How to deal with non-collaborative / envious coworkers?

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How to deal with non-collaborative / envious coworkers?

Postby Raphael Mueller » Mon Apr 04, 2016 2:20 am

Hi all,

I thought this might be a great article for a science careers article, but at the same time I have been confronted with this issue now.

Let me divide this post in two parts:

a) Non-collaborative coworkers in general:
I have seen this in the lab in research, where people where afraid that the project could get "taken-away" by somebody else. But more generally speaking, when starting a new job/career (even outside of science) one is highly dependent on his/her colleagues to learn the daily business.

b) Envious coworkers:
In my previous job on team-member got promoter team-leader. I could feel the anger from other team-members. In my new job I have been put in a high-potential program to become a manager and my co-worker did not. It was my boss'es decision and I have to rotate in other departments to understand the business we work in.
No people have asked me "why you? / how did you get it?". Some don't even say "hi" in the morning now. I have less experience than the other, but I have alot of motivation, drive and innovative ideas. I used to be a very collaborative and willingness to teach others.

How to proceed? Push, push and push and ask them everyday to show me something. Or go to the management and raise the issue.

Thanks for your help
Raphael Mueller
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Joined: Thu Jul 02, 2015 10:06 am

Re: How to deal with non-collaborative / envious coworkers?

Postby Rebecca Q. » Fri Apr 08, 2016 3:59 am

Hi Raphael,

I would actually recommend to try to win them over and earning their respect rather than going against them...or complaining about them... you were promoted and these are the typical challenges that one encounters along the way...
yes, it does require energy and some strategic thinking but that is what is expected when climbing the ladder...
I would give it a try or I would proceed to play the game as they do... by that I mean that I would show them some of your newly acquired power and a position to influence the management you likely have...
However, in a very subtle way, if you know what I mean...
I would never actually articulate that you may complain if they do not collaborate (that would be my last resort because you want to earn their respect for you being you rather than going to complain to a big boss) but I would let them feel the actual possibility of it happening...and the possible consequences it may have for them...again in a very subtle way, using your words and body language wisely to convey that message across...
And you may say that you do not play any games but then be aware that that is the position in the game you have, as an outsider ... you are in it whether you like it or not...
just my two cents... take care
Rebecca Q.
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Joined: Tue Feb 09, 2016 9:13 am

Re: How to deal with non-collaborative / envious coworkers?

Postby D.X. » Fri Apr 08, 2016 5:03 am


My comment to Raphael is that it is not your Job to rationalize your Promotion to your co-workers, that's the responsiblty of your Supervisor.

If you are in a leadership Position, I recommend you slide into your managerial role and steer accordingly, do the Job you are mandated to do and carry yourself with that Mandate - do not get into Dialog as to why you were promoted. If addressed, you can direct your colleagues to your Boss.

I got similar challenge in recent times after my Promotion and organizational Change putting my function in an lead/integrating role of other functions - I slid in took the reigns and for those who were non-collaborative, I ensured they were carved out of my Team over a short time - strategically, fast, with near surgical precision, I recommend you do the same fast and surround yourself with others who will follow your lead.

Yes, others will say try to win them over - and I agree but don't spend much time. Document that you tried - if you win them good, if not slice them out fast and move on. Don't drivel in their gossips - that's not what a leader does stay above them - work transparently and beyond reproach, you will find they will gravitate to you, if not, well you will find them distancing themselves from you automatically.

Do you judgement call if you Need others, sometimes you will have to get others to work with you but be ready to escalate fast. The longer you have People antagonizing you, the higher your risk of loss of crediblity...that this is the real world view. Try but be ready to act fast, find Options, Keep Management informed. Be objective and not subjective.

Just speaking from some experience on this recently..i know a bit cold and icy, not warm and fuzzy. Those who I am surrounded with now are my biggest Champions and supporters, so I have my warm fuzzy enviroment now, which I created. Find them..get your Champions involved.

Good luck,

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Re: How to deal with non-collaborative / envious coworkers?

Postby PG » Mon Apr 11, 2016 6:28 am

That someone who goes from being one in the group to being the manager of that group gets various troubles initially is something that should be expected. The advantages are that you know the work performed in the group, you know the individuals and you know the company. The disadvantage is that other individuals in the group may question your position. This may be due to envy but I think that it is much more common that they question whether you have the ability to lead them which may be visible as non-collaboration.

The advantage with coming from the outside is that most people will immediately accept you as the new leader and instead you have the disadvantage with not knowing the individuals and having less detailed knowledge about the work and company.

The best way of winning people over is usually to show that you can lead. As DX said you dont need to and shouldnt discuss why you and not someone else was promoted. The company made a decision and thats it. Also your boss should support you in your new position and in saying that they have confidence in that you are the best person for the job but also shouldnt go into a discussion about why you were promoted and not someone else. If another candidate asks your boss should tell that person (and not everybody else) what he or she needs to improve to be a candidate the next time a higher position becomes available.

Having people around you that will express differences in opinions etc is a good thing but they should do so in a good way and at a good time which usually will mean privately to you. If some individuals refuse to accept you in your position dont worry to much about it as long as you get the majority of the group to accept you the others will either follow or leave. If the entire group refuses to accept you something is wrong and you need to understand why. Sometimes this will be due to a single strong individual that has managed to get the others to follow his/hers ideas and then it can be solved by dealing with that person. Other times it is due to something else but usually it is not something that is at least only your fault.

The company decided to give you this new promotion and they didnt to it to be nice to you but because they think that you are the best person for the job. Take support from your manager and others around you. Talk with people in the group that you can trust without making favorites (because that will hurt you in your leadership).

Importantly you have to lead, you cant have someone else do it for you. Try to deal with the issues yourself and directly. Take support from others including your boss but you need to deal with the problem. For example if people dont want to show you results set up a meeting to discuss data, maybe a daily morning stand up meeting were everyone shows what they did yesterday or a weekly meeting in which everyone has 5 minutes to present. Doing something like this doesnt give them an opportunity not to show anything since very few people will openly refuse to present something when everybody else does. When the meeting occurs make sure that you run the meeting, if you need someone to take notes ask somebody else and talk to them before the meeting so that they know that they shoudl be doing it.
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Re: How to deal with non-collaborative / envious coworkers?

Postby D.X. » Mon Apr 11, 2016 4:19 pm

PG gives great advice from a more operational Point of view. Obviously, I am a bit passionate about this Topic as i have experienced this directly in the recent past and continued present.

PG is spot on with respect to putting a Meeting to Show you the data, where you lead that Meeting. In my case, its a bit more high Level but the concept is the same - put a Meeting together and get everyone aligned, get them to present what they are doing and ask them to rationalize what they are doing in the Business context, then...invite Senior Management to that same Meeting. Do some off line advocasy with those Senior managers, a part of being a good leader is not only getting your subordinates and Peers to follow you, but the next and higher step...get Senior Management to follow you and..Sponsor you. (or Support you) but I like the word Sponsor. Even better, get a governance board of your Company to endorse your direction - then you have what's called "Mandate". i.e you can then say "I am working on Executive Board Mandate" or whatever manadate...with that in my back pocket i've been able to move People massively who previously would'nt have given me a second of if I call for a 1 hour bet they are there and they prioritize my Meeting.

So alot of working wiht non-collaborative People boils down to how you manage you Lead them. See where you can align with them..and see where they push back..take some time to understand where they are coming from but ultimately its your call as a leader. If after you've taken time to understand, explain why to your nay-sayers why thier ideas is a no go, and the push back is continued and non-productive - then...carve them out. Get Senior managment behind you and get them out of your Team. You will Need to have private 1:1 coversatations with nay sayers to TRY to clear the air. If after that, it doesnt work...escalate. Cut them out fast. I've just been there and just did a slice and dice of Folks who had issues following my lead - I did what i recommended here and did a nice cut. I can tell you, yes, they are not happy with me, but what do I care? I parked them. With managment approval, they can't really say anything at all - because if they do, they know they'll get slammed.

There is a political element here of course but welcome to corporate. There was a Person who was in a similar "Rotation" I am Aware of, Some didn't know who he was when he was rotating, some may have even challenged and bashed him in a few times - i know one who did. that Person was forme CEO of a big big big pharma. Before he took the roll, albeit different circumstances, he did his rotations to learn the Business, few knew who he was. One who antagonized him, didn't have such a Long career at that Company, he moved to anothers.
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Re: How to deal with non-collaborative / envious coworkers?

Postby Raphael Mueller » Wed Apr 13, 2016 12:48 am

Wow, thank you very much. The people in this forum have been more helpful than my career books, google or some befriended HR Manager. Excellent and helpful hints for my next steps.Thank you
Raphael Mueller
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Joined: Thu Jul 02, 2015 10:06 am

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