How to Deal with Disrespectful Colleagues

Peggy in elevator

One of the realities of the world is that not everyone will like you for one reason or another. Unfortunately, running into these people is not as uncommon as we’d like. This can happen anywhere, but it especially tends to happen in the workplace, probably because we spend so much of our time there. Most of the time we cannot control who we work with, but we can control if a situation we do not like changes or not. If you have a colleague who likes to constantly show they are not your biggest fan by being rude and disrespectful here are a few tips on how to deal with the situation.

1. Don't react

Often people will say things to try and get a reaction out of you. If you react back then it gives them a reason to do it again. So next time a colleague says something provoking do not bite back. Either ignore the comment or respond in a way that shows them you are not fazed or concerned by the comment and put the conversation at rest.

2. Tell them how you feel

Be the bigger person and simply go up to your colleague and tell them that you do not appreciate how they are treating you. Do not storm into their office demanding answers but instead do it privately. Also try your best to not blow up while you are talking to them but do speak confidently. Explain to them exactly what they are doing and how it is making you feel. Make sure you do not start making assumptions. It just might be that they do not even realise what they are doing and by just talking to one another you can resolve the issue.

3. Ask a friend

Before you go around accusing people you should check that you are not overreacting or getting the wrong impression. Tell a close colleague or friend about the issue you are having and see what they have to say about it. Talking to someone about it can also help you come up with solutions to your problem. Talking to other colleagues to see if they are having the same issues can also help, particularly if you end up having to go to the boss about it.

4. Talk to a manager/boss

If you have tried to solve the issue yourself and nothing seems to be working then you may need to talk to someone higher. It may seem like a drastic step to take but sometimes a word from someone higher up the chain is what that disrespectful colleague may need to change their ways. Make sure to stay professional while talking and explain what has been happening, how it is affecting your work and that you would like it be resolved. It can be good practice to document the rude behaviour every time it occurs so when you do go to talk to your boss you can provide proof and examples of this continuing pattern.

5. Be kind

Similar to the idea of not reacting, if you avoid being rude to the disrespectful colleague you can take away their incentive to be mean to you. It can be extremely difficult to be kind to someone who is disrespecting you, but by doing so can catch them off guard and make them realise that treating you this way is pointless. Walking in and saying a polite good morning to them every day can be one way to do this. Remember that there might be something going on in their personal life that is causing them to act out in this way. While you might think we all have problems and should not take them out on others, remember not everyone thinks the same as you.

6. Stay focused on your work

If you don’t run into this person on a daily basis and you do not want to leave your current job, then you could make a conscious effort to simply avoid them. Remember to stay focused on your work, after all that is why you are there in the first place. Sometimes showing this person their actions are not affecting you can cause them to stop. You can also avoid going to work social events if you know that that person will be there. Try not to take work at home too often to avoid feeling like you’re at work all the time; give yourself some time away from an environment that may be stressing you out.

7. Don't take it personally

When someone is continually being rude and disrespectful to us we can begin to take it personally and feel like we have done something wrong. It may be there is something about you that person does not like. However this may just be coming from that person’s beliefs or values, but that does not mean you have actually done something wrong. Keep this in mind next time you find yourself confronted with this person.

8. Keep your head down

This rude and disrespectful colleague may also be trying to undermine your work or take your position. To prevent this from happening keep your head down and stay quiet about any projects you may be working on. Refrain from swapping any stories with other colleagues during breaks at work about what is going on with you work-wise. This does not mean you cannot be pleasant to them you just simply need to leave out some information while chatting.

9. Change where you sit

If you sit particularly close to this person you may be able to request to change where you sit in the office. If you have noticed some spare desks around, there is no shame in going to your boss and asking if you could move. If they ask why you want to change and you don’t feel comfortable talking about the issue with them just yet, you can always just provide a different reason. For example you could say that those around you are a bit talkative and you find it hard to concentrate or that you find yourself getting distracted by those around you and think you would be more productive if you sat somewhere where you were more isolated.

10. Find a new job

This is definitely the most drastic step so save it for drastic times. Sometimes no matter how much we try to resolve a situation a person may just never change their ways. If this disrespect and bullying does not seem to be changing it may be best to move on. Get online and start looking for other available job opportunities. Though the idea of having to leave your familiar workplace might be heart-breaking, once you settle into a new environment away from that negative behaviour you’re sure to feel much better.

There will always be people in our lives who frustrate and annoy us. Unfortunately this is just a part of life so we need to learn how to handle these situations in the most civil way possible. We also need to make sure that these people do not become the centre of our attention. Remember that this is just one single person and that there are plenty of ways you can deal with this situation. Also remember you can never please everyone and sometimes even when you are being extremely kind, people will choose to not like you. In these instances remember that it is not your fault and move on.