[This article was originally published in 2017]
Haters are going to hate, right? In our personal lives, it is easier to dismiss people who don’t like us. But at work, being widely disliked can pose a larger problem.
Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job, said: “Most co-workers won’t overtly show their disdain for you so as not to cause trouble or jeopardise their own careers.
"They may make life difficult for you, but they’ll probably try to stay under the radar. Still, there are subtle red flags that they’re not out for your best interests.”
“Of course, it is impossible to be liked by everyone in the office,” she said. But you should always strive to be sensitive to the needs of your fellow co-workers, remain upbeat and friendly, communicate openly and give colleagues the benefit of the doubt.
“Those who do this have a far brighter career future,” she said. “Plus, when [we] have strong, healthy workplace relationships, you will be more effective and accomplished in your job.”
Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of The Humor Advantage, agreed.
“When your co-workers like you, everything becomes easier,” he said. “People have your back when you need it the most, you can ask for and get favours more easily, people will volunteer to help in times of need and you can get far better cooperation even across departments.”
Being well-liked will boost your morale, which in turn will make you more productive, focused, creative and successful in everything you do, he said.
Here are 22 subtle signs that your co-workers secretly hate you. But keep in mind that you may just be misreading their body language or tone – the workplace is certainly not immune to human misunderstanding and no one’s a mind reader.
Your gut tells you they don’t like you
If you feel like your co-workers don’t like you, then it could just be in your head, but it could also be true. If they treat you differently than everyone else, then you’re probably not their favourite person. Trust your gut and continue looking for other signs if you have a strong feeling about this.
They don’t smile when you’re around
We’re not talking about the occasional bad day or mood swing. If your co-workers make a conscious effort not to smile when you’re in the room, then something isn’t right.
They cannot maintain eye contact with you
It is difficult to look someone straight in the eye when you do not like or respect them, says Ms Taylor. If you notice that your colleagues avoid eye contact while speaking with you, then those are probably the reasons.
“They’re afraid that you may be able to detect hostility, so the path of least resistance is for them to look away or avoid being around you wherever possible,” Ms Taylor said.
They constantly stare at you
Alternatively, a prolonged, intense stare can also be a sign of rudeness, aggression or hostility, CNN reported.
Whether or not someone avoids your gaze or gives you a hostile glare depends on their personality and whether or not they’re comfortable with coming across as aggressive.
Then again, it’s possible that the starer is just awkward or zoning out.
They avoid you
Writing for the Muse, Kat Boogard gave a striking example of the lengths someone might go to in order to escape the presence of a disliked co-worker: “When it’s just the two of you waiting for an elevator, he decides to walk down the stairs – all 14 flights.”
If you notice that your co-workers take the stairs when they see you waiting for the elevator or they wait until you return from the break room before they head in, then those are good signs that they’re avoiding you.
They don’t acknowledge your presence
If your colleagues don’t say “good morning” when you arrive or “have a great night” on their way out, they may be telling you they don’t like you, said Ms Taylor.
They feed the rumour mill
This is childish and unprofessional behaviour, but it happens in workplaces all the time: someone doesn’t like you, so they spread rumours.
They’re short with you
If you ask “how’s it going?” and they always respond with “OK” or “fine” – or if their emails always get straight to the point and never begin with a friendly “hello” or “good afternoon” – then this may be a sign that they’re not a huge fan of yours.
“If they sound like a moody teenager, then that’s a pretty big red flag,” said Mr Kerr.
They give off negative body language
Whether it’s a subtle eye roll or constantly assuming a closed-off position with arms folded across their chest, or they don’t look up from their computer screen when you enter their office, your co-workers’ body language will often reveal their true feelings toward you, Mr Kerr said.
They communicate with you primarily via email, even though you sit close by
If your co-workers don’t like you, they’ll probably try to limit their in-person communication with you. If you notice a shift toward more digital correspondence, that’s a sign.
They never ask about your personal life
If you notice that your colleagues speak with each other about their kids or hobbies, but never bring up these topics with you, they’re probably just not interested in hearing about your life, says Mr Kerr.
They never invite you to social events
If you never make the cut for lunch, happy hour or project meetings over coffee, your co-workers may be trying to send you a message.
They constantly disagree with you
Continuously gunning down your ideas could be a sign they don’t like you.
“If it feels like someone shoots down every thought before you’ve even finished a sentence, then it’s often because their dislike is so strong that they are biased against anything you suggest, even when it’s a great idea,” said Mr Kerr.
They don’t ever include you in their office bantering or humour
“Joking around is a key way that relationships become cemented in any workplace and not inviting you into the inner circle of bantering is a sign your co-workers may not feel comfortable around you enough to think of you as one of ‘the team,’” said Mr Kerr.
They steal credit for your ideas
These co-workers could just be “glory hogs,” said Ms Taylor.
But if they go out of their way to steal the limelight from you and only you, they may be trying to drive you out.
They assume unauthorised power
Sometimes co-workers who want to muscle in on your position will play boss even when they have no authority, said Ms Taylor.
They create cliques that are reminiscent of high school
If you feel like you’re in a scene from the movie Mean Girls and you’re not invited to hang out or sit with any of the office cliques, your colleagues probably don’t like you very much.
There’s a fundamental lack of trust
If you’re questioned excessively about your motives or your co-workers only dole out information on a need-to-know basis, they may be trying to sabotage your career, said Ms Taylor.
They try to encourage you to leave the company
If throwing you under the bus doesn’t do the trick, then your co-workers may try other tactics for getting rid of you.
If they start sending you job postings at other companies, offer to put you in touch with contacts elsewhere or tell you that they think you’d be “happier” or “more successful” in another environment – when you’re perfectly happy and thriving where you are – then it’s probably not because they’re concerned about your well-being.
They throw you under the bus
Do your co-workers throw you under the bus when something goes wrong? Do they tattle on you for saying or doing something against company policy? Do they run to tell your boss any time you make a mistake? Then they might not like you.
They never make you or your work a priority
Another big sign your co-workers despise you: “They never make your concerns or problems a priority and they don’t treat your work with the same level of urgency that they do your colleagues”, Kerr said.
They get defensive around you
“If they often and immediately get defensive around you, it could indicate that there’s a lack of trust, and possibly deeper dislike,” said Ms Kerr.
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