How to Deal with an Office Disruptor

10/31/2017 02:39 pm ET Updated Nov 01, 2017

Wherever drama and conflict show up, the office disruptor is bound to be nearby. This individual thrives on delivering a snide remark or a juicy bit of reputation-damaging gossip. They are the co-worker who will eagerly befriend you but quickly turn on you when something goes wrong.

What is their motivation? There are a variety of reasons including jealousy, competition, power, anger and the list goes on. Regardless of why, their motivation is rooted in insecurity. While you can’t change their behaviors, you can control your reaction.

Here are nine ways to deal with office disruptors.

Listen to Your Gut

If you have an uneasy feeling about a particular person or engaging with them puts you on edge, don’t ignore it. Maintain a courteous, professional demeanor and stay alert. Over time you will determine if your intuition was either on track or simply a bad start to a relationship.

Avoid Giving Them an Audience

Office disruptors are notorious gossips, so avoid being a willing ear or providing information to spread through the rumor mill. Rest assured, at some point their gossip will center around you. If they share troubling information which could affect your job, verify with a trustworthy resource before accepting the information as truth.

Keep Your Distance

Once you understand the person you are dealing with, and have identified a pattern of nasty behavior, do your best to steer clear. Say you’re tied up when they’re wanting to vent and think twice about responding to their lunch invitation. While you can’t entirely avoid the negative person, you can certainly do your best to limit your exposure.

Maintain Strong Body Language

Your stance, posture and facial expression not only sends a message to those around you, but it also helps prop you up in a confrontation. If you are feeling attacked, confident posture will assist in projecting authority. Keep your shoulders square, chest out, sit or stand up, keep a neutral expression on your face and maintain steady eye contact. Avoid fidgeting, nervously laughing or looking away. There is truth in the adage, “Stand tall.”

Address the Behavior

Ignoring bad behavior may imply their offensive actions are acceptable. When appropriate, dispel incorrect or misleading statements immediately. For example, if they falsely accuse you of a mistake in a staff meeting, set the record straight right away. In other situations, it may be most appropriate to confront the disruptor privately in a direct, calm, unemotional manner, clearly identifying the problem and offering a solution. Let them know your expectations and next steps in the event the behavior continues.

Get it in Writing

Defer any verbal communication with untrustworthy individuals if possible and use memos, emails and letters in sticky situations instead. You will have a paper trail backing you up in case something goes awry. If things get bad, you’ll have documentation to discuss the situation with your supervisor or HR executive.

Cultivate Positive Alliances

There are plenty of opportunities to form solid, trustworthy relationships with your peers. Instead of focusing on the one negative personality, make a point of surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who you respect and admire. Research shows workplace friendships pay off in productivity.

For more of Diane’s etiquette tips, you may enjoy reading How to Be Invaluable. You can also visit Diane’s blog, connect with her here on HuffPost, “like” The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook, and follow her on Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. Buy her new book, Modern Etiquette for a Better Life.

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