How to Deal With an Aggressive Coworker
Often those that criticize others reveal what he himself lacks.”– Shannon L. Alder
It’s only a matter of time before you’ll be forced to deal with an aggressive coworker. Aggressive people use intimidation or hostility as a tool to get what they want. These employees can cause emotional stress to those around them. It’s even possible to experience physical symptoms from the stressful situations that occur.
Aggressive coworkers can also negatively impact your career. They can prevent you from completing your work. You can also be made to look bad if you handle them poorly. Conflict provides opportunities to shine or to shoot yourself in the foot.
It might be uncomfortable to deal with a workplace bully, but try to use the situation to your advantage.
Deal with an aggressive coworker intelligently:
- Focus on the issue at hand. Every conflict has two primary issues: the people involved and the actual issue itself. Be tough on the issue, but go easy on the other person. Avoid getting into a battle of personalities. If you focus on the issue, you’re more likely to reach a solution.
If you’re unable to find a solution, at least your coworkers will see that you’re the reasonable party. You can enhance your reputation by dealing with difficult people gracefully.
- Maintain your composure. When your anger gets the best of you, you’re just playing into the other person’s hands. They have a PhD in conflict. You’re an amateur. You also potentially harm your reputation and career by saying something you’ll later regret.
Take a breather before continuing if you get upset. This is the perfect time to count to ten, just like your mom taught you. Control your emotions so they don’t control you.
- Be proactive. Consider the issue and the person before addressing your concerns. How does this person typically react? What has worked in the past? Talk to people you trust that have experience with your aggressive coworker. What insight and advice do they have to offer? Have a plan.
- Be strong. Aggressive people are aggressive because it works for them. Also keep in mind that bullies tend to pick on those they perceive as weak. A bully doesn’t really want a fight. If you can demonstrate that you have no intention of being a victim, a bully will often behave more appropriately.
- Have witnesses. If you believe your aggressive coworker has the capacity to become physical, protect yourself by ensuring that others are present during your conversation.
If this isn’t a concern, you might want to consider the opposite approach. Your coworker might be much more reasonable without an audience present. Bullies like to perform for others.
- Get help if necessary. Remember that you don’t have to face the situation alone. Your boss should be your first line of defense. The other person’s boss and the human resources department are additional options. Be sure to tread lightly. Employee alliances aren’t always obvious.
- Take notes. Keep detailed notes of your interaction with your coworker. Be sure to list the names of others that are present. Note the time and date and the impact the interaction had on your ability to work. The information might come in handy at a later date. Imagine that you’re preparing for court.
There are those that attempt to advance their careers by intimidating others. Dealing with this type of person is a skill. You can even use the situation to your advantage. Everyone knows who the bully is at your workplace. Dealing with aggressive people skillfully can enhance your reputation at work and advance your career. Be proactive and protect yourself.
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Sharing the fruits from his Garden of Knowledge
Trushar Mody is an accomplished business entrepreneur, coach and mentor with over 35 years of experience in the manufacturing, finance, retail, nonprofit and service industries. He is a thought leader in the field of Emotional Intelligence (EI) and Diversity and Inclusion as it applies to business success. He represents the firm, Encore Consulting Group (EncoreCorporateTraining.com) which specializes in soft skills training, coaching and business consulting.