How To Deal With An Aggressive Coworker Who Heckles You At Work

When a colleague wants to take you down a notch, handling them the right way puts you in a position of power.

three people looking at a computer, a woman looking irritated while a man looks on SFIO CRACHO / shutterstock 

In my admittedly short career as a stand-up comedian, I learned a lot about communication. Of course, these lessons can be learned in many different public speaking settings, but there is one challenge that is relatively unique to comics: hecklers. 

As I wrote in a recent article about the communication lessons I learned during this stage of my career, I only had to silence a heckler once, but I learned that audiences like to see a heckler who is being rude or disrespectful put in their place. 


In the workplace, sometimes it’s appropriate to use your communication wisdom to address similar behavior. 

Dominating, interrupting, and condescending are typical behaviors you can deal with by using thoughtful communication, especially when you’re the lead of the meeting.

Three types of workplace hecklers, and how to put them in their place

The Dominator

For the dominator, try intervening with, “Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Don, but I’d love to hear from some of the others. I haven’t heard from anyone at this end of the table.” This informs the dominator it’s time to pause and gives others a chance to talk without putting any individual on the spot.


You may use similar language for the interrupter, such as, “If I could, I’d really like to finish my thought and then we can hear what you have to say.”

The Condescender

When someone uses a condescending tone, it’s fair to call out such incivility. “That sounded dismissive and condescending. What’s behind that?”

The Interrupter

This is the person who feels he must be heard but fails to listen. In a meeting situation, this person is the one using phrases, "Can I just say...?" or "Let me jump in, here..." You may deal with the interrupter in one of several ways, from letting it go to dealing with it directly. 

Basically, your approach depends on the situation, the participants, the intent of the interrupter, and whether it's a regular pattern of behavior.


Whatever the situation, if you lead the meeting, it's your responsibility to set expectations. If you don't, your professional boundaries only exist in your mind and others may be unaware they are violating them. 

RELATED: 8 Rude Behaviors That Drive Strong Women Crazy

Clear communication is key

In summary, clear communication is the key to the best relationships at work.

Even though my comedy career was short lived, I and a friend spent all day Saturday re-writing my content. He let me practice it until I was comfortable. My performances went much better from that point on. 

Learn from your humbling moments

Despite the initial embarrassment, the humbling lessons I learned in my very short career as a standup comedian have served me well in the decades that followed. In the same way, these lessons can benefit you in work settings whether you're leading meetings or presenting to an audience.


Remembering to prepare well, stay humble, and be authentic with your emotions will serve you well in the workplace. At the same time, adapting quickly to your audience and remembering to stay connected with them socially is a reminder that they are on your side.

Using your communication wisdom to keep it clear can keep you out of trouble.

RELATED: 10 Ways To Have Stimulating Conversation, According To A Professional Interviewer


Brent Roy, PCC, CPLC, CMC, is a certified executive, career and personal development coach, and mentor coach. He works with men and women who want to increase their confidence and boost their executive presence to prepare them for promotion or a new career.