How To Respond To Rude Business Resources


How do you respond to rude and bullying professionals outside of your workplace, that you rely on for sensitive financial information?


Frustrated But Stuck


Dear Frustrated But Stuck:

Thank you for contacting us about your workplace issues. Your question is valid, but does not include some key information. I’ll respond from several perspectives and hope that you can adapt them to your specific needs.

I’m assuming you are asking how to deal with rude people who work in an organization other than yours, rather than that the rude people are in your organization and you want to know how to deal with them away from work. If that isn’t correct, let me know and I’ll respond again!

One aspect of this is whether or not you and your organization are clients of theirs or are they only helping you, without recompense. If they are doing you a free service by providing information, you may need to simply work around their rudeness. But, if they are being paid for their services, you have leverage for insisting they be more courteous.

I realize when you rely on someone for a business situation, you don’t want to create conflct. However, we expect courtesy or at least civility even from total strangers–so it wouldn’t be unusual for you to express your concerns.

Your actions would depend upon the level of rudeness and what you mean by bullying.

*If the person is curt or angry consider asking, with a concerned tone of voice, “Bill, are you OK?” Whatever he says, you can say, “It seemed to me your tone of voice sounded like you were upset about something, and I didn’t think I had done anything. I was a bit taken aback.” If the person is much more than that–speaking to your directly in a rude and unpleasant way–consider a more firm response: “Wait a minute. Stop. I don’t know what happened before we started talking, but I don’t think WE have had any conflict today. What’s going on?”

Or, “My goodness. What prompted THAT response?” Or, “Ow, that hurt! Would you rather I’d call back another time? I sure don’t want to continue like this!”

If this has happened before, so you know there is no mistake, you might confront more sternly, “OK, Jan, let’s start over and do this differently and without the unpleasant tone of voice you just used with me.” Or, “If you don’t want to work with me on this, let me talk to your supervisor.”

I often find, if I don’t know the person to whom I am talking, that it helps to unnerve them a bit. If they are snippy I will sometimes say interrupt or wait until there is a pause and ask, “Can I get the spelling on your full name?” I say it pleasantly, but that nearly always tones things down.

My experience has been that, unless someone owns their own business and doesn’t have a boss, every one reports to someone who wants them to be nice. Thus, you should not feel that tolerating rudeness is just a trial you have to endure. Stop their behavior the second it starts, even if you never have before. You can bet they are more likely to be rude to those who they think will accept their show of ill-temper.

Having said that, I should acknowledge that some people would advocate turning the other cheek and even attempting to be sympathetic with rude people to gain their support. I think of that as rather manipulative, and also dislike it because it means we are treating mean people nicer than we treat nice people. But, you do not have to get into a fight or be equally mean back. Just be appropriately strong and stick to your own professionalism and civility under pressure. If those things don’t work, you may need to talk to your own manager about approaching the situation at a higher level.

Best wishes as you work to deal with these issues.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.