Confidently Deal With Colleagues Who Undermine You At Work

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Wondering how you could be best dealing with a coworker undermining you at work? Or what if you're a boss or manager and a difficult employee undermines your authority? Learn to deal with bad behavior by toxic people so you can rise above the tense situation and communication confidently.

Wondering how to best deal with a coworker undermining you at work? Or what if you're a boss or manager and a difficult employee undermines your authority? Learn to handle bad behavior so you can rise above the tense situation and communicate confidently.

Let’s get to it.


I’ve got four words for you.

The Ben Franklin Effect

The general premise here is that if you do a favor for someone your brain decides that you must like them, having done something nice for them.

It’s called the Ben Franklin Effect because of what he described in his autobiography: "He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged." And he provides an example from his own life where he dealt with the animosity of one of his rivals in the Pennsylvania legislature in the 18th century. Essentially, the favor Ben Franklin asked of this rival was requesting to borrow a book, which was a rare gem, from his personal library. He lent the book to Ben and that was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

So this is the ideal way things could go after implementing the Ben Franklin Effect: a favor or two get done, that creates a sense of rapport, a friendship ensues and happy times ahead.

Let’s apply the Ben Franklin Effect to the context of someone who is undermining you at work. 

Say you have a colleague that seems to enjoy making life difficult for you. They go against what you say during meetings. They are antagonistic towards you in the break room. The unsavory comment you receive on your performance evaluation is from them, even though it was anonymous you just have a feeling. And there’s a general air of malaise wafting from this person because they say things and act in a way that makes others question your competence, professionalism, knowledge and work ethos.

This is where you can apply the Ben Franklin Effect. Ask this person to do you a favor. Start with a small favor such as on their usual coffee run, give them some cash and ask if they can pick you up a latte if it’s not too much trouble. When that goes well, ask them a work-favor such as lending their design expertise on the campaign you're creating. Or maybe you stop by their office and you see that they have a book you’ve been meaning to read. Ask them the favor that Ben Franklin asked his rival: to borrow this book. Read it and return it within a few weeks. Be sure you return the book and don’t make them have to chase you for it. Perhaps you can even exchange notes on the book over coffee.

Once this undermining colleague of yours has done a few favors for you, notice how behavior and attitude seem to shift. Is there less animosity? Are they questioning  your authority, your competence or work ethic anymore? How is their communication with you? While it may take more than one favor, you should start to notice positive changes in their actions as soon as the first favor gets done. 

With time, you can start building rapport with each other. Do them a favor as well. Ask them what favor you can do for them or be subtle and just observe what they need a favor for and then act on it.

The button line If someone doesn’t like you, you get them to do you a favor and they’re going to like you more. And if you want to like someone more, do them a favor. 


Alright Explearners that’s it from me today. If you liked this lesson be sure to give it a big thumbs up. If you prefer to listen to this lesson, check out our podcast. And head on over to our blog for the full transcript of this lesson. And if you want to help our channel continue to grow, share this lesson and our channel with anyone who wants to improve their communication skills and social skills. I’ll see you in the next one!

Happy Explearning ⚡⚡⚡