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?


Phil Cooke, Ph.D. is a producer and media consultant to churches and ministries across the country. His latest book is “The Way Back: How Christians Blew Their Credibility and How We Get It Back.” Find out more at

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