Coworker’s negative comment was more about her than you | Ask Kelly


Dear Kelly,

The other day at work, one of my coworkers accused me of “trying too hard.” She claimed I was trying to make everyone else look bad, but I really wasn’t. I was just trying to do my best. What should I say to her? How should I approach this issue? Should I confront her about it?

I want to start this reply with, what a great compliment! The quality of work that you do at your job literally just made someone admit that she feels it makes her look less productive. I don’t think you have the issue; I believe she does.

After all, aren’t we all supposed to do our best in everything we do? The work you produce reflects who you are as an individual. It says everything about you. As the old saying goes, “You put good in; you get good out.” A great work ethic is something everyone should strive for. It not only makes you a strong part of the team, but it also says a lot about your character, drive and dedication. It’s what builds strong leaders and helps make companies successful.

Remember, when a company hires a new employee, it is basically placing a wager that the new employee will benefit the company by helping it run more efficiently, which in turn, increases profitability. When that company discovers the new employee exceeds original expectations and it can rely more on the employee, it will entrust them with more important tasks. This is how you grow and advance within the business you are in. So, while your coworker may assume you are “trying too hard” or “trying to make everyone else look bad,” what you are really doing is showing your company that the wager it made when it hired you is paying off and will continue to pay off with massive dividends. Your hard work shows you are dedicated and invested in the company’s success.

The issue this person has isn’t with you; it’s with herself. Maybe no one ever taught her the importance of doing her best and putting her best foot forward. Maybe she just doesn’t see the significance of being truly dedicated to producing amazing work and the fact that when she does, not only does her employer benefit, but she does as well. Maybe she’s just lazy. Whatever the reason, the problem is hers to deal with, and I believe she is already beginning to see there is an issue, because she wants to deflect the situation and instead make it something YOU need to fix.

What she doesn’t understand is that you are fixing the problem. You are becoming the standard of what a strong employee should look like. You are showing all of your coworkers what they could be doing. Truthfully, everything you do can be emulated. Your coworker has the opportunity to shine, just as you’re doing. But it will be up to her ethics and principles whether she wants to show the dedication to her job that you are.

So first, I want you to realize that you are not the problem. You are not wanting to make your coworkers look bad — you are simply wanting to live up to the expectations that your employer has of you. You just want to show them that they made an excellent choice by hiring you, and you are committed to helping them succeed.

If I were you, rather than feeling like you have to confront your coworker about the things she said, I would take this opportunity to start encouraging her. Part of what makes a strong work ethic is the ability to work as a team. Sometimes we get so focused on what needs to be done in our jobs that we forget we are part of a team. For the next couple of weeks, really pay attention to the jobs that you are doing, and ask yourself, “Could my coworkers help assist me with this?” Maybe going to your coworker and asking her to be a part of what needs to be done will help boost her efforts. She may begin to see that when she produces quality work and goes above and beyond what she normally does, there are rewards. She may begin to push herself to do more and build her self-confidence and desire to be successful, rather than just getting by. In reaching out to her and trying to make her a part of your team, you could help boost her overall productivity level and her desire to succeed.

And remember, above all else, that even with the things she said to you, try and be compassionate and empathetic to what drove her to say those things. Her telling you to tone it down because you’re making her look bad, basically says she doesn’t have the confidence or desire to do more than she is doing. She hopes you will dial it back, so her shortcomings aren’t so visible. There’s a lot in what she said, and like I said before, it wasn’t about you as much as it was about her. Try to be understanding and encouraging to her, remembering that you don’t have to lower your principles, but instead you can be an example that helps inspire someone to work harder and strive for more.

Keep your chin up, take a deep breath and smile. Good luck to you, and as always, I wish you health, happiness and continued success throughout your journey!

Do you have a question about Mercer or coping with school in these challenging times? Each week Kelly Browning, an early childhood education/special education major and student ambassador at the Henry County Regional Academic Center, answers questions from the Mercer community. Email her at or fill out our online form to submit your question anonymously.


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