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How to Deal With a Disrespectful & Screaming Co-Worker

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At some point in your career, you'll probably have to deal with disrespectful co-workers. Your colleagues might be impolite or downright obnoxious. In some cases you can chalk it up to differences of opinion or clashes in personalities. But when a co-worker starts screaming at you, it's another matter. Dealing with disrespectful co-workers is hard and you don't have to tolerate such behavior in the workplace.

Don't Get Drawn In

Whether a colleague screams at you in order to get his point across or because he doesn't know a better way to communicate his feelings, it's important that you don't get drawn into a shouting match or become defensive. While it's possible that your co-worker doesn't realize he's shouting, he might also be trying to get a rise out of you. According to human resources manager Maria Marsilio in an interview with the Silicon Valley Business Journal, responding in any kind can trigger feelings of anger, guilt or resentment. Don't react right away. Instead, take a deep breath, pause for a moment, look your colleague in the eyes and calmly explain that you're not sure why he's screaming at you.

Step Away

Once you've calmly addressed your colleague's behavior, explain that you're going to step away for a few minutes and that you're happy to speak with him when he's feeling calmer and in control. According to an article in "The Manager's Minute" from the National Seminars Training Program, if you also lose control, you could wind up looking like the villain. Don't try to have a discussion with him while he's still angry or frustrated. There's no point in reasoning with someone when they're screaming at you in the heat of the moment. Talk a short walk or stand outside to get some fresh air for a few moments if you're feeling flustered by the experience.

Talk to Your Co-Worker

If it's a one-time deal and your co-worker owns up to his inappropriate behavior and offers an apology, then it's probably best to let the situation rest. But if your co-worker is repeatedly rude and screams at you more often, you might have to address his behavior directly. Talk to him about his behavior once he becomes calm and composed. Sit down privately and explain that you're not sure what you've done to make him angry. Perhaps you've unintentionally offended him or stepped on his toes in some way that you're not aware of – giving him the chance to explain might help rectify the situation.

Consult Your Supervisor

Despite your best efforts, your co-worker might still persist in acting in a rude, loud and obnoxious manner. You shouldn't have to fear going to work or change your habits just to avoid your co-worker. Talk to your supervisor if your co-worker's behavior persists. Explain the impact his behavior has on your ability to perform your job well. Chances are others have witnessed your co-worker's behavior, and if enough people complain, your supervisor might be forced to take action.


Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.

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