How to Survive the Condescending Colleague


If you’ve ever completed an internship or started in a graduate role, there’s a very high chance you’ve come across the infamous condescending colleague. It may be your boss (if you’ve read The Devil Wears Prada, you’ll know what we’re talking about), but more often than not, it could be your supervisor, or a colleague who is higher up on the ‘food chain’ than you.

Unfortunately, the truth is, they exist in almost every workplace, identifiable by their confident stance, patronising comments, unpredictable mood swings and in some cases, relentless mission to make your life during your internship or new job, a living hell.

Now you may be thinking, ‘could there really be someone out there whose sole mission is to make my life during my internship a living hell?’ Well we don’t want to scare you and we certainly don’t want to deter you from doing an internship, but the truth is, they’re out there, and we want you to be prepared for the day that you come face to face with them, so that you can survive and come out on top!

So, to ensure that you’re fully prepared for when the time comes, we’re going to arm you with a few tips that we’ve picked up through our own experiences, to help you along the way.


How do you identify the condescending colleague?


You don’t need to worry about having to locate this particular colleague in the office, they will find you… they always do.

Like that of the Great White Shark, it will take them only a matter of minutes to sniff out the fresh meat that’s been thrown into the ocean, naïve, vulnerable and unaware of the danger that lurks beneath.

Unlike the Great White Shark however, their bites don’t involve sharp teeth and loss of limbs, but rather subtle and constant verbal attacks, resulting in loss of confidence.

This particular colleague thrives off the thrill they get from picking on the young and less experienced, because it makes them feel superior and feeds their ego. They will strut around the office, appearing to be bursting with self-confidence and look down on you because, well, what would you know? You’re just the intern.

However, despite this bullish façade, behind closed doors, they are deeply insecure and threatened by your potential to outshine them. They don’t like competition, so they’ll try every trick in the book to slowly break you down and make you begin to question your own ability and intelligence.


So, how do you survive the condescending colleague? Here are our tips:


Understand Their Motives

In order to survive your time dealing with the condescending colleague, it’s important to recognise what their motives are and why they’re treating you this way. If you understand the reasoning behind their behaviour, you will realise that their apparent vendetta against you in fact has nothing to do with you and everything to do with their own personal insecurities. Put simply, it’s not you, it’s them.


Develop Thick Skin

Remember, the mission of the condescending colleague is to scare you off. They’re testing you to see if you’ll break. Don’t break! Remember who you are and what you’re capable of. As intolerable as those patronising comments are, don’t let them get to you! Keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll come out on top!


Don’t Snap

As tempting as it is to turn around and yell extreme profanities to the condescending colleague (à la  Mr. G resigning in Summer Heights High), we can’t recommend this. Losing your cool is unprofessional and will reflect poorly on you. Unfortunately, as much as you have every right to yell at them, you won’t come out on top. Stay professional, keep your cool and focus on using your success to outshine them.


Stand up for yourself

Just because you’re at the bottom of the food chain doesn’t mean you have to be submissive and let people walk all over you. We don’t recommend you snap or bite back, but if you’re clearly being taken advantage of, stand up for yourself! Speak to your boss or have a chat with another colleague about how you’re being treated and how it’s affecting you. There’s nothing wrong with standing up for yourself, it shows your strength and confidence in yourself and your boss will likely respect you for it.


Be the bigger person

We know that you didn’t sign up to be playing mind games in the office. You’re here to start your career and develop professionally. Don’t be sucked into the games of the condescending colleague. Be the bigger person. This means, swallowing your pride, thanking them for their ‘constructive criticism’, smiling, killing them with kindness and continuing with your work. Trust us, it’s worth it in the long run and will shape you as a professional!


Take it as a compliment

Just like the bullies in the schoolyard, they’re only picking on you because they’re threatened. They’re trying to attack your confidence because they don’t want you to outshine them. Take it as a compliment…you must be doing something right!



It always helps to talk to like-minded people who’ve experienced what you’re going through and can directly relate. Whatever issues you’re facing, it’s important to talk to someone, whether it be your friends, parents, your dog, or the team here at Gusto! Jump onto our Vent! page, catch up with us for a coffee or pick up the phone to let it all out, we’re here to listen and help!