We all have that one co-worker who makes work life miserable. They challenge your patience and cause you to dread going into the office each day. Knowing how to deal with them in a positive and productive way can be a game changer. You don’t have to let frustration and anger get the best of you. Use these tips to find a resolution and create a healthier, more balanced work environment.

Know the Type

Identifying what makes a co-worker difficult is helpful in the process of finding an effective way to deal with them. There’s the office gossip, who is always stirring up drama and trying to get the latest information from everyone. The complainer, who is overly critical and always has something negative to say. Chatty Kathy is never working, but rather walks around distracting everyone. And worst of all, the bully, who always has an agenda and pushes people around to get his own way.

Don’t Take It Personally

The most important thing in dealing with a difficult co-worker is to not take anything personally. Understand that their actions and attitudes reflect their own circumstances and feelings. Often times people act in certain ways because they are hurting or lack security within themselves. Don’t attach yourself to what they say or do, and it will be much easier to cope.

Think Before You Speak

Before you jump right into a confrontation out of frustration or lack of patience, consider whether or not it is worth your time and energy. Is it possible to simply ignore or avoid this co-worker? Try to stay focused on your work and let go of whatever is bothering you. Give it some time and realize that people, yourself included, have bad days. Sometimes people go through challenging times in their personal lives and it affects their attitude at work. Think before you speak so you don’t make the situation harder than it needs to be.

Deal With It Head On

If the problem persists and you still find yourself struggling with the difficult co-worker, it might be time to deal with it head on and have a conversation with him or her. Be sure to check your attitude before you confront them, take a few deep breaths, and be calm about your approach. Communicate clearly and express exactly what it is that bothers you. Try to work towards a resolution instead of badgering them about the problem. It’s important to give them time to respond and truly listen to what they have to say and how they are feeling. For additional tips, check out Psychology Today’s article on how to have a difficult conversation.

When Nothing Else Works

You’ve tried to ignore them, that didn’t work. You tried to have a conversation with them, that didn’t work. Now what do you do? It might be time to talk to your boss. Make sure your boss knows that you have taken great lengths to resolve the situation yourself, that you have talked to your co-worker, and have not been able to reach a resolution. Be open to their thoughts and opinions. There might be a way to deal with it that you haven’t considered yet. (If it is a bullying situation, always be clear that you won’t settle without a plan of action. Bullying isn’t something anyone should have to deal with.)

At the end of the day, your mental and emotional well-being is important. Dealing with a difficult co-worker can be challenging but you deserve to be happy. Take action in a way that is positive and productive so you can save your sanity and enjoy your workplace again. There will always be difficult people in our lives but it’s how we handle them that makes all the difference.

Do you have a difficult co-worker? What positive ways have you found to deal with them? Share in the comments below!

13 COMMENTS

  1. This is such great advice! I’ve dealt with many a difficult co-worker. I need to work on not taking things personally and dealing with problems head on. Great advice!

  2. Good advice, I’ve always gone for the ‘kill them with kindness’ approach and so far its worked out ok.

  3. Finding myself within difficult colleagues has been my biggest challenge, but then the best way I handle them is first of all giving them listening ears, and talk less.
    Looking at your article, this is great and thanks for sharing

  4. All of these things are true, however… it makes it a little more difficult when the person IS your boss. I had to leave that job where that happened. I couldn’t take it anymore. I tried not to take it personally, but it wears on you after a while, y’know?

  5. @mamaimperfection It’s hard not to take it personally but in the long run, it will be healthier for your sanity. Good luck!

  6. @Matt You’re so right–“kill them with kindness” is definitely a great way to deal with someone difficult. Hopefully they will return the sentiment.

  7. @engrreginald Love it! Talk less and listen more. People who love to talk about themselves will feel like you are a wonderful listener and perhaps would open up more to you.

  8. @Gem Ugh. So sorry to hear about the problems with your boss! Did your boss have a boss?

  9. These are all great tips. I’ve totally been in this position myself with a bad coworker. I’ve tried all the steps you mentioned and it got to the point where I put in my resignation. When the boss knows they have a bad coworker and yet do nothing, it’s time to go.

  10. @kamira so sorry that you had to resign. We hope you are in a better work environment now.

  11. This is definitely what I need to read right now! Haha. Thanks for sharing such a great advice.

    This post may come in handy another time lol

  12. @angcoma At some point or other, we all have to deal with a difficult co-worker. Now, you have the tools to help you deal with that situation in the future.

Leave a Reply