20 Comebacks to Say When Dealing with a Hostile Co-Worker

11. “It’s rude when you keep interrupting me.”

If your co-worker interrupts you, it is a form of hostility. Call them out and let them know that they are rude. If they do it during meetings, they will feel even more ashamed of their behavior because you will have called them out in front of everyone.

If you’d instead do it in private, you can wait until later and approach them one-on-one. You don’t have to say it in a mean way, but be assertive and let them know that it isn’t okay.

12. “You’re being condescending to me.”

Addressing this type of behavior at work is acceptable. You shouldn’t put up with condescending behavior, and calling people out can put an end to it.

Don’t be dramatic, and don’t go into a long rant about the way they are acting. State the issue and leave it at that.

13. “I’ll gladly discuss what you are upset about, but now is not the time.”

If your co-worker approaches you at an inopportune time and wants to talk, you can decline. Let them know that you see they are upset, and you will talk about it later. Don’t let them put you on the spot, especially if they are behaving this way.

14. “What you said is getting to me, so I want to make sure I understand.”

This phrase is another way to gain clarification on what the person intended to say. If they didn’t mean it that way, they can re-explain and have a conversation about it. Otherwise, making them explain their remark will make them uncomfortable.

15. “Do you realize that you’re being hostile?”

Sometimes people don’t realize that they are exhibiting this type of behavior. You might be the first person to tell them, which can help them make a positive change. If they do know, though, the comment will let them know to ease off a bit.

16. “Thank you for all of your help.”

If the person is behaving this way because they feel threatened by you, thanking them might help. By thanking them for helping you, they will understand that you don’t feel superior to them. This realization can help decrease workplace hostility and help the two of you get along.

17. “I’m not getting into this with you.”

You can be respectful while still being firm with the hostile person. Let them know that you won’t fight or argue with them and that you won’t put up with disrespect. Choosing not to get sucked into their game might encourage them to lighten up a bit.

18. “We can continue this conversation when I’m less offended.”

If your co-worker has offended you and you feel defensive, this phrase is the way to go. Rather than allow your emotions to take over, walk away with a promise to finish talking later.

You can’t avoid having the conversation, or it will only worsen the situation, but you can put it off for a little while. Give yourself time to cool down and think things through before you handle it.

19. “Do you have any ideas to contribute to the plan?”

Asking the person if they have any ideas lets them see that you aren’t trying to outshine them. It gives them a chance to show everyone the value they bring, which could ease the hostility.

20. “The way you’re acting won’t solve anything that we are dealing with here.”

Sometimes letting your co-worker know that their behavior isn’t helping can make a difference. Hostile people don’t always like being called out, and they will likely be embarrassed since they are in the wrong.


You don’t have to put up with negative behavior from a hostile co-worker. Speak up and do what you can to put an end to the unpleasant situation.

Speaking up doesn’t always do the trick, but it can let your co-worker know that you won’t put up with it. If all else fails, at least they might aim their hostility elsewhere.

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