Getting along in the office: Belligerent people

People behave in predictable ways. Have you ever noticed yourself saying, “Charlie is so much like my Uncle Henry?” If you observe interactions in the workplace, you will eventually agree with me that there are three main ways that people approach workplace problems and people interactions.

Angry office worker

Your co-workers are either:

  • Mostly concerned about procedures,
  • Mostly concerned about people, or
  • Mostly concerned about themselves.

Beligerent co-workers

Those who are concerned mostly about procedures are the type of people that I call belligerent. They are very concerned that there be clear forms for every situation. They like checklists. They figure that, if everything is written down in a formal procedure and people check off the steps, the work will get done. Belligerent people are often frustrated when others refuse to use their detailed procedures. They can become explosively angry when they find their steps not being followed.

Belligerent people are judgmental, with a strong, almost chivalrous sense of right and wrong. They respect anyone who can admit a mistake, and anyone who can stand up to them. They do not intend to hurt others, but often do because of their quick, unthinking responses to situations. They often control situations by speaking loudly and forcefully.

When a belligerent person is running a project, the project may grind to a halt as a result of elaborate procedures. The staff may not understand or perform all of the steps that are set out, and the belligerent person cannot allow things to proceed until all of the steps are followed by the assigned person.

To handle a belligerent co-worker or supervisor, you must often apologize, even if it is not your fault. At other times, you must be willing to speak louder than they do, and interrupt them when necessary. You must also ignore any rude comments, anticipate things that will upset them, warn them in advance, and tell them in private if they have hurt you. Of course, you must never return rudeness for rudeness.

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