7 Ways to Deal With a Difficult Co-Worker

When you’re trying to do a good job at work, it’s easy to get derailed by a co-worker who’s causing problems. The fact that you have to work with this person can add stress and make your job more difficult. If they’re creating a bad work environment, learning how to deal with them will help you cope and even thrive.

1: Don’t Take It Personally

The first step to dealing with a difficult co-worker is to not take it personally. You may think that the reason they are so difficult has something to do with you, but the truth is that it’s most likely unrelated and there are several other reasons why your colleague could be acting out.

The second step is to stay calm and keep a cool head when dealing with this person. It can be very hard to do this if your co-worker has an aggressive personality but keeping a level head is not only a good idea, it’s a more professional option too. 

2: Find Out Whether It’s You or Them

When dealing with a difficult co-worker, it’s important to understand what’s going on with them. Before you can solve the problem, you need to identify it.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I being a good colleague?
  • Am I being a good coworker?
  • Am I being a good manager?
  • Am I being a good leader?

If you’ve been slacking off or not being a team player, perhaps your co-worker’s reactions is justified. 

3: Communicate With Your Colleague in a Safe Space

If you’re dealing with a difficult co-worker, it can be tempting to just avoid them altogether, however, this strategy is not always effective. Your colleague may still find ways to get under your skin or make life difficult for you. If your relationship with this person has become intolerable and needs to be resolved, then you have no choice but to speak up and talk about the problem.

When confronting a difficult co-worker, it’s important that both parties stick to the facts of the situation without getting emotional or defensive. You’ll want to communicate in a calm and collected manner so that others around you don’t feel like they’re being forced into taking sides between two colleagues who are feuding over something petty like whose turn it is to buy the office snacks.

4: Set Boundaries and Communicate Them Clearly

One of the most important steps to dealing with a difficult co-worker is setting boundaries. You must set them early, and you must communicate them clearly.

An assertive boundary is one that allows you to clearly express what is and isn’t okay for you as an employee. Assertive language consists of words like “I want…” or “I need…”—it gives the other person an opportunity to respond in an appropriate way because they understand your desires and needs, rather than simply reacting to what they perceive as a demand or expectation from you.

5: Don’t Spread Gossip About Your Co-Worker

If you’re struggling with a difficult co-worker, keep the problem to yourself. Don’t spread gossip about your co-worker to other employees or customers. This will only make matters worse and is unprofessional. If you feel like you can’t work through the issues, you should have an open conversation with your manager to express your concerns and out a plan of action in place.

6: Sometimes you have to work with people you don’t like.

You can’t always get away from difficult co-workers, but you don’t have to let them make your job harder. Sometimes you have to work with people you don’t like and how you respond to them can be a game-changer in your day-to-day dealings. 

Accepting that you and this person aren’t on the same page but staying focused on doing your job to the best of your ability should be a key priority. 

Unfortunately, you’re not going to get along with everyone and accepting this can be half the solution.

7: Ask for help from your boss or a mentor.

If you find yourself struggling to deal with a difficult co-worker, consider asking your boss or a mentor for help. If you’re lucky, they may have already been in your shoes and will be able to provide guidance on how they dealt with it.

It’s worth remembering that this is just one person in your life, and you don’t have to let them affect every moment of your day. If they’re making work harder than it needs to be, find ways around them or ways to minimise their impact on your peace of mind. You can also try talking with them directly about the problem if not much else has worked. Finally, remember that sometimes people are hard to deal with because they’re struggling with something in their lives—maybe even something related directly to work! So if all else fails, take some time for yourself and focus on self-care instead- because who doesn’t want more of that?

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