Taking The ‘Bait’ At Work: Avoiding Being Provoked

Dealing with a work colleague who tries to “wind you up” to try and bait you into a reaction can be stressful. You can use a few techniques to try to avoid taking the bait. This type of interaction can cause a lot of upset, but if you lose your temper, you might find yourself on the wrong side of HR.

What to Do if You’re Being Provoked at Work

If provocation turns into bullying at work, your employer has a duty of care to keep you safe. This duty extends your mental health, so they are obliged to deal with it. If they don’t, and you later leave your job because of it, you may have grounds to take them to an employment tribunal.

We’’re all probably familiar with an annoying colleague who thrives on winding up the other staff. They may not be breaking any work legislation in terms of Sexual Harassment or racial discrimination. This can make the behaviour difficult to report as a discliplinary issue. They may just be the type of person whose behaviour is designed to get people to take the bait.

How to Deal with a Wind Up Merchant at Work

Often a “wind up merchant” is simply trying to push your buttons to provoke a reaction. A person can’’t be dismissed for winding up other colleagues. But it can be counterproductive, can hamper your ability to work and can ruin enjoyment of work.

Here is some advice on how to deal with that provocative person at work.

Ignore the Behaviour

‘Button-pushers’, by their very nature, are always trying to provoke a reaction. In doing so, it adds fuel to the fire for them to continuing 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 as that might not always be possible at work. Try to focus on the positive strengths that they have and see if you can build a relationship with them. Look at their finer qualities in order to bypass their desired intent to wind you up.


Don’t Let Them see you are Annoyed

No matter what someone is doing – YOU and only YOU have the power and control in how you react.

Don’t go taking the bait. If you neutralise your reaction by simply ignoring them and staying calm, you’’ll cause the perpetrator to become confused. They’’ll hopefully realise how foolish and silly they’’re going to look to the rest of your colleagues. They will not want to spend time trying to push your buttons.

Furthermore, this will soon start to irritate them in a similar fashion to the way they irritated you previously. If you react passively, it’s going to frustrate them to the point of them giving up or winding up somebody else.

Confronting the Perpetrator

Sometimes it’s our expectations that cause us to react in the way we do. Somebody might be pushing our buttons and we end up taking the ‘bait or have to tolerate the behaviour. We all have different values and it may be that the perpetrator doesn’t realise they are causing offence. This means, the behaviour can sometimes be stopped dead in its tracks if we choose to confront the perpetrator.

How to Confront a Wind up Merchant

It’s important to do this away from the ‘shop floor.’ This is to avoid focusing attention onto them or you may end up embarrassing them which may cause them to wind you up even more afterwards.

Pick your moment in private, and ask them why they are doing this to you. Tell them specifically how it’s making you feel. Unless they’ve got a heart of stone, this may help the behaviour to stop. If it persists, you could drum up support from a few of your colleagues to also express their displeasure.

Obviously, there will be a cut off point when you’’ll need to take further action. If they won’t listen to your concerns and stop the negative behaviour, you may need to make a complaint about them. Before taking things up with a manager, be sure that you’’re not over-reacting and that your desire to try to have them modify their behaviour is justified and appropriate.

7 thoughts on “Taking The ‘Bait’ At Work: Avoiding Being Provoked

  1. neet says:

    I am a subject of being ‘baited’ at work by management. Ignored,not spoken to by management, also when deciding to close down the office where I work for one day, not informed by management but my colleague (who is lovely) was. Task taken away/blocked. Not put forward for training for a new computer system but other people are. Being changed around on the rota to work from a different office but not informed etc etc. At the moment I am ignoring their actions, the morale of the place is low, they are employing all new ‘younger’ staff and it seems they are ignoring older workers. I know this is discrimination but it will be hard to prove. What is the best course of action? Many thanks.

  2. Tmc says:

    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?

  3. Buttons says:

    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.

  4. Big B says:

    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.

  5. stove says:

    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

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