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Taking The 'Bait' At Work: Avoidance Techniques

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 29 Oct 2019 | comments*Discuss
Taking The 'bait' At Work: Avoidance Techniques

We’re all probably familiar with an annoying colleague who thrives on winding up the staff in order to make everyone’s life a misery. Whilst they may not be breaking any work legislation in terms of issues such as Sexual Harassment or racial discrimination they might simply be the type of person whose conversation and/or behaviour is designed to just get you into taking the bait and to have the hairs on the back of you neck standing up on end. In other words, they’re simply trying to push your buttons to provoke a reaction. And, whilst a person can’t actually be dismissed for just winding up other colleagues, it can be very counterproductive, can severely hamper your ability to work well and can simply ruin the enjoyment of work to such an extent that some people dread going to work because of a particular person’s behaviour and some less tolerant people have even changed jobs because of the winding up that goes on. Here is some advice on how to deal with it.

Ignoring the Behaviour Altogether

‘Button-pushers’, by their very nature, are always trying to provoke a reaction and, in doing so, it adds fuel to the fire for them to continuing to perpetuate their behaviour towards you. The best thing you can do if you don’t want to deal with it is to avoid it altogether. That’s different to avoiding the person altogether as that might not always be possible in the work that you’re both doing. What you should try to do is to focus on the positive strengths that the person has and see if you can build a decent relationship with them based upon their qualities in order to bypass their desired intent to wind you up.

Changing Your Attitude

It’s important to remember that no matter what another person is doing or saying to you - YOU and only YOU have the power and control in how you react so don't go taking the bait. By neutralising your reaction and simply ignoring them and by saying nothing and remaining calm, cool and collected, you’ll cause the perpetrator to become confused and they’ll soon realise how foolish and silly (not to mention – boring) they’re going to look to the rest of your colleagues and they’ll not want to spend too long trying to push your buttons that they can’t seem to press anymore. Furthermore, this will soon start to irritate them in a similar fashion to the way they irritated you previously. In seeking a reaction and being met passively, it’s guaranteed to frustrate them to the point of them probably giving up or turning their attention to winding up somebody else.

Confronting the Perpetrator

Sometimes it’s our expectations that cause us to react in the way we do. Yes, somebody else’s behaviour might be pushing our buttons and we either end up taking the ‘bait' or sit there in silence having to tolerate the behaviour. However, we all have different sets of moral values and it may well be that the perpetrator doesn’t realise they are causing offence as their moral values may be very much lower than ours. Therefore, the behaviour can sometimes be stopped dead in its tracks if we choose to confront the perpetrator.

It’s important to do this away from the ‘shop floor’ firstly to avoid foisting the attention onto the perpetrator or you may end up embarrassing them which may cause them to wind you up even more afterwards. By picking your moment in private, you might want to ask them why they are doing this to you and tell them specifically how it’s making you feel. Unless they’ve got a heart of stone, this may help the behaviour to stop and, if it persists, you could drum up support from a few of your colleagues to also express their displeasure. No one with any self-respect would choose to be the most unpopular member of staff so in gaining a few allies, the perpetrator might come to realise that he or she is alienating themselves as opposed to alienating you.

Obviously, there will be a cut off point when you’ll need to take further action if they just won’t pay heed to your concerns and stop inflicting their behaviour on you. Before taking things up with a higher chain of command though, be certain that you’re not over-reacting and that your desire to try to have them modify their behaviour is justified and appropriate.

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[Add a Comment]
I’ve asked my employees repeatedly not to contact my clients. What do you do when they continue to do it anyway? One in particular did because she knew it would get under my skin. (She’s no longer employed with me and still bothers the client. She hadn’t gotten last check.) What can I do to stop her bad mouthing me and spreading lies?
Tmc - 12-Aug-19 @ 2:20 AM
When you are in a poor organisation ran by people who only want there ego stroking by people who are genuinely making other peoples lives hell. Ever after formal grievances against them are raised and brushed aside by management ignoring is hell. The only thing you can do is get out. Which is sad when you are good at your job.
Buttons - 14-Dec-17 @ 11:41 PM
I work with a colleague who consistently tries to wind me up with his insults. I let it go and rose above it until today. After eating my lunch he decided to call me a name and get a laugh from everyone. I put down my lunch and calmly walked up to him. Grabbing his ears with both hands I brought his face down on to my knee and then threw him over my desk. He collapsed in a heap crying as blood poured out from his nose like a spitting kettle. I went back to my lunch and then finished my cold lasagna before returning to work. He hasn't made any insults since and to be honest I feel our working relationship will improve slightly.
Big B - 12-Jul-17 @ 3:07 PM
In a fair world we could get away in smashing their faces in.
yes - 22-Mar-16 @ 3:50 AM
stove- Your Question:
I have read the advice about the button pusher and will try it.but it will be hard as this person is in the managers pocket

Our Response:
We hope the advice works and that you manage to resolve your problems.
SafeWorkers - 2-Mar-16 @ 12:05 PM
I have read the advice about the button pusher and will try it .but it will be hard as this person is in the managers pocket
stove - 28-Feb-16 @ 5:23 PM
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