How to deal with rude people at work (especially if you’re a woman)

Do you want to know how to deal with rude people at work? I am always very nice to people at work and I every day I work on it – trying to be even nicer, calmer, better. This is partly because I am a nice person, but more due to the fact that I have a vagina*.

No, vaginas do not make you a nicer person, but there are loads of studies that suggest that in order to get ahead at work, women have to be a lot nicer than their male colleagues. They certainly are not allowed to yell, cry, look weak or act too bossy. Why? Because then your male colleagues think of you as unhinged and you are not thought of as a productive worker.

I know. Sucks, right?

Anyhoo. There is nothing you can do about it. At least not quickly. We can all try to slowly erode the conventions of society, time and space, but as you know, that takes aaages and I have places to be. And so do you, I am guessing.

According to Harvard Business Review, “Psychologists at Harvard have repeatedly found that women face distinct social penalties for doing the very things that lead to success,” they say. “The ones who are applauded for delivering results at work but then reprimanded for being ‘too aggressive’, ‘out for herself’, ‘difficult’, and ‘abrasive’.”

So – you gotta be nice. Especially if you have a vagina.

How can you be nicer to people at work and deal with rude people at work?

Try to deal with rude people at work by: Helping someone

We all have challenging days. If you have been with the company or workplace for a while, you probably know a thing or two. Help someone work the coffee machine or show someone the trick to the photocopier. Learning to deal with rude people at work is a skill.

deal with rude people at work

Try to deal with rude people at work by: Giving praise

You don’t even need to be someone’s boss or manager to do this, it’s nice to give praise for a job well done. Choose a moment when someone is free (not too busy) and let them know how impressed you were by their latest project or presentation.

Try to deal with rude people at work by: Solving a problem

Can you fix something for someone? We are all so busy that often we can see when someone is having trouble, but we pretend we can’t see them because we’re busy and don’t want to be taken away from our own tasks. Take 5 minutes to assist someone. It feels good.

Try to deal with rude people at work by: Listening

Really, we don’t need to talk as much as we think we do. So many meetings are really about getting people in a room together so that someone can simply “sound their ideas” off others. Really take the time to actively listen to people as it makes them feel respected and appreciated.

deal with rude people at work

Try to deal with rude people at work by: Letting someone go first

It is such a common little courtesy and one I have written about before in my post Do You Have Perfect Office Manners? Check This List of 30 To See How You Rate! Let someone pour their tea first from the communal kettle and don’t push in front of the photocopier.

Try to deal with rude people at work by: Being thoughtful

Being thoughtful is something that comes so naturally to some people, but not most of us. Being thoughtful can really make someone’s day. Ask them how their sick daughter is going or remember that they’ve just taken up surfing lessons and ask them about it.

Try to deal with rude people at work by: Smiling

It’s really important to smile at work, particularly if you are a woman, because to advance your career you need to be perceived as likeable. So, smile. It’s free, it doesn’t usually hurt and it makes you look younger and prettier – another two traits that (unfortunately) matter to women at work.

deal with rude people at work

Nancy Friday wants you to be nicer to people at work and to deal with rude people at work

I love this quote and I am a HUGE fan of Nancy Friday. She wrote a few “erotic” books with a largely feminist slant that my gorgeous mother left around the house and had no problem me reading when I was a teenager. Tell you what – she’s got a book called My Secret Garden which I pulled off the shelf thinking it was the children’s book with a similar name called The Secret Garden.

Let me just say that My Secret Garden is a tome filled with women’s own sexual fantasies, categorised in “themes”. It’s totally out there. But it was the 90s, Mum was liberal like that. God bless her! She was great and could deal with rude people at work with ease.

Anyway, here’s what Nancy Friday has to say about manners:

“I think the thing I miss most in our age is our manners. It sounds so old-fashioned in a way. But even bad people had good manners in the old days, and manners hold a community together, and manners hold a family together; in a way, they hold the world together.”

Have you had someone be rude to you at work? Tell me in the comments below.

*the word vagina is not an offensive word or intended to offend. Lots of people have them and they are nothing to be afraid of.

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