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NextGen Magazine


How to Respond to a Condescending Coworker

Jason Wong
Published Date:
Apr 13, 2016

Responding to CriticismIntentionally or not, it’s likely that a colleague or even a client will speak condescendingly to you at some point in your career. It may be an intentional assumption that your youth means you are lacking expertise, or it may be a nickname like “sweetheart” that unintentionally comes off as condescending. Regardless, it’s important that you don’t lose your temper and sink to the offending person’s level. Instead, The Muse has some advice to follow for those situations.

Remain calm. If you lose your temper and lash out, you’ll look like the bad guy for overreacting. Instead, don’t take it personally and if you absolutely can’t keep your cool in the moment, disengage yourself from the conversation and give yourself some time to cool off and speak to them after you’ve had a chance to collect yourself.

Be neutral in your body language. Keeping calm isn’t just about what you say or don’t say. It’s also important that you don’t come off as antagonistic in your body language either. That means avoiding pointing your fingers, rolling your eyes, or anything standoffish like crossing your arms or getting into the other person’s personal space.

Clarify intent. It’s possible that your colleague didn’t mean to condescend to you because they’re used to a different work culture or they don’t realize their tone or phrasing as being offensive. Odds are, if the condescension is out of the blue or feels out of character to you, your colleague did not mean to be rude. If that’s the case, do ask for clarification, and consider letting your colleague know how they came off to you.