How to Deal with Mean Coworkers in the Office | 2023

No one wants to work with a mean coworker, but you find yourself with a mean colleague who enjoys saying hurtful and demeaning things about you. Mean coworkers can hurt us and even our health. There is nothing to be ashamed of. We’ve worked with one or more mean coworkers at one point, so you’re not alone.

Understanding how to deal with a mean coworker will help you know how to deal with other mean coworkers. Mean coworkers are usually passive-aggressive; they always believe they are better than everyone around them and feel they can talk down on other coworkers too. Mean coworkers make offensive remarks and comments about their other coworkers.

Getting along with a mean coworker can look impossible from afar, but this overview will help you understand how you can deal with a mean colleague. Understanding who they are before the mean appearance can help you understand why they turn out the way they are, most people allow unpleasant life experiences to get the best of them, and some people can manage their pain by being mean to others.

Although these are not enough excuses to become a horrible person to others, understanding and offering support can help them see that being mean to others won’t solve anything. As you go to your place office, always remember not to take things personally, especially when a mean coworker says horrible things about you; remember, they don’t know you that well to say things they have no idea of.

It’s no news that there are mean people in the world; they can be found anywhere. Whether at work, school, or even in homes, mean coworkers make working look like a huge task, and sometimes the thought of getting out of bed and dressing up for work to see the mean coworker that makes working tiring, can be so draining.

The common trait of a mean coworkers is they are passive aggressors. They often feel better than you and can talk down on anyone. Dealing with a mean coworker can be hard, but this overview will give you an insight into how to deal with mean coworkers in the office.

Who Is a Mean Coworker?

In most cases, our colleagues are our inspiration to work efficiently because they encourage and motivate us. We all need someone that will inspire us, but what happens when the one that is supposed to motivate us are the one being mean to us? We deal with such coworkers. 

Mean coworkers are people we work with in the same work environment, and they are usually toxic people that look for different ways to disrespect us and our privacy; some are aggressive and bitter, always looking for ways to fight, and some undermine our work efforts so that they can steal the idea for themselves.

You might become like them if you don’t know how to deal with a mean coworker. Listening to a coworker who says hurtful things to you can ruin your self-esteem and create some self-doubt, and that is why you should avoid getting too close with a mean coworker.

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A mean colleague can make working look like a hassle, and because of their toxic trait, they can make you feel like you’re not doing enough since they’re often good at undermining other coworkers’ work credibility. To deal with a mean coworker, you need your confidence intact, or else they will make you feel inferior or feel like you’re not doing enough.

Why It Is Important You Deal With a Mean Coworker?

Dealing with a situation threatening your peace of mind and strength should no longer be delayed. A mean colleague can cause more damage than you had imagined, and if you don’t deal with a mean coworker now, your confidence can get damaged partially.

Whenever you decide to confront or accept a mean coworker, you’ll find out that you’ve made an important decision that will help you move forward in your career path and personal life, and this doing that can help remove every effect they had on you.

Ignoring the situation might create more harm than good because each time that mean coworker harms you with their hateful actions, you’ll feel inferior to them or feel drained, unmotivated, and stressed each time you get to see them.

How To Identify a Mean Coworker

Most mean coworkers use the excuse of being our friends to tell us hurtful words to our faces and behind us. If you are friends with someone at work, who easily makes you feel inferior or that you don’t deserve the promotion you just got, you should stay away from such friends because they are backstabbers disguised as friends.

A mean colleague will always try to take credit for jobs they didn’t do; they are usually the slackers, the office gossiper, and bullies; they are often passive-aggressive and, most time blames others for their mistakes. If you work with a mean coworker, avoid getting too close to them; they can use their negative energy to bring you down.

What To Avoid When Dealing With a Mean Coworker

 As much as we love to confront a mean coworker, you need to be aware of a few things that won’t escalate the situation or make you the mean person.

1. Avoid getting into a physical fight

Regardless of how hurtful their words or action may be, avoid getting into a physical fight with them. This might not end so well, as you’ll give them power over you. Don’t retaliate to their offensive words but always document or have them recorded. When a mean colleague throws negative talks, avoid them as much as possible.

2. When confronting a mean coworker, avoid using a harsh tone

Whether this person is a friend or not, when you want to confront a mean coworker, avoid using a harsh tone as things might go wrong fast. Be professional and let your confidence speak for you. Whatever the confrontation’s outcome, you’ll always feel better you did the right thing.

3. Avoid reacting negatively to words

The way you react to a mean coworker can encourage or discourage them the next time. How you react matters; when a mean coworker says offensive things to you, they expect a reaction from you, and when you give them what they are looking for, they will always return for more. It is your choice to avoid or confront them; you can choose to tell them you don’t like how you are spoken to or ignore them.

How to Deal with Mean Coworkers | 2023

Here are a few guides on How to deal with mean coworkers:

1. Accept Them For Who They Are

Sometimes, we mistake some coworkers’ personalities for being rude or mean. But most people are just trying to be themselves; some enjoy speaking casually to people and making silly remarks about people without knowing they are hurtful and demeaning words that can hurt others.

You might find out that you don’t like someone, and everything they do would appear to be mean to you because you don’t like their personality; that doesn’t mean they are hateful or mean; it is just you that needs to readjust yourself and accept them for who they are. Once you accept a mean coworker for who they are, you’ll find that working will appear better than in the past. This might be easier than your imagination.

2. Study Their Kind Of Person And Try Understanding Them 

Observation and patience are what you need the most when dealing with a mean colleague. You need to learn about what kind of person they are, and you can also do your homework about them. Why is this important? Knowing why and how your coworker becomes mean can help you understand them better and even help them become a better person in the long run.

Although this might look difficult, it will be like you unknowingly secretly offering therapy to your coworker. Try to understand their kind of person and set up a strategy that will help improve your work relationship with them.

3. Confront The Mean Coworker

If you can’t cope with a mean coworker’s hurtful words, you can consider confronting them about their offensive remarks and actions. When you confront a mean coworker, avoid making the situation about them, and always remember to breathe, as this will help you converse properly.

Seek their private time, tell them how you feel offended by how they address you and mention everything they did that hurt your feelings. Regardless of the conversation’s outcome, confronting a mean coworker will help you in so many ways you never thought of. 

4. Set boundaries

One of the best ways to deal with a mean coworker is by setting a safe boundary. Your peace of mind should be your priority when dealing with a mean coworker. When you associate with a mean coworker, the best thing to do is keep a healthy distance from them.

A mean coworker will always try to make you feel inferior and probably say things that will drain your energy and fill you up with negativity. Avoid a mean coworker without making it obvious that you are avoiding them; stay away from their toxicity, and you’ll be at peace with yourself. 

5. Focus On Other Positive Work-Relationships

Your motto should be ‘positive vibes only. Avoid a mean coworker today by shifting your focus to other matters. If you have to face them, don’t let their words get to you; create extra skin if you have to, but don’t let the toxic drama of a mean coworker get to you. You should enjoy your workspace with other positive coworkers; you must focus on your work and find common ground with coworkers that will motivate and support you. Don’t dwell on people that have nothing but negativity to offer.

A positive person works hard on the job and gains results. Discover: How to Do 60-Hour Work Weekly Without Burning Out 

6. Treat them with kindness

One of the best ways to deal with mean coworkers is to treat them with genuine kindness. If they had people to show them love and kindness, they might have become happy coworkers instead of mean ones.

Regardless of how they act around you, always treat them with kindness. Not only will this make you feel better about yourself, it might also help the mean coworkers realize what they lack, improving your work relationship. Being kind means, they are superior or better than you. It simply means you’ve better things you’d like to use your energy for.

7. Limit your interactions with them

Even when things are working out with a mean coworker, reducing your interactions with them is still advisable. And when nothing seems effective, it is best to avoid them the best way you can, as this can limit any risk of physical conflict.

Engaging them in more conversation can lead to more offensive remarks. You can make your interactions through email or calls instead of physical communication. Avoid making it obvious that you’re avoiding them.

8. Always Retain Your Confidence

In all, your confidence matters; when we let other people have control of our life, we feel inferior. When you control your life, no mean or toxic coworker will have the power to make you feel inferior or feel you’re not enough; only you may accept or reject what they call you.

When a mean coworker approaches you, please don’t get overwhelmed by their negativity, but observe their actions and note the things they say that trigger your anger, but always be professional.

9. Focus On Yourself

Your happiness and peace of mind are important to the productivity you’ll produce in your workplace. Wasting your energy on negative people will leave you drained and frustrated, but investing your thoughts and energy in positive coworkers will help you work efficiently.

You can only control yourself and how you respond to mean coworkers, but you can’t control toxic coworkers, so you must always choose yourself first. One of the best ways to deal with a mean colleague is by taking care of yourself and focusing on your health first. Understand why a hurtful comment bothers you, and work to improve yourself.

Further reading: How To Set Career Goals And Achieve Them

10. Talk To Your Supervisor/Manager

If a mean coworker seems out of control, and their actions seem to affect your personal and work, now may be the best time to talk to your superiors about it.

Consider telling them about the situation if you know someone who can keep them in check. And when explaining yourself, avoid painting them like the bad eggs, and you are the saint. Say it as it is, and always keep proof of their actions. Proof of their efforts can be a print of their malicious emails, voice notes, or even a trustworthy witness.


How do you deal with mean people you work with?

The best approach may depend on the type of relationship you share with the coworker, but confronting them will let them know how you feel about their mean remarks.

How do I protect myself from toxic coworkers?

Avoid getting in a physical fight with a mean coworker. You can be the bigger person by avoiding them.

Can I get on a good side with a mean coworker?

Yes, you can get on the good side with a mean coworker if they are willing to change.


Having a mean individual as a coworker can be pretty bothersome because regardless of what you do, they will always find a way to make your work look less important while making rude and hurtful remarks.

Confronting a mean coworker might be the best way to deal with one because they will continue being mean even when you ignore them. We hope this overview gives you the answers to your questions on how to deal with mean coworkers.



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