Viorika Prikhodko—Getty Images
By Mikey Rox / Wise Bread
May 26, 2015

Even though many of us work in a so-called “professional environment,” conflicts in the workplace are inevitable. You’re with these people 40 hours a week (sometimes longer), and it’s only a matter of time before a coworker rubs you the wrong way.

Back-stabbing, a bad attitude, or a rude glance (fierce side-eye is all it takes to ruin a day) might encourage you to give a colleague a piece of your mind. But while there’s no shame in sticking up for yourself and putting an office bully in his place, there are times when it’s better to let things go. Here are five situations when you should avoid confronting a coworker (so you can also avoid confronting the unemployment line).

1. You’re an Emotional Wreck

Confronting your coworker about an ongoing problem and discussing the issue like mature adults might squash some of the tension, but you shouldn’t confront this person while you’re still emotional or upset about the situation. You might lose your cool while explaining yourself, which can put your coworker on the defense. And when emotions run high, it becomes difficult to understand another person’s point-of-view or recognize how your actions played a role in an argument.

Give yourself time to calm down — whether it’s a few hours or a few days — and confront your coworker when you’re in a better state of mind. Besides, once you’re able to look at the situation with a clear head, you might realize the entire issue was silly or a simple misunderstanding.

2. You Know It’s Just a Bad Day

Everyone is entitled to a bad day. If your coworker is normally easygoing and great to work with but on this particular day he’s on edge and getting on everybody’s last nerve, chalk it up to a bad day and don’t take it personally.

Unless we ask, we really don’t know what our coworkers go through. We all respond to problems differently and some people don’t know the right ways to deal with their emotions when under stress. Maybe your coworker had a bad performance review and fears his job might be in jeopardy. Or maybe he’s going through personal problems, such as a divorce or separation, money or health problems.

Dealing with life and stress doesn’t give anyone license to take their anxiety out on others. But if your coworker is usually in a better mood and this behavior is out of character, give him a break and let minor incidents roll off your shoulder. You might be in their shoes one day and need someone to give you the benefit of the doubt.

3. You Know the Person’s Trying to Get a Rise Out of You

As I think back to different jobs I had before pursuing self-employment, there was always one person in every office who liked to get a rise out of people. Whether they were making snide comments underneath their breath or making a big deal out of small issues, they got a kick out of being irritating and getting others fired up.

It’s hard to walk away and ignore these attacks, but it might be the best method for dealing with this type of coworker. You might be able to confront other types of people and get them off your back. But if you’re dealing with someone who’s looking for a reaction or fight, exchanging words or a confrontation only adds fuel to their fire. You have to be the bigger person and not respond. Don’t play their games, and eventually they’ll get bored and move on.

4. You’re Having a Good Day

Don’t give others power over your emotions. If you’re having a good day, one annoying comment by a coworker can jack up your entire mood — if you let it. You can’t control what comes out of another person’s mouth, but you can control your response. Confronting a coworker might resolve the issue, but it can also turn molehills into mountains. Learn how to pick your battles.

5. It’s Not Your Place

If you observe rudeness or unfair treatment around the office, you might feel it’s necessary to speak up for those who won’t. But think twice before confronting a coworker about a situation that has nothing to do with you. Although you’re trying to help, getting involved might do more harm than good. Bring serious issues to your supervisor’s attention and let them broach the matter.

More From Wise Bread:

6 Tips to Win Any Argument

9 Office Politics Goofs That Can Set Your Career Back Years

The Psychology of Salaries: Do You Want to Know How Much Your Coworkers Make?

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