It might be a snide comment about your appearance, or it might be outright yelling about your performance on a project. No matter the situation, such actions leave many people tongue-tied as they try to formulate the correct response. Should you yell back? Walk away? Report the incident to human resources or just ignore it?
First, it might be helpful to realize that you’re not the only one to be on the receiving end of uncivil behavior. Some 63% of Americans say incivility remains a “major problem,” with 71% saying that civility has dropped in recent years, finds a recent study.
A poor economy, tight job market and an increasing workload can cause many workers to snap, lashing out at colleagues to allay their own insecurities or simply as a way to release some steam. Also, while you may see your colleagues every day, they may not be personally close to you. In other words, sometimes it’s easier to be rude to the person who is an acquaintance at work rather than a valued friend or family member, so colleagues may not think twice about scolding or belittling you.
Still, you can’t let verbal attacks go unanswered. You don’t want to start a tit-for-tat situation where you heap equal measures of scorn on the person or hurl insults, but you also don’t want to set yourself up as bully bait.
Further, keep in mind that bosses hate to get in the middle of such battles, so it’s best to try and handle it on your own, if possible.
So how do you respond when you’re on the receiving end of a verbal barrage from a co-worker?
Finally, remember to be good to yourself after being on the receiving end of a verbal attack. It’s not easy to erase ugly words, no matter how tough you may believe yourself to be. Reach out to family and friends, go for a walk, play with your dog or meditate – whatever makes you feel better. Also keep in mind that even though such experiences can be painful, there are lessons to be learned. Reflect back on the situation and evaluate how you might respond better in the future or what you can learn to improve your own communication efforts.