Although not all workplaces are toxic, some coworkers will watch your every move in your workplace. People are naturally curious, but too much unwelcome curiosity about coworkers can be very unprofessional.
It can be stressful and distracting to get through the day when you feel someone is constantly watching you.
Some coworkers are too curious and always watch what their colleagues are doing rather than paying attention to their work. You may be unfortunate enough to be working with one such coworker.
However, you have to take some steps if you want to do something about it. If, apart from your over-inquisitive coworker, there is no one else to disturb you in your dream job, you must do what is required for your peace of mind. However, you need to remain professional as well in the process.
Read on to find out how.
Why Do Some Coworkers Try to Watch You?
The first step to doing anything when you feel that a coworker is constantly watching you is understanding why they might be doing so. There could be more than one colleague as well. You can only determine how to deal with them if you know why they might behave this way. There may be several causes here.
- Most of the time, a coworker will watch you closely because they are simply jealous. They might be jealous of your success and your organization’s achievements. If they are toxic, they will watch you find faults with you, then report it to get the upper hand and get ahead of you.
- On the other hand, some junior coworkers might be watching you as closely, but for different reasons. You may have inspired them, and they want to emulate your work. They might want to do things the way you do them and hope to achieve similar success.
- In another scenario, your boss might have instructed your coworker to watch you. Again, this is a toxic trait, and some employers are insecure about employees who do well. They could pick someone from the workforce who is more likely to agree with them and then ask them to spy on you.
- Again, some coworkers are incompetent and know it. But rather than trying to improve themselves or their quality of work, they fear you will call them out and report them and keep watching you figure out if you are watching them! It’s very complicated and not conducive to a healthy work environment.
- Some people are petty and do not know how to keep to themselves. They miss the essential point that paying attention to their work will yield more for them in the future rather than constantly watching someone else. Learning how to handle them will allow you to continue working peacefully.
How Can You Tell That a Coworker is Watching You Closely?
Understanding why your coworker behaves this way might help you find a solution to the problem.
- Have they newly joined the organization and just trying to understand how things work in the office?
- Or have they spent quite some time in the office, and this behavior change has been a recent phenomenon?
- Are they also acting cold and distant with you at other times?
- Have you seen them doing this with any other coworker, or are they doing this with you alone?
- Have they caused you harm or complained about you, or are they just watching you from a distance?
- Are they trying to harm you in any other way? Have you seen them sneaking around your cubicle or files when you are absent from your seat but just managed to catch them in the act?
These answers can help you decide what you want to do next.
Steps to Deal With Coworkers Who Watch Your Move
The first step to dealing with coworkers who constantly watch your every move is to ignore them. However, if they keep doing so and you see no difference even after a week, here is what you can do about it.
1. Understanding The Reason
Understanding the reason behind your coworker’s behavior is very important. If they are naturally anxious or insecure, they might have been doing it for a long time or with other coworkers. They feel everyone is after them.
If you keep concentrating on your work, and they feel you are not a threat, they might stop acting this way after a while.
2. Talking to Them
You can talk to your coworker to give them a chance to explain themselves, and it could also clear some misconceptions.
They might tell you if they were watching you closely, and then you can clear the air. They could also stop watching you once they know you are aware of their actions.
3. Keeping a Tab on Them
You can keep tabs on them if you see them persisting even after speaking to them. You do not have to tell them about it, but start saving a trail.
Remember when they might have jeopardized your privacy- like trying to snoop into your conversations. You can make notes; if things go out of hand, you can take them to HR or speak to your manager.
4. Do Not be Aggressive
Yes, it is normal to feel on edge when you see someone constantly watching you all the time. However, keep yourself calm and do not become confrontational.
That will make them even more aggressive towards you, and if they were just calmly watching you all this while, this might provoke them to do some actual harm. Hence, you should not be aggressive if they watch you passively.
5. Offer to Help
A junior coworker might watch you closely to learn how you work so they can learn from you. Since imitation is a form of compliment, you can take it in your stride and offer to help them. You can tell them how things are done and take on a leadership role.
It could happen with some junior coworkers too intimidated to approach and watch you from a distance to understand your work. You can offer to help them and take on a leadership role, and they will be thankful for it.
6. Ask Questions
Ask them if you need help understanding why your coworker is watching you. They may or may not give you a direct and clear answer, but in most cases, you will figure out a few things from what they say.
If you can work out why they behave this way, you can address the situation rather than keep wondering why they might have behaved this way.
7. Speaking to The Manager
It should be a last resort, but if you feel your coworker is also behaving unprofessionally and watching you, you must speak to your boss about it. They may be accusing you behind your back, spreading rumors, or complaining to the boss about you about things you have not done.
They might be doing this to put you down and get ahead of you. In such cases, you have to speak to the manager, and you can show them the information that you have gathered on them.
Should You Act in The Same Way Like Your Petty Coworkers?
In some cases, it might be very tempting to act in the same way as your petty coworkers. You might feel that working like them, watching them, and reporting them whenever they make a wrong move.
Your career deserves your absolute focus and attention, and you also have other concerns related to your personal life.
However, this can become stressful for you after a point. You will be distracted and have something extra on your plate apart from your work.
Keeping tabs on your coworker watching you is more challenging than it sounds. You have to be covert about it when monitoring their activities. You also need to keep a trail so that you will have something to report back if they do something too unprofessional. Hence, you must ask yourself, will it be worth it?
However, this will take up significant mental space, and you must be sure whether you want to put so much energy into it. At first, it would be better to ignore it. Only if things get out of hand can you consider treating them with their own medicine or reporting to HR.
Should You Distrust All Your Coworkers in Your Workplace?
While not all coworkers are wrong, and not all of them will watch your every move, maintaining a certain degree of professional distance is still a good idea. While workplace friendships can also be very strong and turn into long-term friendships, building a bond like that takes some time.
Some coworkers might not be watching you, but they can still be competitive. If you happen to say or do something while your guard is down, they could use it against you to further their career at some point.
Hence, although you don’t have to distrust your coworkers, you can be on your guard just the same.
Keep some thoughts to yourself, especially about sensitive office matters or while talking about your employers. It would be best to refrain from talking behind the back of other colleagues. That means you will mingle with your coworkers and meet up with them after work for a drink.
When you see a coworker watching your every move, the best thing you can do is be yourself. If you do your work well and follow the workplace rules, they will have nothing against you. They might even give up after a while.
However, always be careful about what you say or do about them, and do not give in to provocation. If your employers trust you and you keep on putting in the best quality work, then a petty coworker will not be able to jeopardize your career in the long run.