Dealing With a Rude CoWorker During Meetings

Joe Weinlick
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Rude co-workers are inevitable, but when you're trapped in close proximity with them, the behavior can feel amplified. Whether a colleague is texting during a presentation or making impolite comments about others' contributions during business meetings, his actions are a distraction from the matter at hand. With the right response, you can handle the problem professionally and with grace.

Take out the Emotion

When co-workers behave rudely during business meetings, it can feel personal. Chances are, it's not. If a colleague is staring into space during your big creative briefing, it's probably not a challenge to your authority; he may have momentarily lost focus or might be thinking about his upcoming presentation. If he's furiously typing on his computer, he could be responding to an urgent client email. The first step in dealing with rude co-workers is to give them the benefit of the doubt and put aside your emotions before you respond. After all, staying professional is easier when you're not blinded by hurt or anger.

Connect with the Colleague

In some cases, your colleague may not be aware that he's being rude. During long business meetings, it's easy to lose focus or get distracted, particularly if the discussion wanders off track. Put a stop to unconscious rude behavior by gently connecting with the person in question. Sometimes, simply making eye contact with a person is enough to snap him back to the present. If that doesn't work, find an opportunity to ask a direct question or invite feedback on the current topic. As a final option, move to stand near the person to get his attention. By keeping your connection low-key and nonconfrontational, you can bring a colleague back into the conversation without embarrassment.

Stay Calm

Contentious issues can bring out the worst in your colleagues during business meetings. When a co-worker is making aggressive and unhelpful comments, there's often no point in feeding the fire. Instead of getting drawn into a similar response, maintain complete calm. Use a low, even voice and avoid making dramatic movements with your hands or face. Choose your words and mannerisms carefully; a soothing tone can calm someone who is acting badly out of confusion or hurt, while a steely tone might be more effective with someone who is simply trying to dominate the topic. By demonstrating the opposite behavior, you can deescalate the bad behavior and avoid workplace conflict.

Address the Issue

When rude colleagues get out of hand during business meetings, it's important to address the issue directly. If a person makes nasty comments about a proposed concept, a simple "Let's stick to constructive feedback" can shut it down. When a colleague spends an entire meeting texting, and none of your other options have worked, you might ask, "Jim, this is an important issue for your team. Can I have your consideration?" Drawing attention to the problem publicly indicates it's not acceptable and won't be tolerated.

The way you respond to rudeness in business meetings reflects on your professionalism. By staying calm and avoiding sinking to the other person's level, you can mitigate the situation with minimal disruption.

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