How to deal with rude people at work?

Oh, colleagues. We spend large amounts of our waking lives with them, but although we chose to be with some of these people on a voluntary basis, many of them are strangers who are forced upon us.

As we know, these spontaneous sets of colleagues can also contribute to the best kind of professional fireworks: sparky partnerships, satisfying partnerships, lasting friendships and brief yet fond acquaintances. Yet every once in a while, you ‘re going to find yourself trapped with a non-team player — a tyrant, a jerk, or someone who’s either constantly condescending or belittling.

While it would be nice to avoid them altogether, it’s impossible in some situations. So you need to figure out a strategy of how to behave around them. There are quite a few different ways to handle these people.

You should still be rough on the back, right? But please don’t do that even though it might be tempting to do so. That won’t get you anywhere, and will probably create unnecessary drama. Remember there’s no need to match the rudeness of the person. You can be your kind, mannerically yourself, without letting them run all over you. It takes some self-restraint and patience but the safest thing to do is to take the high road almost always.

When you encounter rude people, do your best to maintain your dignity. That might make them madder, but only you have control over your own behavior and how you deal with them. Never blame yourself for other people’s lack of respect for people.

We own their actions, no matter how you behave with others, just as much as you own yours. And whatever you do, never let negative actions from the other person provoke you to act out or throw your own temper tantrum.

Here are some ways you can try to deal with them:

  1. Show empathy and sympathy.

This calls for an understanding of why the individual is rude. For example, if someone hollers in public at someone else (even you), you might mention that you too have had rough days, and you fully understand how he feels. Chances are that someone who is rude to the heart will not calm down, but if it is a momentary error in etiquette, he will possibly apologize. Accept this, and push on. When he’s getting angrier, let it go. There’s nothing you can do to stop him or make him behave.

2. Call the person out on his behavior.

If you are constantly rude to someone you can’t get away from, have a conversation and tackle the issue. Ask him if he knows the things that he is doing or displaying a lack of respect for others. Perhaps he doesn’t know he is rude. He will apologize if he cares, and seek to be more respectful. If he doesn’t, then this person must be avoided. If he is a coworker or neighbor next door, it is hard to completely stay away from him, but you can limit your contact as much as possible.

3. Avoid the rude person.

empathyaSometimes it’s best to just walk away. If the person is still saying impolite things or acting out, his lack of an audience will diffuse the situation. If the rudeness is more of a habit, he might realize it’s time to make a change if everyone is walking a wide berth around him.

4. Don’t give airtime to the rude person.

This means discussing his behavior to others. Chances are, nothing you say will change things, and it might even come across as gossip, which is also rude. If someone comes to you to talk about Mr. Rudeness, say that you understand and sympathize, and then try to change the subject. Discussing his behavior with other people might make matters worse and blow the situation out of proportion.

5. Offer extra kindness.

If the rudeness is more than you can bear this may be difficult or even impossible. However, sometimes if you can hold your head up and set an example, the other person can eventually calm down and follow your lead. Do not count on this happening but if you have no choice but to be around him, it may be worth a shot. Rarely can one person change another unless the second one is open and willing to be objective about his own actions.

When dealing with rude people, always stay even-keel and use common sense. Trust your gut instincts and intellect when deciding whether to let rudeness roll of your back in an attempt to create an upward spiral of empathy and kindness by “not fighting back.” In some instances, we all need to put our foot down and make it clear, in the spirit of ferocious equanimity, that we won’t tolerate any more rude or insulting behavior anymore.

And if it always appears as though the rudest people are getting what they want, they fail in the long run. Acting rude could cost them a promotion, or even a job. Finally, friends stopped calling. So for all these downsides, let’s take the commitment to be kind and try to work it out no matter how much emotional rage comes up.

Check out my related post: How to confront an annoying colleague?

Interesting reads:


  1. Too many people see rude workers as an insignificant, necessary evil of what you have to put up with just to hold a job. However, I once quit a very prestigious, well-paying, secure job because I could no longer stand some of my colleagues. Working there grew to be a nightmare. Indeed, quitting shouldn’t be your first option, but it might be the only solution, unless you want burnout and physical repercussions from stress. Thanks for writing on an important topic!

    Liked by 1 person

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