Standing Up to Negative People at the Office

Workplace conflicts are facts of life. Offices are full of negative people who often cross the line with what they say or do. Those who excel at working through disagreements and handling confrontations build stronger workplace relationships and get more done. But most of us have no idea how to resolve tough conflicts.

That’s because we’ve always depended on the “wing it” strategy. Well, winging it works sometimes. But it’s a pretty shaky approach to handling what could end up being a long-term problem.

We all face situations where someone tries to take advantage of our good nature. And it’s difficult to both stand up for yourself and not make the problem worse. Here’s some advice on how to deal with a co-worker’s unacceptable behavior while remaining professional and respectful.

How to Stand Up to Put-downs

Stand firm against any verbal put-down. The well-being of your self-esteem is integral to your physical, as well as your emotional, health. Everyone has a right to feel angry, but they do not have the right to use that anger to hurt others. There are three basic responses to someone who expresses anger in the form of a verbal attack:

  1. “I’m willing to listen to you as long as you stop the attack”
  2. “I want to hear what you’re angry about, but I can’t while you put me down”
  3. “You do not have the right to attack me that way. If you want me to listen, stop the put-downs.”

If you used an assertive statement and the individual continues put-downs, your role is to assert yourself further.

Proven Techniques for Dealing With Backstabbing and Ridicule

It’s time to confront the backstabber. But only in the correct manner.

  • Use a firm tone of voice, eye contact and assertive body language
  • Say, “It has been brought to my attention that you’ve been saying negative things about me behind my back. If it’s true, I am offended, and I want it stopped.”
  • If he or she asks, “Who told you?” repeat yourself. “I am offended, and I want it stopped.”
  • If the person pushes you for more information, use the following phrase as a segue to keep the focus on the problem at hand. Say, “The subject is not … ,” followed by, “the subject is … ” For instance, you would say, “The subject is not who told me. The subject is your backstabbing behavior.”
  • If ridicule gets personal, confront the offender by stating the facts, your feelings and what you need

For example, those blonde jokes “everyone” tells:
Fact: When you tell a joke about me …

Feeling: I feel ridiculed and hurt …

Need: And I need for you to stop telling jokes at my expense.

Tactics for Dealing With Negative People Who Are Disrespectful

Similar to the person who uses put-downs or engages in backstabbing, no one has a right to show you disrespect or to act in any way that would harm you.

  • Confront the disrespectful person.
  • Use assertive language with a calm, confident tone of voice. Tell the person they do not have the right to treat you disrespectfully. Ask the person to stop.
  • Do not take responsibility for the other person’s disrespect. Simply address it and ask the person to stop.
  • Keep emotion out of the picture. Remain factual, calm, and confident.

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