure people can feel oddly entitled to have things they haven’t earned. They might feel that they deserve a promotion or a pay rise when they really haven’t done anything to deserve it.

Entitled behavior is emotionally immature and can really get people’s backs up among the team.

12) Constantly complaining

This aspect of insecure behavior is yet another distraction. Insecure people can constantly complain about every little thing. It’s partly an attempt to create drama about things that aren’t worth it and partly to keep attention away from the quality of their work.

“Most bad behavior comes from insecurity.” – Debra Winger

Read More: 10 Best Ways To Deal With Employees Who Complain About Workload

13) Undermining you

If you’re great at your job, then you may get the attention of an insecure worker. They may keep trying to undermine you, which is one of the signs someone is threatened by you.

When coworkers are insecure of you, they do everything they can to make you feel less. They work on pointing out your mistakes, especially to your boss, and they will make your life a misery.

“A competent and self-confident person is incapable of jealousy in anything. Jealousy is invariably a symptom of neurotic insecurity.” – Robert A. Heinlein

Read More: 8 Great Tips I Used to Deal with Coworker Who Makes Me Feel Incompetent

14) Fake positivity

Some insecure people choose to be constantly positive. No matter what happens, they have a fake smile glued in place and an overly jolly attitude.

It’s so obviously fake that it fools no one, but it doesn’t help the team either. Sometimes things do go wrong and a toxically positive approach can grate when what’s needed is clear, realistic thinking.

15) Being easily offended

Teasing and jokes go on in any workplace. Most are not meant to offend.

While it’s one thing to react if someone is being sexist, it’s quite another to overreact at every little thing.

“Anger is a manifestation of a deeper issue… and that, for me, is based on insecurity, self-esteem and loneliness.” – Naomi Campbell

Read More: 10 Successful Tips for Dealing With Easily Offended Employees

Dealing With Insecure Coworkers

So now you know what the signs of insecure coworkers are. Here’s what you can do about it if you have someone like that on your team:

1) Limit your time with them

If a coworker is dragging you down and making you feel bad, then limit the amount of time you spend with them as much as possible. We spend a lot of time at work and you don’t need that kind of negativity.

2) Give praise where it’s due

Insecure people are constantly worried that they don’t know how to do their job and that they’re going to get found out. If they do something good, then give them genuine praise. Make a habit of it, as long as it’s genuine and not overdone, and you might find you help them out of their insecurity.

3) Give clear, easy to follow directions

When dealing with someone that’s insecure, make your directions as clear as possible. Let them know that they can ask for help if they need it and that you don’t mind being there for them.

Insecure people worry about asking for help because they think it shows that they don’t know what they are doing. The reassurance that it’s okay to ask for help can make a big difference to them. And you could find that they start to become a better team player.

4) Talk to them in private

If there’s a big problem, don’t confront someone in public. An insecure person will hit back at you, pointing out what they see as your flaws and weaknesses. Worse still, they may try to bring others into the conversation for validation.

Instead, talk to them alone, perhaps on a coffee break. Ask if they need training or if there’s anything that they’re not sure of. Try to get them to confide in you and trust you.

You may be able to reassure them and talk them around.

5) Keep your boss or HR informed

If their behavior gets past the point that you can handle, then talk to your boss or HR. Your boss may be well aware of the situation and may be dealing with it in private. But it doesn’t hurt to make sure they know how this behavior is affecting the whole team.

“I think we are all insecure, and there is nothing wrong in accepting that. But the problem arises when we try to counter this insecurity by cultivating this illusion of control, and we start taking ourselves and everything we know too seriously.” – Sushant Singh Rajput

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About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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