how to deal with a coworker who’s rude to you

When a coworker is rude to you, it can be hard to know how to respond. Because we’re expected to maintain good relationships with colleagues, you might be tempted to pretend the rudeness didn’t happen. But when someone is rude over and over, and you’re required to deal with the person as part of your job, it can cause real stress and make your working life much less pleasant.

Here are some ways to deal with a rude coworker.

Ignore it. If someone is mildly snippy with lots of people, not just with you, one option is simply to try to ignore it. The fact that the person does it to multiple people means that it’s something about them, not you. Sometimes people are chronically rude or snippy because they’re not good at dealing with stress. Sometimes it’s because they’re generally unhappy with work or with life. Sometimes they’re simply curmudgeons. Whatever the cause, if you can reframe it in your mind to a problem of theirs, rather than a reaction to anything you’re doing, it can be much easier not to take it personally and to let it roll off of you.

To be clear, you’re never obligated to do this. You’re allowed to speak up if a coworker treats you poorly. But sometimes choosing not to let it get to you can be the easiest way to deal with it. But if it’s not…

Speak up. If a coworker is rude or otherwise disrespectful to you, sometimes calling out the behavior can make the person realize that she was out of line. And if it doesn’t achieve that, it at least may demonstrate that you’re don’t silently accept rudeness, which may make the person less likely to treat you that way again.

One way to speak up is simply to name what’s happening: “I know this is frustrating. But you’re using a pretty adversarial tone here that’s making it hard to figure this out.” Or, a more assertive option to simply say, “Please don’t speak to me in that tone.” (Make sure you say this calmly and matter-of-factly to minimize the chances of escalating the problem.)

A more subtle option is to say something like, “Whoa – you sound really frustrated. Do you need me doing something differently here?” Asking that question can nudge the person to realize that you’re not doing anything that warrants rudeness in response.

In some cases, the rudeness might be less about tone or demeanor and more about the substance of a remark. In that case, be direct that it’s rude and needs to stop. For example, if a coworker snidely remarks on your recent weight gain, an effective response is, “Wow, that’s really rude.” Ideally you’d also add, “Please don’t comment on my body.”

If the rudeness is part of a pattern, you might try addressing it as a whole. Years ago, I worked with someone who didn’t deal with stress well and would take his frustration out on colleagues. I think he must have known on some level that he was doing that, but the fact that no one had called him out on it had made it easy for him to keep doing it. I finally said something like this to him: “I like working with you, but I don’t know if you realize how you talk to me sometimes. You can come across like you don’t want to listen to what I have to say or that you’re annoyed with what I’m saying. It can make working together pretty hard. Do you think you could rein that in?” To my surprise, it seemed to disarm him and he was much easier to work with after that. (That doesn’t mean you’ll always get an easy resolution, of course! But it’s a reasonable thing to say, and it’s worth a shot.)

If it’s extreme, report it. If a colleague is a little snippy here and there, try the advice above. But if someone crosses the line into overt hostility or abusiveness, or if the behavior is so frequent that interferes with your ability to do your job, that’s something the person’s manager should hear about.

And of course, if you are the person’s manager, chronic rudeness is something that you need to address forthrightly. Managers sometimes hesitate to address interpersonal problems, figuring that it’s not really about the person’s work – but treating people politely is as much a part of what you need from a staff member as quality work is. And if you don’t address rudeness, it will poison the working environment for the rest of your team, so it’s crucial to address it and make it clear that being civil to colleagues isn’t optional.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 156 comments… read them below }

  1. Nervous Accountant*

    Oh such good timing. I had a coworker whisper “shut up” to me and then flat out deny it. Our “HR” person heard t. It happened Just this morning. I called him out on it. Let’s see what happens.

    1. the gold digger*

      A few years ago, a lovely co-worker whom I liked said, “Shut UP!” when I told her something.

      I did not realize at the time that “Shut up!” was new slang and somewhat accepted. It was the strangest feeling to have someone who was not a rude person say something that seemed so horribly rude.

      (Related story: I have been hearing the phrase, “I SEE you!” on the radio and have finally figured out it does not mean the speaker literally sees someone but that the speaker has her eye on the person’s actions.

      So the other day, when a co-worker was messaging me, “I hear you!” I thought it was yet some more slang I didn’t get and I was feeling really out of it.

      Turns out my boss, whose office I was in, had not closed his skype meeting with the guy who sits next to the co-worker I was messaging with. Co-worker literally could hear me.)

      1. Tuesday Next*

        That sounds so familiar, because I never know the latest slang :-) I smile and nod and try to figure it out afterwards

        1. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

          Ha. I’ve got an 18 year old and a 21 year old, and half the time I cannot follow their conversation. I mean, “finna hang?” WHAT?? Now I say it to them, and I get fits of laughter. Keeps me entertained.
          Translation for “finna hang” for those as in the dark as I am: “Do you want to do something together?”

          1. Anonymoose*

            But what is ‘finna’? Wow, I am offically old.

            So I remember being in college in northern CA and having a friend going to school is Seattle. Every time we would talk on the phone I could barely understand his slang, but I was still so intrigued that I made plans that at some point in my life I too would move to this weird speaking city. And I did! But nobody spoke weird slang anymore because I was too old. :(

            Slang: changing lives one at a time.

            1. Raine*

              Finna = fixing to = going to/planning to/do you want to (in a question)
              hang = hang out

              My favorite us of finna was in high school, when a student would tell my financial literacy teacher “I’m finna dip” which meant he was going to ditch class.

            2. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

              Finna = fixing to. So like, “Are you fixing to hang out?” = “Finna hang?”

              I only know this because I have siblings still in high school :P

      2. K.*

        I had a similar exchange with a coworker except it was over email so she couldn’t hear that I was being sarcastic. When I realized I’d offended her, I walked right over to her desk, apologized and said I was just kidding and that I realized now that it hadn’t come across in my email. She was like “Oh! Okay” and we laughed about it. We’re still friends to this day (this was early in our working relationship, which morphed into a friendship) even though we’ve both long since left that company.

      3. Specialk9*

        “I hear you!” Is actually slang – it’s a very supportive and warm affirmation of what you just said.

      4. Anonymoose*

        Umm, did ‘I see you’ somehow get absorbed from Avatar? Otherwise, I find this stupid. Actually, I still may think it’s stupid. O..o

        1. Raine*

          Hi, linguist here. “I see you” was used primarily in AAVE and in some Latino communities. It’s used in a similar way to “I feel you” or simply “I feel”. It’s a form of acknowledging that you see what someone is doing in their life and it can be used positively or negatively.

    2. Jesca*

      I don’t know why this makes me laugh? Maybe it is because I used to whisper “I quit” to my one boss, until one day she heard me. And I just rolled with it.

      I find it odd someone would whisper something like that. I mean how annoyed do you have to be? Just keep it in your head.

        1. Jesca*

          Haha I did. I mean what else could I do? I said it. I meant it. She was rude all the time, and I couldn’t think of a way to put that genie back in the bottle. I wouldn’t even discuss it. It wasn’t mature, but it happened! I don’t whisper anything anymore haha.

          1. Close Bracket*

            I’m sorry you were stuck quitting your job unexpectedly, but I applaud you for going through with it! That took gumption.

            1. Jesca*

              I mean, what are ya gonna do, am I right? Haha. I totally forgot I did this as it was years ago, but now that I remember, I can’t stop laughing about it.

              This is why my parents sigh when I’m around … hahaha

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Ha, good catch, College Career Counselor. I thought that “I just rolled with it” meant that you just played it off or glossed over it.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        Oh he wasn’t joking or anything like that, I was talking to someone else and he just interjected. We’ve all been laughing about it and throwing it around to each other (we all joke around a lot w each other). this person is just a miserable human being.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Oh dear, I just flashed back to an incident earlier this week. There’s a flock of young people who seem to congregate by my desk chatting, and I was trying to get complicated work done. I think I did start muttering something like goawaygoawaygo away under my breath. A good reminder that I should have just politely asked them to keep it down and explain that I was having a tough day.

          1. Nervous Accountant*

            I mean as long as you have an otherwise good relationship w them. I understand that can be annoying.

            In my case it was in the lunchroom where people naturally talk to each other.

          2. Anonymoose*

            I think we’ve all probably done that at some point (I sure have). As long as you can accept that you miiiiight have to explain yourself at some point, and either eat crow or defend it a ‘la Jesca above. haha

              1. Marillenbaum*

                In the same way that it’s a throwdown of bros, or a murmuration of starlings, or a ruination of Baby Boomers…

              2. BeenThere*

                I love collective nouns… I’m going to make this a thing! The internet will love it!

      2. King Baby*

        This is a good reminder that I probably shouldn’t give the middle finger to my phone when I’m on particularly frustrating calls, just in case someone else walks in.

  2. Jane*

    I worked as a biglaw attorney and this was such a big problem. Management was not interested in changing it. It was accepted as part of the culture. I left that job to work in house at a company and the change has been night and day. Being routinely rude here would be considered a huge deal, it would not be tolerated. Sometimes it’s just a deeply engrained attitude about what is an appropriate response to frustration or a set back at work. I don’t know that it can really be addressed or fixed in those environments but certainly if it’s not the norm in a particular office I would hope it could be effectively addressed.

    1. Anonymoose*

      Those would only change with true cultural changes and usually top-down. It’s usually easiest to just leave and let them tear each other apart. Good for you!

  3. AdAgencyChick*

    I’ve found that pointing out rudeness without using the word “you” can help, since people often shut down when they hear “You…” That can take the form of an “I message” (“I’m frustrated because I had a point to make and then I was interrupted”), or just making an observation (“This conversation feels weirdly confrontational”).

    I had to have the whole “I message” thing beaten into me — it seemed so silly to go through verbal contortions just to avoid saying “You interrupted me!” But it sure does work, at least in my experience. There’s something about speaking this way that I think makes rude people think about how they’re making someone else feel, rather than how they’re being accused of something.

    Will have to think about that as I get ready to go back to work after a few days off and deal with a chronic interrupter/lecturer/general pain-in-the-ass coworker.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      It really is a useful technique in many different contexts! Part of it is that it’s hard to argue back when somebody says “I feel,” whereas when you start with “you always – ” it takes the conversation in the direction of debating the facts. “I feel x” is incontrovertible (although I have had people say, “you shouldn’t feel x or y way, which is pretty irritating).

    2. Footiepjs*

      “This conversation feels weirdly confrontational”

      This might be something for me to have at the ready as I have stumbled into a power struggle at work (between two other people, not me!) and I am not liking it.

    3. Argh!*

      The “I” message only works when the person genuinely cares about other people. I have had that backfire on me with responses that basically called me a snowflake or neurotic who needs help. Some people are rude because they don’t care about others, and then reeeeally don’t care about others after the others ask them to care about them!

      I like relating these things to whatever the topic at hand is, like your example. Even using a “I” statement implicitly says the other person did something wrong.

      1. Julia*

        This. In the worst case, the other person will use what you said bothered you against you from now on.

        1. nonymous*

          yes. I’ve had this experience over the years as well. I find that standing up abruptly and stalking out of the room, followed with a mild “It didn’t seem I was needed in the conversation” also works wonders.

  4. Tuesday Next*

    I worked with someone at OldJob who was pretty abrasive to everyone and more so to me. Everyone let him get away with. I knew why he was doing it to me. He felt that my role on the project was unnecessary and the (pretty standard) process that I was following was a waste of time – and he also felt a little threatened. He challenged me constantly and tried to undermine me. Because he had seniority at OldJob and on the project, I stood up to him but never actually called him on his rudeness. Now I wish I’d had Alison’s script. It would have been pretty satisfying to ask him why he was being so confrontational and seeing him at a loss for words, for once!

    1. Rosie*

      I have a very similar problem person I deal with at work who flat-out yells at people during meetings because they “weren’t around 30 years ago, so they couldn’t possibly understand the extent of the problem.” Unfortunately this is an elected public official so HR can’t do anything.

  5. Undercover today*

    What if the rude co-worker is your boss? What if your rude co-worker/boss specifically asked you to kick her under the table when she starts acting out of sorts, but then she is so harsh and unnecessarily vindictive all the time and in public that you feel bringing it up would be career suicide? Answer: start packing. #sucks to be me right now.

    1. Jane*

      Dealt with this for 3 years. Some people are perfectly self aware and even feel bad about their behavior but have no intention of putting in the work required to change and their boss either didn’t see it or didn’t care when they were coming up in the ranks. I unfortunately agree – unless there are other aspects of the job that you love that outweigh the stress of a rude boss, or you are confident that you will eventually get promoted so you are no longer managed by this person, or the money is just too good or too needed to pass up and you can’t get a similarly paying job, it’s not worth sticking it out. I thank my lucky stars every day that I got out when I did. It was not easy and I got a lot of rejections and basically lost hope but got really lucky and something great finally worked out for me. I took a pay cut but luckily I could afford to do that and it wasn’t a crazy pay cut.

    2. Jesca*

      Since your boss is trying to use you as a way to manage her poor behavior, I would say “your boss is awful and isn’t going to change”.

    3. Anonymoose*

      Jeebus. This needs its own letter, and update.

      So she wants you to parent her when she can’t maintain professionalism?? Ya….buhbbye. I don’t see why it would be career suicide, however, if she knows she’s a…see you next Tuesday. She knows she is. She told you how to deal with her. Although, frankly, it’s much less hassle (both for your career and mentally) to just GTFO.

      1. Midge*

        There’s really no need to indirectly call this woman the c-word. It’s a misogynistic way to call out bad workplace behavior. This boss is jerk and an asshole, for sure, but how about we don’t bring gendered insults into our condemnation of her actions.

  6. Lil Fidget*

    We have one consistently rude and curmudgeonly employee here. For some reason, he is unfireable. I think he is the only one who understands the specialized software that we use. I know my boss has lodged several complaints in the past about his rude behavior towards external partners, but he’s still here.

    It’s almost a cliche with IT guys, enough that there was a running skit on SNL about it IIRC. It is sad/amazing to watch the extreme circulations that other employees use to go around him so they don’t have to ask for his help. Wish I had that kind of power!

    1. Argh!*

      We have one who is patronizing to the “end users” who of course are infants and deserve to be treated as such. The fact that almost all of us have advanced degrees and do an excellent job at something else means nothing to him. And woe to the woman who is uppity in his presence!

      1. Rainy*

        So fun story–my late husband spent a while in the PSO for a Major Producer of corporate software. The PSO were the people who flew into your city on a moment’s notice when you broke your software and sat in front of a computer until it was unbroken. You paid a massive yearly fee to have access, and then a daily charge if he was on-site, so the routine usually went like this: company breaks a thing but it’s not too bad. They let Jim in IT futz with it for a few weeks, until it’s REALLY broken. Then Jim’s boss Stan who still writes memos on an IBM Selectric messes with it for another week because “it can’t be that hard”.

        It turns out that it is that hard. THEN they’d call Major Producer, who would dispatch Husband. He bemoaned this all the time, because it is way harder to fix something that a few other people have broken harder and then jumped on the bits of than something that just broke. He was once called in *the second* a system broke, and got all excited because a company was doing it the way they were meant to, and surely it would be an easy fix!

        When he got there he discovered that the reason they called immediately was that the owner’s brother had kludged together an inventory control system from a product that wasn’t really supposed to be used the way he used it, had patched it over the years with millions of lines of undocumented code, and just maintained it on the daily so it would actually function. And then, I shit you not, he was jaywalking and got hit by a bus and was killed instantly. The same day, unsurprisingly, their janky system gave up the ghost as well. It was winter, and their busiest season, because they sold winter teamaking equipment, and they were all pissing themselves with terror, losing money every second.

        The day he flew in, that area was hit by one of the worst winter storms it had ever experienced and all the power in that part of the state went out. The office manager got my husband a blanket, a generator, and an unlimited supply of coffee and chocolate, and my husband rewrote their inventory control system in the dark huddled in a blanket during a blizzard.

    2. Artemesia*

      I consulted with an office once that was held hostage by the only guy who could run the software on which the operation depended (and was angry that he hadn’t been promoted to director, because he was an ass). I arranged for cross training and for the director to be trained to manage the software; when the office was running competently, we fired the difficult employee (who had had plenty of chances to shape up and be part of the solution)

      What if Mr. Vital gets hit by a bus? No office should be hostage to one employee and particularly not to a difficult one. Someone needs to be trained to back this guy up and then if he continues to be rude and difficult, he needs to go.

  7. Murphy*

    I was snippy to a co-worker the other day, but I didn’t realize it until after she’d left. I felt so badly. I was annoyed about the work thing she was talking to me about (though not at her) and my daughter had kept me up all night several days in a row. I did apologize the next day.

    1. hbc*

      Guilty, though I was also annoyed at the coworker. I thought I gave a light-hearted “That’s not my department,” but apparently my frustration leaked through. He backed away going “Whoa, okay! Message received!” and I apologized. And then I gave my usual spiel about this issue and why I can’t handle it, with additional information that it comes up often enough that I have to have a “usual spiel.” So hopefully he won’t hold it against me.

    2. Jesca*

      I got snippy with a coworker the other day. Between the extremely misogynistic remarks and subtle racist undertones, I just found I could not hold my tongue when he told me I should smile more and stop being like Eeyore. I explained to him in detail how sexist of a phrase that is and why. But, it must just have been “the devil that pops out in women” during their time of month (sarcasm)!

      1. Specialk9*

        I feel like “snippy” has connotations of being unreasonable irritation. This seems very reasonable!

        1. Jesca*

          Yes I was being glib. He took it as me being snippy. I was just done with it and tired of paying audience to his ridiculous verbal ejaculations.

      2. Alternative person*

        This is one of the times I’m all ‘Oh, it’s ON’ at work. I will derail whatever is going on for the sake of making that arsehole feel super uncomfortable. I completely and utterly see red.

  8. Teapot Librarian*

    I have an employee who believes in “telling it like it is.” This of course is generally used as cover for being rude. When I called him on it, he was horribly resentful. (He also believes that insisting women get on elevators before him is necessary for being polite, even if the woman demurs. When I say “insisting,” I really mean it, not just a kind “after you” but “ladies first” followed by “I insist” followed by “you are insulting me by not getting on the elevator before me.” Sorry dude, not polite.)

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Oh Lord, the “must be HONEST about EVERYTHING” people. Manifests in a couple of different ways, but it’s funny how often the “honest” thing you have to share is so frequently a rude and unhelpful thing that is a matter of opinion!

      1. Jesca*

        So off topic, but it reminds me of that Bones episode where a guy who was killed happened to be a member of an “extreme” honesty group. Really, it was just a license to say unhelpful things to other people.

        1. Rainy*

          We have one of those in my office. She prides herself on being “blunt” and “cutting through the niceties so things get done” but holy crow, if you say *anything* to her that she could take as even the mildest criticism, she complains to your boss about your rudeness.

          She also once accused me of “conspiring against her” in a division meeting. :D

    2. Jesca*

      Oh i hate that. There are plenty of times I just don’t want to go first! Like when it is totally impractical, but people still insist.
      “Oh ladies first”
      “But, I don’t know the way”
      “I will show you”
      “With me in front …?”

      Haha anyway – when I have had to have this discussion with a male report, I just simply said that its common courtesy to allow others to go first in many situations no matter the sex. Its polite to hold the door for anyone. But it is not a hard rule and no one is insulting you if they decline to go first. Your politeness has at that point just turned to rudeness. Let It Go.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I pretty much figured. At least the evil is concentrated. (I do particularly hate the “I insist” folks. Yeah, I’m not turning my back to somebody who’s demonstrably uninterested in my agency.)

          1. Julia*

            This is where I tell the story of my ex-coworker who told me women got pregnant by getting on the elevator with him.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      These are my least favorite rude people. I have rarely met someone who “tells it like it is” and does so politely, compassionately, or kindly. It’s remarkable how rude people are willing to be if they can find the right cover story.

      1. OhNo*

        A friend of mine recently got me into trying a sort of reverse tell-it-like-it-is philosophy: anything nice that you think should come out of your mouth (as long as it’s situationally appropriate). It’s been fun so far, but it highlighted for me that most people only claim they’re “telling it like it is” when it’s something negative.

        If they were equally devoted to saying the positive things as the negative ones, the rest of us might not mind it so much.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          That’s really lovely! I aspire to being this person because of someone I dealt with at a summer job as a teen: I guess he felt I’d been particularly helpful, and he sought out my manager to praise me, and I ended up winning Employee of the Month. Ever since, I’ve tried to be That Guy for people I meet. It’s so much nicer.

    4. Tuxedo Cat*

      That elevator story sets off so many red flags for me. It’s not just rude, it’s creepy and feels like one of those tactics for people to get others to be submissive and pretend their gut instinct isn’t right

      1. oranges & lemons*

        Yeah, that aggressive chivalry is never a good sign. I was once on a bus with a guy who kept jumping up out of his seat and running across the bus to INSIST that any unseated woman take his place. Sometimes he would try to make a woman switch seats with him when he thought he had the better seat. Very bizarre.

      2. Teapot Librarian*

        In this specific case we were a group of four men and four women. So there wasn’t the creepiness element. But yes, it was 100% about power, and when he said I was insulting him and he was just being polite, I managed to spit some words out about “no, this is about power.”

          1. Teapot Librarian*

            I think it was only because it happened in the wake of lots of conversations on social media about harassment and power. I have a really hard time calling things out in the moment, mostly because I’m too stunned in the moment to realize there’s an issue!

      3. Lil Fidget*

        I hate it most when I am in the back, and a group of men pointedly wait for me to get out first, which seems like it should be nice, except that I end up having to do an awkward shimmy around them all to get to the door – which is NOT comfortable for me. Good manners should not result in people feeling LESS comfortable! Now I firmly cut it off by saying, “please, don’t wait for me, I insist.” And I will NOT do the shimmy. Guess we’re riding all the way back up to the top! (Sidenote: I haven’t had that much pushback on that, but I have had a LOT when I pointedly hold the door open for men. They really hate it! And get so flustered! Of course I stopped doing it for the same reason listed above, but I was trying it as an experiment for a while).

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I don’t usually get that when I hold the door open for men. They usually just say thank you. But then, I do it as I’m going through, unless somebody has an armful of crap, and then they’re properly grateful because armful of crap.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            It’s the difference between just kind of keeping the door open / not letting it close in someone’s face – which I agree we should all do for everyone – and holding it the way men do it to me, where they pull it open and then take an exaggerated step back with it, waving me in first … so that pretty pretty princess I, who is too dainty to touch doors like a commoner, may enter to (I assume) a blast of trumpets :D

            I appreciate that people have been taught that this is good manners and are presumably trying to be polite (less so if they start chatting me up if I “accept” by walking through the door, but that’s a minority of cases). However, when you do it in reverse it becomes clearly kind of an odd spectacle that’s not really necessary.

      4. Jennifer Thneed*

        Oh, you reminded me of one of my “favorite” recent incidents of this! I was in a crowded elevator from my grocery store to the parking garage underneath. (It was a normal-size elevator, plus with shopping carts in it.) The buttons had been malfunctioning. When we finally made it down to the garage, the guy right in front of the doors did the “after you” motion to a young woman >>who had to squeeze by everyone to get off<<. He didn't make anything easier for anyone. He was just self-centered and she was embarrassed. (I, of course, would have refused and made him get off first. But I'm old and way past being embarrassed by stuff like this. I'd rather correct someone's wrong ideas.)

        I once had a guy do the "after you" thing to get *onto* an elevator when he was closer to it and between me and it. But I don't play that game, and the bloody door ended up closing before either of us got on. I told him that he had been the opposite of polite (used that actual phrase). He cheerfully hoped my day would get better. I cannot remember how I replied, but I wasn't pleased. I hoped that he would sort of replay the whole conversation later on and realize what I'd been saying. (And that was me, doing my best to assume the best of someone. "Crucial Confrontations" skills FTW.)

        1. Teapot Librarian*

          This is the first time I’ve heard of “Crucial Confrontations.” I take it you would recommend the book? I’m always in the market for books that will help me be a better manager and communicator.

          1. Garland Not Andrews*

            I’ve not heard of “Crucial Confrontations” but I recently finished “Crucial Conversations” for work. Absolutely worth reading!

          2. Jennifer Thneed*

            I would absolutely recommend the book. The original book by the same authors was called “Crucial Conversations” and I expect it’s just as useful, but the “Confrontations” book is what was available at work for me to borrow.

            Since the first couple of books, they’ve absolutely turned into a brand, but they’re still worth reading. The basic take-away for me was this: You truly DON’T know what’s in someone else’s head, so why not assume the best? Why leap to the worst?

            In the case of difficult conversations, their point was that you’re way too likely to already have an outcome in mind if you go into it with unexamined assumptions about the other person’s actions or motivations. And it’s usually negative assumptions, because you’re angry about something. They’re not saying that you’ll never have to, eg, discipline someone, but that you’ll handle the conversation a million times better if you’re not actively angry during it, and you’re less likely to be angry if you’ve put some time into avoiding negative assumptions.

            (I’m realizing now that this is probably related to the good ol’ fundamental attibution error, which I hadn’t heard of when I read the book.)

          3. Sarah in Boston*

            I can’t recommend Sheila Heen and Doug Stone’s books enough. Look up “Difficult Conversations” and “Thanks for the Feedback”. The second was literally life changing for me.

        2. SS*

          I had a group of guys spread across the front of the elevator do that to me too. They turned and motioned for me to go out first, but they were completely blocking the whole path. They seemed to think I could teleport to the opposite side of them. I got annoyed and snapped “I can’t go out when you’re completely blocking the doorway. YOU need to exit the elevator first.”

          1. Teapot Librarian*

            Or when the elevator opens and a man insists you exit first, but you’re not actually getting off at that floor. Both examples of clueless and ineffective “chivalry.”

      5. cornflower blue*

        I often wonder if the elevator/stairs thing is just to be able to look at ladies’ behinds.

        1. BeenThere*

          Women in tech here. I have a reliable source that has confirmed this is the case for some. For others it’s been beaten into them that they should do it because good manners.

          At some point someone in my company pointed out that we hold the door open for anyone who has a heavy load and not because of the gender. I wish I could remember the specifics because it made me really happy.

      1. Teapot Librarian*

        I hear you. When it’s a one-off event, I let it go. But this is an ongoing issue with a specific person who insists on treating me like a “lady” and not like a fully capable person.

        1. Lison*

          I agree with you that a one off is different than a power play. I have never called out people who call me dear or honey or pet when it’s obviously just them not thinking and saying it, but my temporary manager who called me young lady repeatedly, you bet I made that an issue. For bonus points when I asked him to not call me that he replied “No offence, that’s what I call my daughter”. I replied that yes it is offensive and don’t call me that again. No idea why he thought comparing me to his 6 year old daughter would make things better.

          1. Close Bracket*

            asked him to not call me that he replied “No offence, that’s what I call my daughter”.

            And he thinks it’s a-ok to treat his female employees like he treats his 6 year old daughter.

            I hope you started calling him “son”.

          2. Teapot Librarian*

            “That’s what I call my daughter”?!?!?! I have a colleague (above me in the hierarchy but not my direct manager) who calls me–and everyone–“dear” and “sweetie” and the like. I HATE it but it isn’t sexist in the way that it would be if she were he. But wow, clueless manager you had!!

            1. Sloan Kittering*

              Yeah what? “That’s what I call everybody” is more acceptable (when everybody also includes Chadwick Chaddington the Third, the new office superstar who’s heading straight to the top of leadership despite his relative lack of experience) but “that’s what I call my daughter” is … the exact reason it’s a problem!

      2. Lil Fidget*

        Meh, sometimes it’s okay to try to not go along with something that makes you uncomfortable, even if it’s kindly intended. You don’t have to be rude to say, “oh no, please go ahead.” For me it depends on the day and the person in question (I usually give the elderly a pass sometimes even when they say things like, ‘smile sweetcheeks’ … there’s just no point in trying to re-train them now). If I have some extra energy I might try to fight the good fight.

        A lot of women’s socializing is that it doesn’t matter how we feel, we need to go along and not hurt somebody else’s feeeelings. This also shows us that our OWN feelings don’t matter. This thinking has lead to … so many problems in my life and the lives of the women that I love. It’s a small thing, but sometimes you need a place to start fixing your thinking.

    5. Snark*

      “I have an employee who believes in “telling it like it is.”

      And of course, if you take exception to the person being a butthead when they just tell it like it is, then you’re Part of the Problem.

      1. Teapot Librarian*

        It occurs to me (I don’t know why it took you quoting me for me to realize this) that if this employee is so okay with “telling it like it is,” he should have no problem with me walking into his office and telling him that his cologne is overpowering and he needs to tone it down. (Why have I not had the guts to tell him this for two years?)

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Hehe I’d say it’s about 50/50 if the “tell it like it is” people can also handle “hearing it like it is.” To their credit, I know a few who really *do* seem appreciative and responsive to finally getting The Truth. The other 50% you can expect pouting, whining, defensiveness and hostility. Such a fun game of chance!

        2. Snark*

          “You smell like Pepe Le Pew had a terrible accident with a bottle of Brut and some patchouli. What? I’m just Telling It Like It Is.”

        3. LavaLamp*

          This is reminding me of the time some random dude told me to smile. While I was walking out of the freaking hospital. Wish I’d had the presence of mind to remind him that the building I walked out of is not filled with unicorns and kittens.

          1. Teapot Librarian*

            It’s bad enough that random dudes tell women to smile. But seriously? Context, random dude.

          2. cornflower blue*

            Unicorns may pose a stabbing hazard, but I’m so down for filling hospitals with kittens. Might need an allergenic wing, though.

          3. Marillenbaum*

            I once read about a woman who had just had dental surgery, when some dude on the street told her to smile. She did…and all the blood that had pooled in her mouth spilled out onto the street. I aspire to that level of timing.

  9. ElinorD*

    This brings up something I’ve always meant to ask. I friended a colleague on FB a while ago – I knew we had differing opinions on things, but thought he had, you know, manners. I had a conversation with a close friend on FB and then went to bed. I woke up to discover that Colleague had inserted himself into my conversation and was really rude to my friend. He had no idea who Friend was, and what her relationship was to me. I took screen shots and unfriended him, but kept my mouth shut. I’ve never said anything to him either. I figure he’ll do it again to the wrong person. Anyway. I’ve often wondered if I should’ve brought it up. Maybe I’ll save this for the Friday open thread!

      1. ElinorD*

        Yeah. I’m learning that. Thank goodness for friend groups. Helps me keep things locked down so certain folks only see what I want them to see.

        1. Close Bracket*

          Yup. Some people get placed on my restricted list and unfollowed. Much less drama than unfriending.

    1. Argh!*

      I’ve had some facebook drama like that. My coworker unfriended me and I’m still friends with someone I don’t know IRL but who is generally a decent person.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah some people have weird norms around social media that I don’t understand (heavy overlap with Tell It Like It Is guy, above) – but they may be perfectly good people in real life even if need to be Blocked on my page.

        1. Argh!*

          My job doesn’t involve vaccinating children, so my coworker and I can generally avoid butting heads at work.

    2. Starbuck*

      Ugh, unfriending him was definitely the way to go. Not your job to teach him manners, either. If I was really upset about how he talked to my friend I might comment publicly on the thread to set the record straight, but I think you made the right call not spending any more time on it. If he asks at work about being unfriended I’d probably say something about not mixing work and personal. I say this as someone who is friends with everyone in my org who’s on Facebook, lol. Small towns… ah.

  10. Desk Thief Reported*

    Make sure you aren’t the one interrupting training time by taking non urgent calls, not listening when you are told you should have them email you and respond later, not the one telling people no one is training you and then say you “got it” in the middle of someone trying to show you something, not the one to take something from the desk as a prank to “freak them out.”

    But nope, it’s definitely other people being rude to you.

    1. patricia*

      I hope if you are experiencing these things, you use Alison’s scripts and deal with it. Because I otherwise don’t think I understand your comment.

      1. Desk Thief Reported*

        Gah sorry, I have someone who has been trying to say I am the rude one when it’s just that I won’t put up with all their rude behaviors. The typical “You won’t just let me do what I want, so you are the bad guy.”

        So “Make sure you aren’t the whacked rude one before going after someone else as rude.”

  11. Teapots for Llamas*

    But what about when the rude coworker IS your boss? And HR isn’t interested in shutting it down, just “helping Boss understand the culture”? In fact, what about when the rudeness is coming from your boss immediately after HR gives them the results of a department survey? The hostility and thinly veiled anger seems to be a direct result of the conversations our team had with HR regarding Boss’s performance and behavior.

    You know, asking for a friend…

    1. Argh!*

      If boss doesn’t care about improving, at least HR is aware of it. When HR has to spend an inordinate amount of time and money replacing boss’s excellent workers, they might decide it’s not worth keeping the boss.

      I keep hoping for that anyway.

    2. AnonAcademic*

      Repeat “this is not about me” in your head until you believe it?

      I also have a boss who chews out me/my team in response to getting critical feedback from his grandboss, or encountering frustration with other coworkers or projects. It’s part of his immaturity and lack of self awareness. Although it feels personal, it really isn’t. I just calmly document him lashing out, looking for patterns of retaliation. I have already let my equivalent of HR know about the issues and they are willing to help me escalate if it goes retaliatory. As long as he’s “just” being a manbaby jerk I try my best to roll my eyes at it and ignore it.

      1. Sarah*

        It’s awful, but I’m jealous your HR-equivalent knows. I’m my boss’s only direct report so saying something is just going to end badly. At this point I might ask my coworker who hears me get berated to say something so HR can come to me.

  12. Argh!*

    Where I work the method is this: If you’re a woman, put up and shut up. If you’re a man, put up and shut up if another man is rude to you. After all, he’s just stating an opinion. If you’re a man and you don’t feel like giving a woman the teapot specs she has a right to expect from you, make sure you’re snide enough to get a rise out of her, then tell your boss to tell her boss even if the reaction only lasts a few seconds and she explains that she’s just frustrated because she’s been given the runaround. (A favorite sport in some areas) And then the next time you don’t want to do your job for her you get a pass because of course the uppity woman has destroyed your relationship, not you.

    1. Snark*

      “And then the next time you don’t want to do your job for her…”

      I love how you phrased this almost as much as I ragehate the dynamic you’re describing, and it’s very confusing.

      1. Argh!*

        Hahaha “internal customer service” is not a concept here. Apparently expecting customer service from someone who is supposed to share our mission and care about the product I’m producing was stepping over the line.

        In the end, I won, but both of our bosses had to be involved because they’re both micromanagers and saying “yes” to a reasonable request for 10 minutes (max) of your time has to involve 15 minutes (min.) of higher-ups pondering the request.

  13. XK*

    I have to watch what I’m muttering under my breath, since 90% it’s directed at random oddness, but if you were walking by you might think I was going on about you. I’m getting better at it, and luckily my coworkers rarely start at it anymore – I apparently have a “look” while I am doing it that makes it clear that I’m not directing it at anyone. It has led to some funny situations though!

    1. Argh!*

      I have a coworker who is silent unless there’s an audience nearby, so when they cuss at the computer under their breath they’re sure we can hear it. Then if you say “What?” the answer is “Oh nothing… just muttering under my breath.”

      I have stopped asking at anything anybody says that doesn’t start with my name & them looking straight at me, though it’s REALLY hard for me to ignore people. My natural instinct is to be a team player and a communicator, not an ignorer.

      1. Julia*

        I had a co-worker who did this who ALSO expected me to miraculously know when she was actually addressing me. She had other problems with politeness, and I complained about her to bosses for two years before I finally quit.

  14. Dawn*

    I had a co-worker that was just unbearable and mean. I am a morning person, I am just super happy that the sun is shining and I’m moving around, usually totally opposite of everyone else on the planet. This co-worker seemed to be personally insulted that I just genuinely like the mornings, so I tried to avoid her, but our desks were right next to each other. On top of being overly sunny every morning, I have allergies that make my nose itch constantly. Mean girl decided that I must be on drugs, there is literally no other way for me to be a happy morning person, so she went to Grandboss and told him that I needed to be drug tested. I went and submitted to the test, waited until I got called in for the results, got my apology because I was clean, and quit.

  15. Still trying to adult*

    Sooooo tired of workplace rudeness, esp. when it comes from upper management. Whether it’s the supervisor who thinks it’s OK to lie & threaten subordinates, or the upper level manager who acts as if it’s his God-given right to abuse all under him, just because he’s been there so long, and well, he gets away with it. At least now in a municipal job, there’s a semblance of HR and chain of command that allows for some reporting of such poor behaviors. Doesn’t always solve the problem, but it’s there.

    I’d say workplace rudeness is one of the worst aspects that causes people to leave.

    BTW, love the ‘One who is brutally honest usually enjoys the brutality more than the honesty’ quote! True! True!!

  16. Anna*

    How do you handle telling your boss ur uncomfortable working with your coworker. I hate to cause ripples but I seriously don’t feel comfortable working with him. In the beginning I was a temp trying to get tired he got hired before me and started hitting on me I told him I was happily married but he didn’t stop. I didn’t go to HR because I wanted to get hired and I didn’t want problems. He finally stopped after finding out I’m pregnant but now we argue from time to time. We just had one yesterday and this time he was super aggressive and hostile. I was shaking . He was upset that I asked him his time frame on getting some work done. I don’t know if I should go to HR or keep quite?

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