How To Confront A Coworker Professionally – 10 Things To Remember

Written By Aleena

It’s hard enough to confront a friend or loved one about how they’re hurting you. What about confronting someone at work? Here’s how to confront a coworker professionally.

Confrontation is never easy, but there are ways to do it professionally. Your coworker might be stealing your ideas and taking credit for your work.

He might gossip about you and spread rumors that aren’t true. These are big signs of disrespect.

How To Confront A Coworker Professionally – 10 Things To Remember

Whatever the case, there are ways to confront a coworker about their behavior.

How to confront someone at work. Here are 10 professional things to remember when confronting a coworker:

1. Be Respectful:

Confront them respectfully and only about the issue at hand. It is not the time to bring up old grievances.

how to confront a coworker professionally

Respectfully let them know how their behavior affects you and what they need to fix the problem. You can say something like:

“I don’t like that you’re calling me names, and it creates an unhealthy work environment. Can we please keep our conversations focused on work?” Or you could say:

“I feel as if you’re taking credit for my work, and I would appreciate it if you stopped.”

2. Confront A Coworker Professionally – Be Specific:

Be as specific as possible when confronting them about their behavior. Your coworker knows what they’ve been doing.

However, your coworker might not realize how much it’s hurting you or the company. If there’s a pattern of incidents, be specific about them.

Let your coworker know you’ll be keeping track. If they make promises, follow up to make sure they hold up their end of the deal.

For example, if they’ve been rude to you, say something like:

“I don’t appreciate it when you raise your voice and call me names. Can we please resolve this?”

3. Stick to One Specific Issue & Share Expectations:

Avoid bringing up many issues at once. It’s overwhelming and confusing for the other person.

Focus on one point at a time and be as specific as possible when detailing their behavior and how you feel about it.

Let your coworker know what you expect from the situation. It will give them a clear idea of behaving and make it easier for everyone. You could say something like:

“I expect you to keep our conversations focused on work, and I would appreciate it if we could resolve this.”

Or you could say: “I expect you to stop taking credit for my work. Let’s come up with a game plan.”

4. Keep it Professional :

Don’t bring personal matters into the discussion. It isn’t about how they feel or what they think. It is about your feelings and expectations. Stick to discussing work-related issues only.


If you have anyone else affected by your coworker’s behavior, don’t discuss them. Stick to discussing how their actions affect you and how they can resolve it.

It will be easier for everyone if the confrontation is about one person’s feelings.

5. Confront A Coworker Professionally – Show Your Credentials:

Confront them as a peer. Let your coworker know that you’re as qualified and talented as they are.

If anything, you’re more experienced than they are because of all the extra work you do around the office. You’ve been here longer, and you know what’s going on around the office.

Let them know that your concerns are valid. They need to respect you for things to get better, so show your worth by sharing a bit of yourself.

You could say something like: “I’ve been in this industry a long time, and I can’t work under these conditions. Let’s talk about what we can do to improve the situation.”

6. Be Clear:

State calmly and clearly what’s bothering you – Avoid ranting or using vague language. Use specific examples.

Don’t be unclear with phrases like “you always” or “you never.” Instead, be precise with words such as

“Last week I noticed that…” or “On Monday you said….”

Be honest and put your concerns in a clear, concise way. You can say something like:

“I want to make sure we’re on the same page, and I would appreciate it if you stopped taking credit for my work. Can we come up with a solution?”

7. No Threats – Be Patient:

Don’t threaten to quit or take legal action unless you’re going to follow through with it. It will only cause an enormous rift between the two of you.

You don’t want things to worsen if you have been looking for another job or considering quitting. Save that discussion for another time.

Threatening to quit will only make things worse. Keep it professional and stick to discussing the facts.

Don’t expect the conversation to be easy. People have a natural inclination to avoid conflict at all costs.

That is why avoiding this difficult conversation is tempting. Be patient in your dealing with the situation.

8. Confront A Coworker Professionally – Don’t Appear Emotional:

Be firm and confident in your words without being aggressive. This conversation may be difficult, but you have to stay professional.

Even if you’re feeling angry, try not to show that on your face. If necessary, take a step back before speaking again.


Make sure you appear calm and collected, even if things get heated. You can say something like:

“I want this situation resolved as much as you do because I know we both care about this company’s success.”

Or “I realize how frustrated you must feel, but I need to be able to work with you.”

9. Remember That You’re On The Same Team:

Remind them that you are both working for the same company and have similar goals.

Point out how their behavior is damaging the company as a whole so they can see where you’re coming from. You could say something like:

“I know we both want our department to be successful, but this behavior is making it very difficult.”

Don’t attack or insult your coworker. Showing empathy and understanding will make these types of confrontations go much smoother.

Tell them that you’re willing to find a solution together. They feel the same way.

10. Confront A Coworker Professionally – Ending On A Positive Note:

Leave the conversation on a positive note. The ending of your discussion is as important as the beginning.

Try and end on a positive note and suggest solutions instead of blame. You can say something like: “I do want us to be able to work together as colleagues, and we both want that as well.”

End with “I’m glad we’re talking about this.” It will show your coworker that you’re open to more discussions.

You are here to find a solution. Accept it if you don’t think it’s sincere if they apologize. It’s a step in the right direction towards resolving this conflict.

When To Confront A Coworker? – 8 Cases

There are certain situations where you have to stand up for yourself. You can not let the coworker continue the disrespectful or unethical actions. Here are eight such conditions:

1. They’re Taking Credit For Your Work:

If your coworker is taking credit for your work, it’s time to confront them. It would help if you waited to deal with it.


They will take enough of your work that you can no longer cover for their mistakes.

You don’t want this situation to snowball into something worse. Act now before the problem gets worse.

2. Confront A Coworker Professionally When They’re Disrespecting You To Other Coworkers:

You need to stand up for yourself if a coworker spreads rumors about you or talks badly about you behind your back.

If a coworker is disrespecting you in front of other coworkers, say something like:

“I realize we have different opinions. I would appreciate it if we could professionally handle this.”

3. They’re Taking Up Your Work Time:

If your coworker is distracting you more than usual and it’s harming your work, you need to stand up for yourself.

Let them know, “I’m happy to help, but I need you to stay focused so we both can get things done.”

You don’t want this person taking advantage of you or making minor issues difficult. Be firm and don’t back down until the situation changes.

4. They’re Deleting Your Files Without Asking:

Your coworker should not be deleting any files from your computer without asking. That’s how mistakes can happen. Be firm in letting them know:

“It would be best if we discussed any file deletions.” Don’t outright tell them they’re not allowed to delete anything without your permission.

5. Confront A Coworker Professionally When They’re Changing Your Employee Evaluation:

Coworkers should not be able to change your evaluation without informing you. You must know what they are writing about you, which affects your employment status.

how to confront a coworker professionally

If someone has changed the last page of your evaluation, it is wrong. Let them know you need to discuss it with them before signing it.

Stay calm and keep everything professional instead of escalating into an argument.

6. They’ve Been Unfair To You On The Job:

If your coworker has been unfair or treats you as inferior for no good reason, confront them. You have every right to stand up against the situation.

To resolve this issue, say, “I know we can work together to solve the problem” instead of saying, “you’re being unfair.”

Being unfair is subjective, and the moment you throw that word out there, it will turn into an argument or fight.

7. Confront A Coworker Professionally When They’re Always Late:

Being late to work is a sign of disrespect, and it puts a lot of stress on everyone else. No one wants to wait for someone who will not show up on time.

Instead of working with this person and trying to be understanding, they cause stress. They’re never around when you need them.

Let them know that you would appreciate it if they were on time to work. You can’t bear waiting around for them anymore.

8. They’re Lying And Telling Everyone You’re Incompetent:

If a coworker tells everyone lies about you, it’s time for them to stop. Let them know, “It’s not okay to be lying to everyone, so please stop,” instead of saying, “you’re a liar.”


Do not let this person get away with their lies; otherwise, it will become more serious.

Do not let it get to the point where you’re fighting with them in front of everyone.


Of course, all this is easier said than done. It’s better to address the situation head-on instead of avoiding what’s bothering you.

If your coworker continues to treat you poorly, consider reporting them to your boss. They can take action steps towards resolving the conflict before things get worse.

Now that you know how to confront a coworker, ensure both parties are on good terms.

Choose your words carefully and speak calmly. After all, you don’t want future disagreements to turn into unnecessary conflicts.

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