5 Common Types Of Defense Mechanisms Seen In The Workplace

Defense mechanism

At work, you will interact with many different individuals on a regular basis, and after a while, you may start to notice some behavior patterns when they feel stressed, anxious, or just plain uncomfortable. This article will cover some of the most frequently seen defense mechanisms in the workplace so that you can become more aware of them.

What Are Defense Mechanisms?

Before going in-depth about the individual ones, it’s important to have a general understanding of what defense mechanisms are and why they happen.

In layman’s terms, a defense mechanism is a phrase coined by Sigmund Freud to describe behaviors people use to guard themselves against thoughts and feelings that are causing them emotional discomfort. The concept would also be further expanded on by his daughter, Anna Freud.

Although these behaviors are apparent to those who are witnessing them happening, for the individual performing them, they occur at the subconscious level, meaning that they aren’t aware that they are resorting to defense mechanisms to cope.

As you continue to read on, you’ll learn more about certain defense mechanisms you’ll probably run into at some point at work.

1. Denial

The defense mechanism of denial is easily one of the ones that people can recognize right off the bat. With denial, people will refuse to believe something is true even if the evidence suggests that it is.

An example of this is a supervisor vehemently denying that there is a problem at work because it might reflect poorly on them. However, denial can be quite harmful because it can make matters worse by not finding a solution early enough

2. Avoidance

Avoidance shares some similarities to denial, but it’s usually a much simpler type of defense mechanism – people who feel uncomfortable about a certain person, place, or thing will merely stay away from the source of their anxiety so that they can feel relief.

Some examples of avoidance in a work environment can include procrastinating on an assignment or deliberately steering clear of a coworker or boss with whom you don’t particularly get along.

3. Displacement

It’s normal for people to feel frustration towards their jobs and the people they have to work with daily, but the manner in which it is expressed and directed can be a big problem.

With displacement, people might take out their negative emotions, particularly anger, on friends, family, and pets instead of the person who caused them to feel bad because there are fewer consequences to doing so. For example, someone who had a significant disagreement with their boss might vent their irritation to their cat.

4. Projection

Workplace drama and gossip happen occasionally, but projection can take this to a completely different level. People who project will state that someone has a negative feeling towards them, when in fact, it’s the opposite.

For instance, someone might tell themselves and others that their supervisor hates them, but in reality, that individual doesn’t think too highly of their supervisor. Sometimes blaming can also be considered projection if something goes wrong at work, but that person won’t acknowledge that they were also complicit.


5. Rationalization

Like blaming someone else for a mistake, people can avoid taking accountability by rationalizing why that blunder was made or why their bad behavior is justified.

An example of this could be someone saying their poor work performance is because they are distracted by their coworkers in the vicinity. Another one is being late for work and blaming it on traffic when they actually were running behind from the get-go.

Want More Information On Defense Mechanisms?

Defense mechanisms can be a fascinating topic for people interested in behavior and psychology. Luckily, there are many excellent resources available for you to read so that you can further educate yourself on this subject and potentially be able to recognize more defense mechanisms in the people in your life, not just at work.

By visiting the link below to BetterHelp, you will be able to access more free articles about defense mechanisms and expand your knowledge about them:


Additionally, suppose you believe that you too might be relying on defense mechanisms to cope with negative thoughts at home and at the workplace. In that case, you will be able to learn how you can connect to a licensed counselor or therapist at BetterHelp who can show you healthier coping strategies that you can use forever.


Hopefully, this handful of defense mechanisms discussed in this article will help you become keener to them; they might not be so easily recognizable at first, but after becoming more aware of people’s behavior patterns, defense mechanisms will be more apparent over time. While these five defense mechanisms are some of the most common ones you’ll see, these aren’t the only ones – there’s a whole new world of them out there that you should look into further.


About the Author

authorMarie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

Disclaimer: This article contains sponsored marketing content. It is intended for promotional purposes and should not be considered as an endorsement or recommendation by our website. Readers are encouraged to conduct their own research and exercise their own judgment before making any decisions based on the information provided in this article.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here