The Busy Woman’s Guide to Disrespectful Coworkers

Just one disrespectful person can harm our self-esteem, and that harm is only magnified when the disrespect comes from a coworker. After all, our work environments are where we showcase our skills and put a literal value on them. For anyone dealing with difficult and rude coworkers, it’s often all too easy to succumb to hurt feelings and bitterness, but before you get to this point, smash the pause button!

When I find myself in this situation, I follow these three steps: pause, assess, express. First, pause: if a rude coworker gets under your skin, don’t immediately react, take a breath instead. Knee-jerk reactions rarely end well, and you don’t want to make the situation worse.

Second, assess: ask yourself why this moment upset you, but don’t just look at how the other person is responsible (e.g. they had a condescending tone or gave a flippant response). You already know they were rude, so ask yourself specifically why that made you feel threatened. Are you insecure about the quality of your work? Or worried you won’t be taken seriously in the workplace? These are concerns that you should set aside personal time to address head-on, either by improving in those areas or, more often than not, by simply being kinder to yourself.

After assessing your emotions and the situation as a whole, you may find that you’re no longer upset by your coworker’s actions, and you can rise above the pettiness. Sometimes you may even find you misinterpreted the situation and your coworker had no intention of being rude! But if you still find your coworker to be out of line, then move on to the third step.

Express your feelings and concerns about how your coworker treated you to them directly. Do this as soon as possible; don’t procrastinate! The longer you avoid discussing it, the longer you can build up negativity, and the greater your chances are of dispersing that negativity inappropriately. Express your feelings and concerns calmly and professionally. You can still be firm and resist dismissal while keeping the relationship (at least on your end) above board. Using “I” statements (“I felt…”, “I thought…”) might help you broach the subject without putting the other person on the defensive.

Something else to take note of: the digital age affects how we communicate. Digital communication can easily lead to misinterpretations of the situation, so I prefer talking face-to-face to emailing or texting. Having a face-to-face conversation develops you professionally and allows you to give (and receive) feedback without taking things personally or hurting feelings. Always give others an opportunity to grow, and you will grow in return.

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