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Getting the Silent Treatment at work – What NOT to do!

Updated on December 18, 2016

2. Is a Diffficult Silent Co-Worker Driving You Nuts?

Getting Silent Treatment at Work - What to STOP doing, so that you can START feeling better
Getting Silent Treatment at Work - What to STOP doing, so that you can START feeling better | Source

Examples of What NOT to do when someone at work starts giving you the Silent Treatment

  • Don't keep asking them why they are not speaking to you. Whether or not you get a reasonable response, ask once, and once only, You know they heard you the first time so don't beg.
  • Likewise, don't plead with them to speak to you. Instead, pleasantly say good morning to them everyday, leaving the door open for them to respond amiably and interact normally thereafter, if and when they choose to. If they don't choose to then that's their problem, not yours. You did your bit.
  • Don't mope around your workplace or appear visibly upset, anxious, angry, frustrated or outraged and don't isolate yourself. Instead, act in a normal businesslike fashion exhibiting your maturity and professionalism.
  • Don't engage in tit for tat ostracism - Instead, again, be the bigger, more professional, person.
  • Don't let their silence overwhelm you and completely take over your emotional well-being. Instead, when you catch yourself feeling overwhelmed with tearfullness or anger or whatever, have a ready made uplifting mantra or positive affirmation you can repeat over and over in your mind to help nullify such negative feelings. (e.g. "I am in control of my emotions" and/or "I am wise enough to rise above the immaturity of others")
  • Don't neglect to explore expert or legal advice as necessary. Instead of feeling powerless and confused you will know exactly where you stand and what your options are should you feel it necessary to take things further.

Know that you can rise above immature, manipulative behaviour in the workplace.

Playing the Silent Treatment Game with your Passive Aggressive co-worker

If you've been going out of your way to constantly try and appease him or her then it’s time to stop giving this person the satisfaction of seeing the pain and frustration silent treatment can bring about in you. Understand that many who dish out silent treatment are encouraged to do so all the more when they can observe their victims angry, miserable or besides themselves to make amends in order to just to have them start speaking again. Many passive aggressives (and silent treatment is a form of abusive passive aggression) just love it when they know they are getting under your skin and causing strife, so it’s time to stop boosting their ego and self importance. Do see the Examples of how to stop playing their game.

Interestingly, as much as we may abhor being on the receiving end of silent treatment in the workplace, or anywhere else for that matter, let’s be honest here - Most of us have engaged in at least some limited sulking/not speaking to someone at some point or another. We do it, since it often seems an easy, acceptable method of dismissing or showing disdain to someone who has displeased us. In some ways, it is not entirely a bad thing as it gives us time to calm down and think things through rationally before deciding how to best proceed. The crucial thing is knowing when and how to stop the ostracism, clear the air to move on and get back on good footing.

This should be done within a reasonable and short space of time. It is a communication life skill we must apply to all relationships. Therefore, shame on the person who is unceasingly giving you the silent treatment because, as an adult, their basic human interaction skills are sorely lacking. Shame on them and pity them since they are unwilling or unable to act maturely e.g. by sitting down with you for you both to air your views or differences.

Pity them if they are incapable of compromising or agreeing to differ without evoking everlasting malice and resentment. Feel sorry for their friends and relatives as they may act the same way outside of the workplace. Pity them because they are not so well rounded an individual that they can encounter conflict or a simple difference of opinion without resorting to the manipulative torture that is silent treatment.

Adjusting your mindset to feeling pity for a person who acts so immaturely and negatively might help you to think differently about an extremely difficult work situation and give you more peace of mind. By taking the focus off you yourself being a victim or feeling hard done by (which may well be the case), and placing an emphasis on how awful and shallow the other person has to be to have to resort to silent treatment as perhaps their only means of feeling better about themselves, you can take away the power the person has over you and stop them from controlling your emotional well being.

Remember: Don't give your silent treatment co-worker the satisfaction of knowing that their silence is making you feel bad.

>>> NEXT - Workplace Silent Treatment - Have you again failed to persuade them to speak to you?

For Perspective No 3 see the link immediately above, and/or scroll down for some info on two discerning books related to this subject matter, plus an insightful video with options for dealing with bullying at work.

BACK to previous perspective

Be aware:

You may well need to take professional/legal advice to deal with intolerable silent treatment/bullying in the workplace.

Passive Aggression at Work!

Difficult People: Foolproof Methods - Dealing with Difficult People, Mean People, and Workplace Bullying (Difficult People at Work, Passive Aggressive, ... Dealing with Difficult People, Negativity)

This publication by William Lockhart can help you stop feeling like a victim at the hands of passive aggressive or challenging, mean people. It can help you identify and overcome bullying and passive aggressive activity such as silent treatment in the workplace. It can help you to assert and protect yourself from the hurt and negativity that difficult people can inflict upon their targets. Unfortunately, bullying is not something that only exists in school. All too often it happens at work. Although a short read, this book gives the reader an understanding of why difficult people exhibit their testing behaviour, as well as clear methods of effectively dealing with it.

An impressive 98% of ratings were either 5 or 4 stars, giving a ranking of 4.6 stars overall as at July 2015. If you are sick and tired of feeling at the mercy of uncalled for, mean spirited behaviour, this book can help.

Make Difficult People Disappear: How to Deal with Stressful Behavior and Eliminate Conflict

In Monica Wofford’s book she details how to alter your mindset and find new ways of dealing with the problem of difficult personalities in the workplace. Her advices can help build confidence and enhance working relationships for team leaders and team members alike.


This book, by way of a story format, gives an understanding of four main personality types in the working environment. It includes an action plan which can help you manage and better cope with difficult personalities. Rated 4.3 stars out of 5 overall, it is a worthwhile read in combating conflict at work. That said, some found the book somewhat long-winded, but useful nevertheless.

Silent Treatment can extend to Bullying in the Workplace

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