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R-E-S-P-E-C-T: When A Co-worker Doesn't Respect You

You say something, only to have a work colleague offer an eye roll and a dismissive attitude. Oh, no. We have a disrespectful work peer situation on Aisle 9!

It's a tale as old as workplace time. You're just doing your job, when a work peer keeps letting you know, subtly or not-so subtly, that you're not worthy of his or her professional respect. All you ever get are blank stares, deep sighs, excessive sarcasm, random smirks, and under-the-breath commentary directed toward your other colleagues when you are still within earshot.

You've been on the job for awhile now, and this co-worker's dismissive attitude is really starting to get to you. And rightly so; who deserves this kind of treatment? (Nobody, that's who.)

Unfortunately, too many employees will encounter workplace disrespect. It's been estimated that 1 in 5 employees do not feel respected by their work colleagues. That's 20% of the workforce, which, any way you slice it, is a respectable number of employees.

What is going on here?

Sometimes, the disrespectful work colleague can't let go of something that was done, or said, a long time ago. Maybe this work peer is jealous, is the office know-it-all, or is engaging in payback for some perceived slight.

Maybe this co-worker feels like others must "earn" their professional respect before it will be doled out in small handfuls like packets of organic carrot slices to disappointed trick-or-treaters on Halloween.

Or maybe throwing shade at everything, and everyone, is "just" this work colleague's personality. Sigh.

So, what can you do about it? Start by assessing whether this colleague has it out for (1) everyone; or (2) just for you.

If you picked #1, then I'm sorry to tell you that your co-worker is a garden-variety...jerk. Take solace in the fact that everyone gets the same treatment. Minimize your workplace interactions with this colleague as much as possible, and keep any interactions short, and work-related only. Tell yourself that it's not you, it's them. Ignore the haters (as much as possible).

If you picked #2, then we need to talk. Some experts advise going straight to management, but try to work it out one-on-one with this co-worker, if possible. We can all appreciate the opportunity to make amends without involving management. You might start by doing the unthinkable: Kindly ask this colleague to coffee, or to lunch!

It may be the most uncomfortable fast casual encounter you've ever had, but it could make a dent in the general level of disrespect. You might say, "It seems like we've gotten off to a rocky start, and I'd like to see how we can work better together."

It's simple, it's to the point, and it lets this colleague know that you're trying to make things better. Even the most jaded working professionals can (quietly) respect somebody who is brave enough to take such a highly-calculated risk. Wow, you've walked right into the lion's den, haven't you?

At least you can say that you tried.

Don't check your self-respect at the office door. You'll need to be assertive and stand your ground in this workplace situation. Stand up straight, shoulders back, and carry your head high. This video offers some fantastic advice for remaining calm and centered when interacting with rude, disrespectful people in a professional setting.

Conversations with the dismissive colleague might require you to employ some very deliberate time management skills, too. You'll have to mentally prepare ahead of time for these conversations. Before you speak with this colleague, imagine the interaction and how you would like it to go.

Then try to stick to your script. If (when?) the disrespectful colleague proceeds to give you pause during the conversation, then take a pause if you must. This video offers excellent tips for how to react professionally after a colleague has just said something rude and/or disrespectful to you.

Whatever you do, continue doing your best work every day. Act confident around this colleague even when you don't feel confident. Stay positive, and professional, amid the negativity. Don't stop being a nice, kind person. Today's workplace needs more people like you, not fewer.

Above all, respect yourself. You're kind to everyone else, so remember to be kind to yourself, too! You deserve it for putting up with this nonsense.


  1. I'm the only girl at work that works with only 3 other guys in the office. One of the guys here will be nice to me at first and then turn around and acted pissed off. It creates an uncomfortable work environment. How... BEING A GIRL.... do I deal with that? Should I go to him and ask to meet with him or ?? EVEN WORSE... is that he's about to become my BOSS!! GRRRRRRR I'm happy for him but want our relationship as him becoming my boss to start off on the right foot!

  2. I work with a girl that is obviously jealous of me. When she does look at me, with a scowl,she looks me up and down with an eyeroll. She is very nice looking, together woman. One week she is laughing with me, the next its as if a have pissed her off. I am simple, humble, and kind to everyone. Even her. I dont understand why she does this. It bothers me and I find myself struggling with this. I feel I have to walk on eggshells or stay on my guard. Very stressful. I want to "fix" this but I know I cant. What do I do?

  3. Hold your head up I notice that a lot of people bring their homelife to work it sucks like high school sometimes the backstabbing is worse just be glad that you aren't that miserable and don't try to keep company with misery it does not end well good luck keep it light


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