How to Deal With Petty and Insecure People

It’s one thing to recognize petty and insecure people in your workplace, but something else entirely to learn how to deal with them. Early in my career I had the opportunity (yes -“opportunity”) to work for one, and it gave me an education into human behavior. It’s particularly challenging when your boss or client is petty and insecure, so particularly if that’s your situation, here’s a few tips about what to do:

1) Take the high road.   Petty and insecure people are desperate for recognition, and will rob you blind when it comes to credit. But don’t let that derail your momentum. Your day will come. They desperately need credit because they can’t come up with original ideas on their own – and that’s why they need you.

2) Don’t get pulled into their games.  Don’t be a jerk, but be creative. If they try to pull you into gossip or other petty activities, just gracefully find a reason to leave.

3) Don’t back down.  It’s one thing to take the high road, but another to be a doormat. Never let petty people walk all over you. Even if it’s your boss, stand up for yourself. Again – don’t be a jerk, but don’t be too quick to back down either.

4) Keep a journal of their stupidity.  At some point, it might be appropriate to discuss them with a higher authority. But keep in mind two things – first, they might be friends with the boss. Second – you’d better have data to back up your arguments. If you can prove that their petty and insecure behavior is disruptive, costly, or building strife, a good boss will take action.

5) Try to understand the underlying reasons for their pettiness and insecurity.  It might be that they grew up with an overbearing father. Maybe they were told all their life they were a failure. Perhaps it’s masking something else. Most people aren’t jerks because they want to be, but because they don’t know any other way out. Chances are, if you can figure out the underlying cause, you’ll be more sympathetic, understanding, and in some cases, you could be the instrument of their deliverance.

6) Finally:  Go where you are celebrated, not where you are tolerated.  This isn’t original with me, but it’s great advice. Keep in mind that many workplaces are a family business. Therefore, your petty boss or co-worker is never going to be fired. Sadly for some situations, blood is thick. So be patient, bide your time, and keep your resume polished.

Keep reminding yourself: “Your day will come…”

Any other good techniques for dealing with petty and insecure people that I left out?


This entry was posted on Monday, June 25th, 2012 at 5:55 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • Dawn Nicole Baldwin

    I’ve found #5 tends to work with most people. Oftentimes they’re insecure because they just don’t understand the opportunity or the impact. They fear they’ll appear stupid by asking questions so instead they fight the change.

    Finding ways to understand where they’re coming from and helping them to save face with the rest of the team can go a long way in converting an adversary into an advocate

  • richdixon

    This goes in my list of things to remember: GO WHERE YOU ARE CELEBRATED, NOT WHERE YOU ARE TOLERATED.
    We could all improve life a lot by remembering that bit of profound wisdom.

  • donnapyle

    Spot on advice, Phil. I like that you listed taking the high road first. That bodes well when dealing with petty, insecure people and life in general. Well done.

  • Maryjo Petersen Castro

    After having done all, it’s encouraging to believe that “Your day will come….” Good advice on this subject.

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