How to Deal with a Shady Coworker

I’ve only been working professionally for a few years now but I’ve encountered my fair share of shady coworkers. Back when I was a news intern, I witnessed one intern casually talk smack about their fellow intern to the news director. “Oh she doesn’t really want to work in news” and “Oh she always comes in late.” She said little things like that to upper management then would go ask her fellow intern to go shopping with her.

Some shady coworkers aren’t as subtle. They’ll send a mass email out whenever you make the smallest mistake or they’ll steal your ideas to pass as their own. Feeling aggravated, distrustful or annoyed towards a coworker is never a good feeling. So how do you deal with a shady coworker and make your work environment more harmonious? Keep reading.

Photography: Timothy Eugene
Photography: Timothy Eugene


No successful person has ever said, “I became successful because I was shady to the people I work with.” I know it’s tempting to send a snarky email to that person but don’t do it. Understand that a lot of times shady coworkers act the way they do because of their own insecurities. Focus on being a good supportive coworker to the colleagues around you and remember that you can all win.


If someone you work with is consistently being vengeful or questionable, you need to call them out. Have a short conversation and say something like, “Hey I notice you do xyz. Is there a problem or issue we can address?” Don’t be combative or confrontational. Being direct but still polite is key. People don’t magically change their habits, usually something has to trigger them to change. Hold them accountable for their behavior.


Don’t let a toxic coworker hinder your work performance. They may try to always make themselves look better but focusing on your coworker’s behavior limits your ability to fully focus on your own work. Tell yourself, “I’m not going to focus my energy on this.” I wrote a blog post last year about the importance of being selective with your energy. You can read it here. Having different parameters set in all facets of your life, including with your coworkers, is essential to succeeding.

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