Grey Rocking: What It Is and When To Use It Effectively at Work

CoachHub · 26 October 2022 · 9 min read

The grey color is particularly loved in interior settings due to its ability to introduce a balance between white and black. The truth is, it’s pretty much the same thing when it comes to grey rocking as a concept. Act as a grey rock in the fusion of many other rock colors and you’re hardly noticed!

It’s the perfect psychological response to dealing with toxic situations; removing your focus from individuals and things that bring in negative energy at work and in life. Grey rocking is considered an effective method for dealing with toxic people and responding to energy-draining situations.

So, if you’re thinking, “what does grey rock mean? Is it okay to apply it?” You’re about to discover all of it yourself.

What Is Grey Rocking and When Can You Apply It?

Think of yourself as a rock that hardly responds to stimuli, but in this case, the stimuli are the toxic individuals around you. The technique involves deliberately ignoring a toxic person’s move to upset you intentionally or unintentionally. You may choose to show no emotion during discussions you have with them, or keep your eyes off them throughout the conversations. In this situation, such a person might be doing things to get you to react and gain your attention, but by staying neutral, you’re likely to bore them and make them lose interest in continuing the conversation. At times, they may decide to ignore you for someone else or in the long run, even become a better person.

This strategy isn’t a new one, and some practitioners recommend it for people dealing with controlling, abusive, and manipulating people in their lives. Toxic behaviors are characteristic of people on the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) spectrum; depending on the part of the spectrum they fall, the toxic tendencies may vary from person to person. The grey rocking approach helps victims to manage and deal with the negative attitude of toxic people.

When is Grey Rocking good to apply?

You’re largely in control of your life and time, hence you’re free to determine how and who you spend your time with. In instances where the toxic person is someone in your life who makes you feel uncomfortable at being yourself, you may decide to cut them off. If they’re family and unavoidable, you may consider using this method.

In work settings, it may be difficult to manage a toxic colleague or boss, especially if they’re not enough reasons to abandon your job. In this case, the grey rocking technique is a good thing to employ to take charge of your emotional well-being, instead of responding to the person’s manipulative antics.

Another thing is, your work is important to you, and reaching your work objectives are primary. Using the grey rocking method helps you to ignore their misdemeanor and focus on what you need them for on the job.

Examples of people to use the method on:

  • Gaslighting colleague or a narcissistic project manager
  • An uncooperating team member who berates the input of others
  • A toxic leader who often keeps you on the edge
  • A drama-seeking colleague who enjoys creating conflicts between other workers
  • A manager who lacks the emotional intelligence

When Grey Rocking is not ideal in a work setting

If you probably have to deal with that one person who makes you uncomfortable and makes you grey rock all the time, then you might want to apply other approaches. The grey rock method is something that you should engage on the short term and shouldn’t be your approach all the time. In a bid to protect your emotional well-being, you’re likely to ruin it if you practice gray rocking for too long.

So, here’s what to do when that person is becoming constant trouble for you:

  • If someone at work is making work toxic and unproductive for you, you might want to report such behavior. Aside from the fact that the company should be looking out for you as their employee, they may also have concerns if an employee is losing their efficiency due to another’s negative behavior.
  • If you’re constantly facing discrimination, suggestive comments, or any form of harassment from anyone, then you don’t need to grey rock. You should report such an attitude to the appropriate authority immediately.
  • You may consider conversing with someone who makes you feel uneasy if they are the kind to receive such communication. Some are usually oblivious to how they make others feel and need to be told. In this situation, there’s no need to apply grey rocking when the problem can be dealt with upfront.
grey rocking

Why it may be risky to use the Grey Rocking method

Sometimes extended use of the grey rocking method may not yield the expected result. At times, it might even worsen the situation once a narcissistic individual notices your constant attempt at paying them no attention.

Here’s what you should know about the risks of grey rocking.

More pronounced negativity:

A toxic person is likely to feed on the attention that comes from your response to their attitude. Once they notice you no longer give that attention, they may resolve to do more things to get to you. The idea of grey rocking is to keep them away from you by making them lose interest. However, it could become the other way round. They could become physically coercive; taking what belongs to you, or getting into your personal space just to see what you’ll do about it.

When it gets this toxic, the ideal thing to do is to set clear boundaries, find better ways to address the conflict or report them to the right person.

You may lose yourself:

If you’re not the type to endure bad behavior, grey rocking might make you become a different version of yourself. In a bid to keep yourself calm, you store up those emotions only to vent them on others. There’s nothing good about suppressing your emotions and you may want to watch it at that point.

Reduced efficiency and productivity:

You may find yourself making unnecessary mistakes at your work, due to pent-up emotions or losing focus altogether. When this happens, it’s best to address the situation as soon as possible and get the appropriate authority involved. You don’t want your job on the line due to another person’s attitude.

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How to apply the Grey Rock method?

While using this method all the time isn’t advised, here are some expert views on how to use it when the need arises.

  • Keep a neutral expression and stay disengaged in your attitude
  • Keep your personal information away from them
  • Keep your attention away from them
  • If you must interact, keep it short, sweet, and precise

How, you might ask?

Keep your attention away from them:

If they come attention-seeking with a topic, feign a lack of interest, or keep the communication as bland as possible. The point is, don’t let out the juice that makes it easy for them to get to you. When they raise a point for argument and you’re asked for your take; don’t pick a side if you can, and they’ll move on to something else.

Keep a neutral expression and stay disengaged in your attitude:

In keeping your emotions neutral and disengaged, you’re neither approving nor disapproving of them. You’re only sending an ‘I’m-too-busy-to-care’ message across to them. Speak to them using a neutral tone, keep off eye contact, minimize your facial expressions and control your body language; keep it as plain as you can. Once you keep your focus on your work, you’re more likely to keep your eyes off them.

Keep your personal information away from them:

We bet the last thing you want to share with someone toxic, is your personal information. If they’re nosy enough to ask, be diplomatic in your responses if you must reply, and if not, let them know you’re too busy to share at the moment. Don’t go seeking their personal information from them or others as it might only make you feel more uncomfortable. Also, such interactions are likely to bridge the gap you’re seeking to create between you and them.

If you must interact, keep it short, sweet, and precise:

There’s no need to engage in long conversations with people who trigger you. When they come around seeking petty talks, don’t give in. Keep it short and don’t forget to feign disinterest while still staying sweet about it. If it’s work-related, you should prioritize email communication or organizational chat rooms in place of facial communication. If more than that is required, keep things within the ‘yes and no’ limit.

Here are some Grey Rock response examples to apply when needed:

  • Ignore a toxic colleague who seeks to put others in a tight spot all the time, if you can keep your focus off them and try directing your comments to other people.
  • If they attempt to get at you with snide remarks, choose to respond with calmer statements or remarks that quench the spark they’re trying to ignite.
  • Excuse yourself from a gossiping colleague who enjoys talking down on others, by not giving your opinion, or reminding them about loads of work calling for your attention instead.
  • Verbally abusive people need more than grey rocking, they need to be reported especially when there’s an undertone of threat in their actions and conversations.

How to handle toxic people around you or at work?

There’s only an extent to which you can apply grey rocking in toxic situations. However, they are a couple of ways to deal with toxic people on your end if it’s difficult to cut them or restrain them.

Focus on yourself:

Since the goal is to find ways to get at you, taking the focus off them and paying attention to yourself might be a great way to handle it. Creating your safe space, spending time with people who care about you, and being kind to yourself can help you to overcome their negativity. This allows you to build up the inner energy required to deal with these people every time you have to deal with them.

Seek the help of a coach:

Managing people is a core skill, and you might not always have the answers. Working with a coach can help you to discover when it’s okay to use the grey rocking technique and when other conflict resolution methods would be more effective. Also, a coach can help you to figure out answers to your inner questions, and guide you to becoming more self-aware, so that you don’t have to feel insignificant when around toxic people.

You might also want to recommend coaching to toxic relatives, employees, managers, or stakeholders in an organization. It will help them become better people who care about those around them and are conscious of their attitude toward others.

Go Legal:

There’s no way to determine how soon a person will stop acting the way they do. If you consider their actions highly detrimental to your overall well-being, you might want to get legal assistance to restrain them.

Final words…

Some people are quick to adjust once they notice you’re grey rocking around them. Others may not even care enough to notice and it may be harmful if you continue to apply the technique for a long time. The best bet is to apply other ways such as legal sanction, focusing on yourself, and seeking a coach’s help to deal with the situation. On a lighter note, not paying attention to a toxic person, staying distracted, and keeping conversations minimal can be a great way to manage toxic people at work.

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Samuel Olawole
Samuel Olawole is a freelance copywriter and content writer who specializes in creating exciting content across a wide range of topics and industries. When he’s not writing, you can find him traveling or listening to good music.

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