How to Successfully Handle Savage Co-Workers


How to Successfully Handle Savage Co-Workers



It’s Friday afternoon, 6pm is approaching fast and it’s almost time to go home, and then it starts…

Your coworker in the cubicle at the end of the row starts berating the secretary. She is tearing into her with mean and demeaning statements that only show how crazy the coworker is. You listen quietly, wishing the day was over and wondering how to successfully handle savage co-workers.


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As you sit listening to this tirade, afraid to move lest she turn on you it becomes clear to you just how much damage one bad attitude, one savage co-worker can do to an entire department. The morale in your department was lower than at any time you could remember in the last ten years and it was because of this co-worker and a boss who wouldn’t deal with the problem. 

So what should you do to help the situation especially if your boss was not going to? There seem to be a couple schools of thought on how to successfully handle savage co-workers. One is to deal aggressively and assertively with the situation and the other is to attempt to be very positive and handle it out of respect for the co-worker as well as yourself.

Co-Worker Assessment

The first thing to do is assess the situation and decide if there is any way in which you are enabling the behavior- perhaps by not confronting it sooner or not confronting your boss about it. It is easy to stay in your cubicle and try to ignore it, but by doing so we are all reinforcing her abuse of whoever happens to be in her sightline at the time. By doing nothing you are saying it is ok to treat us this way. So it is best to confront it.

In so doing there are some tips that could help you along the way to knowing how to successfully handle savage co-workers. To begin with stay calm and don’t lose your sense of self. Don’t get dragged into her state of mind. Be patient and calm as you consider confronting the situation.

  1. Try to see things from her point of view in the sense of accepting her flaws and attempting to heal your relationship. We all have flaws. Try to see why she is so angry all the time.
  2. As we said have a positive attitude even if you have to be confrontational. Do not lash out at your co-worker. That will only result in a full blown screaming match that will not solve the problem. Remain calm and positive. The more tactful you are the greater impression you will make with other co-workers and your boss.
  3. Try to find out what the real issue is. Keep an open mind as this is a key tool in any conflict resolution.
  4. Have a plan before you confront. Maybe you should ask to work with her on a project and develop camaraderie. If you work together you might be able to find out what the real issue is. Try to anticipate all the issues you might run into. Offer to help her with projects she might be struggling with but be careful not to be condescending or make her feel you think she is not doing her job.
  5. Don’t get drawn in to her negative behavior and arguments. Also don’t talk about the situation with any coworkers other than your boss.
  6. Be discreet throughout the process of trying to successfully handle savage co-workers and don’t allow her to drag anyone else into the situation and you should refrain from doing the same. Don’t bring the problem up in meetings or discuss with any others. If you are caught complaining about her it could reflect badly on you.
  7. Decide whether or not to involve your boss especially since he refused to deal with the situation in the beginning. Before you bring him in make sure you have tried everything to work out the confrontations yourself. Do your best to negotiate a truce. If you can’t successfully handle savage co-workers you will have to bring your boss into the situation. You have the benefit of having tried to fix it yourself to share with him.  Now you need his expertise and advice. He should be able to see that you have been mature and appropriate in confronting the situation.

Sometimes you can do all of this and still fail because the co-worker has no interest in solving the problem, being less aggressively confrontational or getting along with anyone. She also has no interest in discussing the reasons for her behavior with you or anyone else in the office.

It may be that in the end the situation MUST be resolved by your boss and there would be a good chance that it could only be resolved with her termination. We would all hope this was not the result.

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