It's true that people are responsible for their own experience, but others do have a role to play. The people around you may be giving and caring, but only to a certain point of self-sacrifice. At some level their own preservation and comfort will take priority and that may very well be at your expense.

The workplace doesn't have to be completely adversarial. But you do need to be aware of those in your world, and watch for ways that they can interrupt your trajectory. If you mishandle the situation, the damage can be large and sustained. If you are alert to the issues and navigate them well, you can find ways to create a win-win for all involved.

Here are nine ways your colleagues can disrupt your journey and some tips for how you can resolve the conflict.

1. They are accidentally condescending.

People can be mean without intention. An offhand comment about your skill, age, or capability may seem innocuous but in reality it creates a lack of respect among the team.

2. Their ambition is at your expense.

Highly ambitious teammates aren't necessarily trying to beat you in their race to the top, but someone has to lose when they win, and they would prefer it to be you.

3. Their play is priority over your work.

Some people just go to work so they can get a paycheck. They will do the required minimum to survive and use the rest of the time for recreation. Unfortunately, their games and fun can get in the way of your productivity or worse, reflect on team performance.

4. Their gossip damages your reputation.

Rumors and innuendo can put you in the position of defending your honor even when you did nothing wrong. Some rumors can even become self-fulfilling prophecies.

5. They hang their baggage on you.

Some people will try to pass along their own history, workload, problems, and stress. If you are the easy, caring target, you'll be buried in the mire of others.

6. They forever consider you a peer.

When you work with people for a long time, they may never forget you as the young freckle-faced kid, even when you are now leading the team. These people can easily undermine your authority.

7. Their expectation of friendship is more than your capacity.

Workplace friendships are great, but they have their limits and boundaries. Once the friendship becomes a priority over performance, danger is present.

8. They take you for granted.

No matter what, these people just assume you will be there to save the day. The fact that you are busy or have other priorities doesn't keep them from being careless or leaving dangling issues for you to fix.

9. They are always in a competitive mode and never in a cooperative one.

A little paranoia can make a colleague think it's him against the world. This makes for a tough working environment, particularly when it's team based.

Now here are 3 surefire ways to protect yourself from underming colleagues and their transgressions.

1. Confront them directly.

Make it a priority to resolve these issues before the suffering goes on too long. It's entirely possible they don't know there is a problem and once you bring it to their attention, you can all come to resolution.

2. Remove them from the environment.

If a colleague is continuously problematic and is unresponsive to your confrontation, you may need to find a way to move him or her out. Work with management to find another opportunity that better suits the colleague. Even if he gets a promotion, at least he is out of your hair.

3. Remove yourself from the environment.

It the situation is so bad that you can't function, and working with management has failed to resolve the conflict, perhaps it's time for you to move on. Sure there are problem people everywhere, but there very well could be a great opportunity waiting with a culture that fits you better.

Published on: Jan 16, 2015