How to deal with a rude coworker

Even in the best workplace, you can still encounter coworkers who are consistently rude or inconsiderate to others.

The average person spends 90 000 hours at work during their lifetime, so the likelihood is at some point you will work with someone who you don’t get along with.

Spending so much time at work also means we are also spending a whole lot of time with our coworkers. When you first start a new job, your colleagues are strangers to you, but with time, often staff form strong relationships, in and out of the office.

Even when the majority of the team are positive and working together effectively, it only takes one person to bring the mood down. And unfortunately, this can have a negative effect on everyone’s productivity, focus, ability to collaborate and overall well-being – unsurprisingly this means a lower quality of work and a higher chance of making mistakes.

Examples of rude behaviour in the workplace

  • Insulting or using derogatory language
  • Taking credit for someone else’s work
  • Asking inappropriate/intrusive questions
  • Speaking over others
  • Texting in meetings/when being spoken to
  • Passive aggressive emails
  • Leaving mess in shared spaces
  • Borrowing things and not returning them
  • Eating other people’s food

7 ways to deal with a rude coworker

Avoid meeting rudeness with more rudeness

The ‘eye-for-an-eye’ approach is most likely going to aggravate the situation further. As much as you might have the perfect response ready to fire, it could make your coworker behave worse than before and make it harder to rectify any problems in future.

Try not to engage

If possible, avoid the rude coworker, particularly if you are in a bad head space. If you have to speak with them, try to do so when you are in a good mood and/or with other staff around to hear the conversation.

Correct the behaviour in the moment

If they are consistently interrupting or speaking over you, politely point it out as it happens. Let them know what they have done and how this affects you. For example, “Please could you try not speaking over me as it makes me lose track of my point” or “When you interrupt me it makes me feel disrespected”. The likelihood is they don’t even realise they are doing it and will stop when it is pointed out.

If you do this, make sure you are consistent with it – you need to point out every time the behaviour happens, or they will continue to think it is okay.

Don’t gossip

Don’t gossip about rude colleagues, it only contributes to a toxic work environment.

Think about why they are behaving like this

Is this typical behaviour? Has the rudeness come out of nowhere? Are there external factors that could be contributing? These are all questions you should be asking yourself. There could be deeper reasons behind this that require additional support and understanding.

Document your concerns

If incidents are adding up, keep track of them as you go. This way you have a clear view of the situation and can make informed decisions about how you would like to deal with it. It also means you have evidence if the situation escalates into a more serious issue.

Raise the issue formally

Request to meet with the offender, either in private or with a witness/HR, to address the issues you are experiencing. They may get upset by this, but raising the issue means they are aware of their behaviour and how it makes you feel.

You can also consider reporting the behaviour to your manager to receive support. If you don’t feel comfortable with this, for example, your manager is the offender, you can take it up to a higher level such as your manager’s manager or a HR person (if this is something your company has).

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