How to Deal With Aggressive People at Work

Written by sava tang alcantara
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If you are in a work environment where you are consistently in contact with aggressive people, you may find that it adds unnecessary stress. In a sales environment, this aggression may be from the clients or customers you interact with. Learn how to cope with these aggressive people.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Cultivate an assertive communication style. Especially if you work heavily with customers in person or on the phone, construct a work persona that is action-oriented and non-reactive. Be professional, but do not allow demanding people to waste your time and energy.

  2. 2

    Practice dealing with aggressive people you encounter outside of work. If someone cuts you off rudely in a grocery checkout line and nearly crashes into you with their shopping trolley, stand your ground. Tell them you were nearly knocked over and ask them to be more careful. Be direct, concise and polite. Do not engage with them if they do not apologise and instead want to argue with you. Walk away.

  3. 3

    Take professional assertive training courses. There are specific courses and workshops that help workers diffuse angry or demanding people at work. You might role play in the class or learn other strategies as to help you manage the stress of interacting with aggressive people.

  4. 4

    Create a physical boundary that is obvious but professional. If you work standing behind a counter, ask to have a physical, clear shield or window set up at your work station so customers are not literally “in your face.” If this is not possible, wear something that becomes a kind of barrier like a tie, vest, sweater or scarf. You will feel less physically exposed and vulnerable to aggressive people who stand before you.

  5. 5

    Arrange your desk so that you can face people as they enter your cubicle. In other words, do not have your back exposed to the entryway where people can enter your cubicle without you seeing them. Keep your back covered. This will greatly reduce stress.

  6. 6

    Deal with aggressive people at work by keeping yourself busy. Even aggressive people cannot impinge themselves upon you if every time they come to your desk, you’re on the phone or completing reports. Make yourself scarce when you are free. If cornered, be cordial, breezy, and escape by saying you have to meet someone at a certain time or you have an errand to run.

Tips and warnings

  • Set psychological boundaries. Define mentally for yourself what your function is in your job, and mentally step back from it. Do not identify yourself with this function. You are an individual with many roles and your day job function is one of them.

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