4 Ways to Deal with Petty Coworkers

How to Deal with Petty Coworkers

By Paulana Lamonier

In a time where throwing shade has become an Olympic sport and being petty has become something that is trendy behavior, the truth of the reality is that it shouldn’t be.

Comical memes and nicknames like Petty Pendergrass, Petty Wap or Petty LaBelle have turned this I’m-going-to-pay-you-back or take-matters-into-my-own-hands type of behavior from one that is frowned upon into one that is celebrated and sometimes even brought into the workplace.

Before we give you a play-by-play of how to deal with petty coworkers and bosses (yes, there’s a few of them too), here’s a breakdown of what being petty actually is. When someone is acting petty, it generally means that someone is overreacting in a situation and results to retaliation so the offender can feel their pain, frustration and emotion — as opposed to expressing their feelings.

Having a few disagreements here and there with your coworkers is normal. But when your coworker feels the need to retaliate when things aren’t going their way, what should you do?

1. Give the situation and your coworker space

After a coworker commits their petty act, the first thing you’ll want to do is retaliate. But here’s what you should do: don’t. Retaliation only makes the situation worse and the workplace is the last place you want it to happen. Dorianne St. Fleur, career coach and founder of Your Career Girl, suggests that you step away from the situation, whether it’s off or online.

“Separate yourself from the situation for a while because we’re in a work setting. If this is something that’s affecting your job, it can affect how you can move forward within a company,” says St. Fleur. “If someone is making the situation worse, I think you should remove yourself, change the subject or just really focus on stopping the conversation.”

Be sure to wait it out, let the tensions subside and have a clear conscience before addressing the situation again.

2. Assess if it’s worth addressing

With miscommunication that can happen in the workplace, sometimes it’s inevitable for us to jump to conclusions and assume that our coworkers are throwing shade and being petty. In this instance, assess the situation. St. Fleur believes that sometimes we make a big deal if we don’t get our way.

“Before you go through these steps, make sure you’re not being unreasonable,” St. Fleur emphasized. “Just because you ask your boss if you could take off for vacation and it’s the busiest week of the entire year, they’re not being petty or a hater. There’s still a business to be run.”

If you already assessed the scenario and know for a fact that your coworker is acting petty, try to take them aside and proceed with number three.

3. Listen before you speak

There’s a reason why we have two ears and one mouth. That’s for us to listen more than we speak. When addressing the situation, make sure you’re hearing your coworker out and aren’t responding just to respond or prove the point that they did you wrong. Remember that after every action is a reaction. Though they are wrong for acting petty, find out what happened that led up to their petty reaction. Be sure to address the problem in person or over the phone. Check out an example dialogue you could have with your colleague:

Hey Michael,

Do you have a moment to chat? I noticed that you removed my name from the email chain regarding the Microsoft presentation that’s due next week. Was there anything that I did or any particular reason why? What can I do to contribute?

Make sure that you’re asking from a place of genuine concern — not spite. If their response comes to you as a surprise, or not how you would like, be sure to remain calm and try to be empathetic as much as possible. Your sole objective for this discussion is trying to remedy the situation and see if you can make amends. If that’s not your goal, maybe you’re not ready to hash things yet. But don’t let too much time pass to the point that it leaves a sour taste in both parties’ mouths and the work relationship become irreparable.

4. Look to the future

Now that having the tough conversation is behind you and your colleague, it’s important that you both have a sense of self as well as who’s on your team. You should know what ticks or gets them annoyed and vice versa. This isn’t a one- way street. Your coworker should know how to act when a similar situation takes place. We all have different ways we communicate with each others. Take the time to find out the best way your colleague likes to communicate.


Paulana Lamonier is a multimedia journalist & edu-tainer who loves to educate and entertain her audience with compelling stories. She loves Jesus, chocolate and still cries when she watches the ending of 'Set it Off.' Check out her latest updates on her new site, Paulana.co.