How to Deal with Divisive People at Work

Divisive people are fearful, insecure and they get a thrill out of conflict. Ironically, conflict makes them feel like they are in control, makes them feel secure with their own little group and also make them feel competent, like they are the problem-solver who will solve the problems which they themselves create. In other words, divisive people are controlling and afraid.

They create group divisions to feel in control. Their group makes them feel secure and creating conflict, as we’ve said, makes them feel in control. In creating the conflict, too, they can make others, their enemies, seem incompetent while the divisive person seems in command; in command through creation of conflict and solving the problem, either for their group or conspicuously to show off for the boss and co-workers.

Ironically, too, they want security but end up creating a hostile work environment. So, it becomes the task of the sane person to survive this environment, either by escaping it, changing it or staying and coping the best they can.

What can you do?

The Boss

If you are the boss, you can appeal to the divisive person’s need for security. They want job security, they fear what people think of them. Tell them that conflict is not good for the company. Let them know that it disrupts the operation of the company and endangers people’s jobs and livelihood.


You are in a different position if you are a “peer” of the antagonistic worker. You don’t hold clout, so it’s likely you’ll not have the respect of the divisive person. You might have to resort to getting your own allies. Clearly, this does nothing to end the conflict, it doesn’t get rid of the divisiveness, but it can give you some peace of mind. The predator is less likely to attack someone who has back up. This is an unfortunate fact; that many people haven’t grown out of their animal ancestry and still prey on people; they will attack the loner but will fear the person who has friends that will help them.

rockangelreika, deviantART. Some rights reserved.

rockangelreika, deviantART. Some rights reserved.

It is important to know that the divisive bully gets energy from conflict. So, it is important to not give them energy for it. Avoid them, shut down their energy by calling them on it or telling the boss (if he or she is sympathetic). As stated, you can get your own allies and this will often quell the antagonism-creating co-worker. They thrive on having the advantage. Their energy is gotten through conflict, but going up against a formidable foe is not something that will allow their energy-conflict to last.

Of course, ultimately, the best solution is to withdraw completely and not participate in the game. However, being realistic, I know that getting away from the games is not always possible; especially when your livelihood is on the line and you have to survive work on a daily basis. If your boss is not empathetic, you might want to seriously find another job or different means for a livelihood. It’s not worth it to stay in a situation that is damaging to mind and body, even though it seems like the right thing to do because you have to earn a living. There are countless stories of people being physically and mentally broken down by such stress on the job.

Featured image: By Grupo Mi Radio ( [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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