I had a client come to me this week with a challenge she’s having with the co-worker. The co-worker is going above and beyond on every effort, and my client is convinced the co-worker’s purpose is to show her up and make her look bad. She wanted to know what she should do about it.

This (in a nutshell) was my response:


“It’s important to remember that on Higher Ground, there are at least three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth. That means we’ll need to look at the situation from two points of view, with the understanding that the truth lies somewhere between them.

It is quite possible that her efforts are sincere. You have portrayed her as a very capable and organized person. To conclude that she is going above and beyond on any task simply to make you look incompetent is probably reactionary. Maybe she is a compliance personality (an analyzer, a thinker), and to put forth anything less than an exceptional effort is not acceptable to her.  If that’s the case, it has nothing whatsoever to do with you.  Don’t assume the worst.  You wouldn’t want someone assuming that your efforts were ill-intended from the start— give her the same benefit of the doubt that you would want extended to you. 

On the other side is the possibility that her intention is to make you look or feel bad.  It might be her passive-aggressive way of sniping at you and/or others for reasons only she knows. I certainly have met many people in my life that glean their self-esteem by belittling, stepping on or – in this case – “showing up” someone else’s efforts.  (The sad result of that, unfortunately is the so-called self-esteem they gather is not a true self-esteem and therefore does not benefit them for any length of time.) Difficult people behave the way they do because it gets them what they want.  If this is the case with your co-worker, then the desired result is a rise out of you, some sort of reaction to attest to the fact that she has gotten under your skin.  If that is so, then you would not benefit from giving her that reaction.

I would also recommend you take the opportunity for introspection.  I would ask myself why my co-worker’s extra-mile efforts trouble me?  Do I need to step up my game?  Is there anything that I can learn from my co-worker for personal growth?”

Whether this is a question of misinterpreted intentions, possible insecurity on my client’s part, or possible passive-aggressive tendencies by her co-worker, my recommendation is going to be the same.  Take Higher Ground.  Flush (that is mentally flush away) any assumptions regarding the co-worker’s intentions, and accept each and every one of her efforts with grace and gratitude, and praise her for a job well done.