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How to Deal with Difficult Co-workers

by Roveen Anyango
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We all often dream of getting along well with all of our co-workers. Unfortunately, not everyone we work with will be someone that we can get along with.

While you can have all the important communication skills and conflict resolution skills, that would often not be enough to deal with a co-worker seemingly hell-bent on making your life difficult.

So, how do you handle problems with difficult co-workers?

Learn to make yourself heard

There is no dignity in being a doormat. If a difficult co-worker gets the impression that you are too soft, they will take complete advantage of you.

So, learn to stand up for yourself and ensure that they understand your perspective. So, for example, rather than say, ‘You always say negative things’, say ‘I feel like you say negative things towards me. I don’t like that and would wish for you to stop.’

Listen to their perspective

This might be harder than it is, but the best way to try and deal with a difficult co-worker is to try and get why they act the way they do.

Try to understand their background, their experiences, anything that could explain their behaviour. This does not excuse what they do to you, but it could help you understand the way they see things the way they do and maybe not hold a grudge against them.

Limit your interactions

If the co-worker is not someone who is a major part of your everyday work environment, then consider limiting your interactions with them. This could mean not meeting them or people around them during lunch or breaks. If you cannot avoid them during meetings, then consider sitting away from them as much as possible.

Just incase they are part of a team you are working with, then you can speak with your supervisor to see whether you can be moved to a different team. If not possible, limit interactions with them if it’s not work-related.

Reflect on your actions

Remember to consider whether you may have triggered them in any way. Sometimes, we might get caught in a feedback loop where they react negatively to you because of something you did or they do not like. To break this loop, reflect on your actions and respond with kindness next time.

Difficult co-workers can make work a living hell, but when you know how to deal with them, it shouldn’t bother you that much.

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