5 Signs Your Coworkers are Intimidated by you

Workplace dynamics can be difficult. Without knowing much about certain people, you are forced to spend a lot of time with them, as well as collaborate and communicate effectively. It’s no wonder that sometimes, people can come across in the wrong ways. 

Unfortunately, it is very possible for people to feel intimidated by co-workers. Even if you don’t mean to be at all, you might find that your co-workers could feel intimidated by you – especially if they are new, if you are higher up the career ladder than them, or if you are their boss. 

It’s great to know if they feel like this, so you can make necessary changes and create a better workplace culture. So here are some tips about how to know if your coworkers are feeling intimidated by you. 

5 Signs Your Coworkers are Intimidated by you

Not Making Eye Contact

People not making eye contact around someone is often a clear-cut indication of feeling intimidated. Generally, people are embarrassed about feeling intimidated and don’t want other people to know their true emotions. So they will refuse to look the person in the eye, reasoning that doing so will mean that the person won’t know how they are truly feeling. 

It’s also natural for a person to avoid eye contact when they are in a situation that provokes fear inside of them. Doing this does help someone physically look away from the issue, and their mind thinks that that is sufficient to not be involved with what is going on. However, of course, this is not effective in the long run as communication is completely cut off.

Defensive Body Language

Along with lack of eye contact, defensive body language can often be adopted. The person might be crossing their arms over their chest, trying to close themselves off to what you have to say. They could be turning their head to look at the door a lot, indicating that they want to leave the situation, or have their feet turned away from you. 

Generally, relaxed body language indicates that someone feels at ease around you. Of course, crossing arms and facing away doesn’t always mean that the person is intimidated – they may have a lot on their mind and not want to be in this situation for other reasons – but generally, if someone has an open torso that’s faced towards you, that’s a clear sign that they are not intimidated by you. 

Not Expressing Thoughts

Is there an employee who never really says what they think in a meeting? If you work with someone like this, they may be being held back due to feeling intimidated. People who feel intimidated by others will often not speak their mind for fear of backlash, and will subsequently be completely silent or just go along with what other people say. 

To make someone open up a bit more, it’s a great idea to deliberately ask them for their thoughts and make it clear that any opinion is ok. Remind the team often that it’s not necessary to agree with everyone and that a positive workplace culture is best when everyone is honest. 

You feel like you’re debating a lot

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a healthy debate. They help bounce ideas around and aid people to see issues from other perspectives. However, if you feel like you are debating all the time – and have to put your opinion across constantly, whether it’s about the reason behind profit losses or whether tea or coffee is better – it could be being a bit too overbearing, and your employees could be finding it intimidating. 

Not everyone enjoys debates, as healthy as they can be, and some people find strong opinions to be very off putting. If somebody shies away from a debate, or acts defensive, this might be a sign that they can’t deal with the debate. 

You’ve been told that you are too blunt

You might be the type of person who gets straight to the point about something. There’s nothing wrong with that – many people see it as a positive thing that stops beating around the bush. However, some people can find it too much, or even intimidating. 

If you are telling people in short, sharp terms what they need to improve on, and they seem to act upset or confused, question whether you could tell them this in other ways. Maybe you could start by talking about all the good things that they have done on a particular task, and then focus on what they need to improve on. 

You could see this as counterproductive and time wasting, but this kind of constructive criticism will help your employees focus on the positives while realising that there is plenty of room for improvement.

It’s important to focus on what your employee is doing right as well as what could be improved, and being honest with them about this will help them feel appreciated and valued and will subsequently lead to a more productive workplace. 

Why Feeling Intimidated Isn’t Inherently Bad

Remember that sometimes personalities clash, and people with big personalities can come across as intimidating even if they really don’t mean to be. To stop your employees feeling like this, it’s a really good idea to keep open lines of communication and make sure that they know the real you. Try to do some social events and get to know them outside of the workplace. 

It’s also really beneficial to acknowledge feedback – ask them if they have any issues in the workplace and invite them to share struggles. Often, people will feel intimidated in new jobs until they know that they can express themselves there, and then they will become much more like themselves. 

You might need to hold off on debates with some members of staff and give them plenty of praise; as you navigate your way in the workplace, you’ll know how you can act with certain people. But sometimes people don’t express how they feel, so it’s definitely best to make sure that they know that they can talk to you about any workplace issues. 

It might even be good to tell them that you know you can come across as intimidating, and that you won’t be offended if they tell you that that’s how they’re feeling. It is always good for everyone to get feedback in the workplace!

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About Melissa

Hey! I'm Mel, I write the occasional article for Spacehop, amongst other things. I love meeting new people and chatting, so if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask.

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