How to Handle a Condescending Colleague

Nobody likes being spoken down to, you are an intelligent, well-educated individual and people should treat you as such. But this isn’t a fairytale.

See Also: 5 Reasons Your Coworkers Don't Like You and How to Fix It

Yep, welcome to real world kid, people are going to mock you, talk to you like you have the mental capacity of a five year old and just generally treat you like a putz. A putz is Yiddish for idiot. There you go, see you can learn something by reading articles…and that was an example of condescending speech…and that brings us to our first point on how to deal with condescending colleagues.

1. Empathy


You know that it’s a valid technique when the NATO handbook on surviving a hostage situation mentions it as a valid survival strategy (page five, third list item). It says that initially the captors view you as an expendable object, an asset to help them achieve their end game or strategy. Fundamentally, most human conflicts are a result of the aggressor seeing their “victim” superficially. For example they might assume that a lower level employee is someone that could manage to rise through the corporate ranks and be higher up at their age. For example, Soichiro Honda had a hard time being accepted by the Japanese business-world because of his individualism and non-traditional ideas, both items which clashed with the “standards” of Japanese business. If you were wondering…yes, it’s that Honda, the guy that ended up challenging the American market and successfully penetrating it, helping assert the large market share Japanese cars still hold today in the United States. Make them see you beyond their assumptions and stereotyping…you aren’t immature because you just graduated college and drive a POS car, you aren’t a loser for being in lower management at an older age than your colleagues. There are many reasons that you are where you are at this specific moment in time and once your condescending co-workers realize that they will probably stop being huge asses (as in donkeys not butts because the butt type of “ass” would probably be edited out of my article).

2. Stand Up

Standing up for yourself is one of the best ways of confronting a bully…because let’s be honest a condescending co-worker is nothing more than a bully. If the 80s taught us anything (besides the fact that excessive use of powdered stimulants results in questionable fashion choices) is that a bully is nothing more than an insecure man-child that is reduced to a sniveling pile of refuse when stood up to.  OK so your coworkers will talk down to you, question your authority…maybe even socially exclude you. If you are subject to physical violence please go and inform HR…this isn’t a movie and your condescending co-worker is not William Zabka from Karate Kid). If they talk down to you call them out on it “That tone isn’t necessary” or “I think that wasn’t appropriate” are adequate responses. If you are subject to social exclusion, offer to hang out with them, go out for after work drinks or lunch. This is also another way to help humanize you as mentioned in the first entry. Use this method with restraint though, because standing up might result in the condescending colleague becoming defensive…which will further hurt your interactions and productivity. If you have a hard time thinking why you stand up, remember all the things that got you the job in the first place, your education, your qualifications and credentials.

3. The Art Of War

Some people are just horrible human beings without any humanity or ability to empathize…I know the world is a horrible place you didn’t come here to be consoled though right? Well, what do you do if you’ve exhausted all other means of dealing with and confronting your bully? Well you prepare for war obviously. One of the first things you should do is assess the situation by knowing your enemy. What is often missing from that now famous quote by Sun Tzu is know your enemies and know yourself. You need to realize that there might be a reason behind your antagonist’s condescension. Have you done something to mitigate these things? Do you know the reason behind these deficiencies, and have informed the condicender? If you haven’t then it’s all on you but if you have done this but to no avail here’s what to do. Research you enemy, you have Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and maybe even Instagram (if they’re a millennial of course). This could reveal a part or all of their motivations to their targeted torment. Ask around about them, maybe there is something that you can use to amend your dynamic with the person that is being an ass (again of the quadruped type). Finally you just might have to accept something…that not everyone is going to like you  no matter how many cupcakes, donuts and chocolate truffles you bring then…no matter how accommodating and nice you are…no matter how many times you voluntarily wash their Mercedes during lunch. If the situation is inimical then you just have to figure out how to survive, how to work with that person even when they are being slightly hostile.


See Also: How to Promote Yourself without Being a Jerk

How do you deal with condescending co-workers? Let us know in the comment section below.




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