Three Ways to Deal with a Smart Aleck (and other rude people in your organization)

Posted 05.11.2011

Charlie-winning Wow, I had no idea what kind of nerve I was striking when I wrote a post last week on taming your inner smart aleck.  Lots of leader readers left fantastic mea culpa comments that shared stories of the moments of truth that helped cure them of entertaining themselves with caustic comments.  In spite of all of that great self-improvement work going on,  there’s still a lot of smart aleck and generally rude behavior that people have to put up with at work. 

That matters if for no other reason than people are more productive when they’re happy and rude behavior tends to make people unhappy. 

Rude behavior is a productivity killer.  What can you do to minimize it in your organization?

Here are three ways to lower the rudeness quotient and one thing to definitely avoid because doing it will only make things worse:

Three ways to deal with smart aleck comments or rude behavior are to:

1.   Ignore It:  I recently heard the author of Open Leadership, Charlene Li,  say that trolls are everywhere and the first rule of trolls is don’t feed them.  If you can get your work done without a lot of interaction with the rude colleague, ignoring their behavior is always an option.

2.   Kill Them with Kindness:  Follow Gandhi’s advice and “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  When they’re rude to you, be polite to them.  Your behavior may influence theirs in a positive way.

3.   Call It Out:  Talk with the smart aleck or rude colleague about their behavior and the impact of it on others in the organization.  Be ready with examples.  Make the conversation about the behavior and the impact, not about the person.

And one thing to definitely avoid is:

Fighting fire with fire. It’s the most ineffective tactic for dealing with a rude leader or colleague.  It might make you feel good in the moment but all it really does is escalate things until you have a distracting little war on your hands.

What have you done or what are you doing to stamp out rudeness and incivility where you work?  What difference is it making?