How To Deal With Confrontational Coworkers

January 17, 2017

When I graduated school two years ago and embarked on my new job, getting along with coworkers was the last thing on my mind. I had no major issues in school, held positions in organizations where I got along with everyone and was generalized as a “sweetie.”

At my job, in a building of about 7,000 employees, with at least 100 being on my floor alone, I was adored as young, ambitious and sweet to about 50; yet my closest coworkers didn’t quite think so, and for many mornings I let it dictate my work attitude.

Despite my plenty “good mornings,” smiles and eagerness to prove myself as a substantial employee, they rated me as just a nuisance. Across our cubicle, I could hear three women (one of which a supervisor) constantly criticize me for what I wore, for being “phony” and “pretend nice for attention,” and my facial expressions throughout the day. Notice- it was never about my work- because that was never the problem- but I was afraid of responding to a supervisor who held the power of the pink slip.

I mustered courage everyday walking into the office with my head high, but it was hard to maintain that confidence to last until 5 P.M. when I kept my ear to the ground wondering if I was being talked about.

One Monday morning I busted my pants side zipper at work, and I was frantic beyond belief. I thought, “How can I fix this?” and “What will my coworkers say if they notice?” I told a coworker whom I felt comfortable with and she told me “It’s not big deal, sh*t happens to all of us. Don’t even worry about it or other people.”

I took heed to her advice, and even with my busted pants and snickers in the background from the three musketeers I held my head high and smiled throughout the day. Once they saw how unbothered I was- or pretended to be, their comments for the day- and week actually seized.

It was in that moment that I really learned the power of confidence and a positive outlook. People will try to break your confidence, but when you stand in faith, courage and assurance in yourself, their words or efforts to dismantle you will all be in vain. If you’re having trouble dealing with messy coworkers shaking your confidence, here are some ways to cope.

Stand up for yourself

We may not be able to respond right away, and you surely don’t want to respond to someone at work the way you would outside the office, but you can still let your voice be heard. For instance, a coworker jabs you with a comment about an outfit your wearing. “You love to wear bright colors huh?” she says. Respond by letting her know you are happy and confident in your style, and she should be in hers too. “Yes I’m a happy person I love to show it through my style, I can show you wear you can get some like this if you’d like to jazz up your style some too!” I call this the nice nasty. You’re not being rude or confrontational, you’re simply giving back what she gave to you. No matter how nervous you are about her response or how shaky your voice gets saying it aloud, she and other coworkers will know it’s not okay to comment on things about you, to you.

Don’t let a five minute circumstance dictate your attitude for the rest of the day

People should not, can not and will not have control over my emotions. I need you to repeat that! Don’t let someone’s foul play rerun in your head all day and allow you to become disgruntled at your desk. While you may not think you’re outwardly showing a mood switch, you are in your tone of voice, that stern face you give walking by their desk and how fast you run out of the office when it’s time to clock out. You don’t want to show people that you’re bothered by something they’ve done because guess what, they’ll keep doing it!


And really, genuinely smile. Studies show that a true smile affects muscles that make you feel happy, and sends your brain even more happy signals. Not to mention a smile is contagious, so get everyone around you happy and excited. It may even spread to your unhappy coworkers that talk about you.

Practice gratitude

Yes, your work situation may not be ideal, but it’s not the end all be all. Life is still happening for you outside your rolling chair. It’s as simple as giving thanks that you and your loved ones woke up this morning, with still a job intact and a direct deposit, and high praises for that new project you’ve been granted to work on. Don’t let negative energy overpower all of the positive things that are happening around you.The more gratitude and focus you put into the positive, the more of that energy you will get back. The more you focus on the negative, the more negative thoughts will pile up in your mind. It’ s mind over matter.

Start your morning right

Wake up with enough time to  get ready without rushing, eat breakfast, read, drink tea, listen to music, work on outside projects or whatever is that thing that puts you at ease. When you walk into work on a calm note, it can help keep you leveled and let your mind wander on the bigger picture, which is you.

Say daily affirmations

You are enough, you are wonderfully and brilliantly made, and you will make the most of everyday! Get on Pinterest and find daily affirmations that are dearest to your heart, or even make up your own. Repeat them daily, however many times throughout the day you have to and let those thoughts be embedded into your mind. Positivity is a practice!

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