Ways to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

Ways to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

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Why You Must Deal With Difficult Coworkers

Knowing how to deal with a difficult coworker is an important life and career skill.  You might count some of your colleagues as friends, but you probably also have a few you would consider "difficult." Learning how to manage conflicts can help you maintain a healthier and happier work environment. As you learn to accept or confront their 

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Why You Must Deal With Difficult Coworkers

behaviors, you can begin to focus on yourself and those you enjoy more.

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5 Common Types of Difficult Coworkers

The Negative Coworker This one always has something negative to say, no matter what. True, it can be helpful to have a critical thinker on the team who plays devil’s advocate, but far too often this person is quick to criticize without offering up solutions. A negative coworker tends to focus on—you guessed it—the negative instead of working 

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5 Common Types of Difficult Coworkers

towards solutions. If you hear someone constantly bringing everyone down by saying, “I know the prospective client isn’t going to sign with us,” or “We’re definitely going to lose that client,” you know you’re working with a negative coworker. How to Deal When this person raises problems (and you know they 

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5 Common Types of Difficult Coworkers

will), ask them for more details. Why won’t the client sign?What’s going on there? Press them to fully describe the problem and ask them to provide a solution. They may raise some valid points, so never ignore what they have to say or write them off.

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5 Common Types of Difficult Coworkers

The Overly-Competitive Coworker Do you remember the person in class who would repeatedly ask for your notes, yet not return the favor if you asked them for help? This is the grown-up version of that person. Someone who is overly competitive may try to sabotage other people and throw them under the bus.

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5 Common Types of Difficult Coworkers

They  will climb over others if it helps them get to the top, and they may even try to take credit for your work. Having a competitive coworker can be an advantage if they're competitive in the right way for their industry such as in law, PR, or sales. Healthy competition in the workplace can even encourage people to work harder. However, it’s a 

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5 Common Types of Difficult Coworkers

problem if the person is overly competitive with other people at work and doesn’t ever offer to help. A company is a team, and everyone should work together to contribute to the success of the organization…but that doesn’t always happen. How to Deal Competitive coworkers may be insecure, leading them to feel threatened by your success. 

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5 Common Types of Difficult Coworkers

Try to show this person that you want to work with them, not against them. Collaborate with them, but make sure to leave a paper, or carbon copy, trail indicating that you worked on projects. You don’t want them to take the credit for your ideas or killer presentation. In the meantime, focus on yourself and doing the best job you can do in the workplace.

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5 Common Types of Difficult Coworkers

The Gossip When people spend time together at work, there is bound to be a grapevine with “the office gossip” at the forefront of it. They want to know everything that’s happening and may divulge information you share with them in confidence to others. This person always wants to be "in the know" and likes to have 

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5 Common Types of Difficult Coworkers

a juicy story to share. They may ask you questions under the auspices of being considerate or thoughtful, but deep down they may want to use your answers to undermine you. How to Deal Don’t feed into this person’s questions. They may ask who you dislike at work in a roundabout way like, “So what do you really think of Susan’s presentation?”

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5 Common Types of Difficult Coworkers

If this person tries to engage you in gossip about yourself, your manager, or other coworkers, politely leave the conversation. Tell them you’d rather not talk about it or pretend you don’t have any opinions on the subject. Don’t get sucked into the gossip. There is a good chance that this person will share what you said with other people,

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5 Common Types of Difficult Coworkers

and that can have major ramifications.

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5 Common Types of Difficult Coworkers

The Bully Have you ever been the recipient of a mean work email that either made you want to cry, quit, or a combination of both? You may be dealing with an office bully. Unfortunately, bullying doesn’t end after middle school or high school—bullies can be found in the workplace too. This type of 

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5 Common Types of Difficult Coworkers

person is downright nasty. They pick on people, blame others, or tattle when it isn’t necessary to do so. They may be unable to handle confrontational conversations without acting mean and saying something inappropriate. How to Deal Personally, I think that the best way to deal with a workplace bully is to try to ignore them 

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5 Common Types of Difficult Coworkers

altogether. If possible, don’t engage with them. If you have to engage with them, hold onto the mean emails you get and note the times when their behavior was truly inappropriate. You may have to schedule a time to speak to HR about the situation. However, keep in mind that if the bully finds out it was you who brought them up, there

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5 Common Types of Difficult Coworkers

is a chance that they may retaliate. If your workplace has multiple bullies (or you have to work with them frequently), you may even want to start looking for another job. Dealing with a bully can be psychologically damaging, and being miserable each day may negatively affect your work.

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5 Common Types of Difficult Coworkers

The Work Shirker If you’ve ever worked on a group project at school, you know that there is usually someone who pushes off work and tries to get the rest of the team to carry their weight. Unfortunately, this behavior still occurs in the workplace.  Someone who pushes off work may ask you to help them or finish their projects, leave 

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5 Common Types of Difficult Coworkers

before something is finished, or try to get out of the assignment altogether.  Coworkers who truly need help should be helped—you’re working as part of a team, after all!—but if this person continually tries to get you to “help,” AKA “do all of their work,” it might be time to push back.

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5 Common Types of Difficult Coworkers

How to Deal Speak to them one-on-one and explain the parts of the project you are working on. Show that you need to finish your sections before you can help with another part. At the end of the day, you are responsible for getting your work done. It can be problematic for both you—as well as the project overall—if 

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5 Common Types of Difficult Coworkers

you can’t finish because you are busy assisting with someone else’s workload.

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

1. Understand Their Personality Start by understanding who you're dealing with. What makes the other person tick? What motivates them? How do they respond to feedback in general? 2. Determine Their Preferred Communication Style We all have a communication style (and leadership style) we prefer. If you keep trying to confront someone who hates 

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

in-person confrontation, you aren't going to get very far. Use this communication guide with your team and try to approach any conversations with your difficult coworker in their preferred style. 3. Control Your Tone of Voice Can we make a suggestion? Pay attention to your tone of voice during your interactions. Are you defensive? Does 

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

your body language show your true emotions? One way to "turn down the heat" of a situation is to make sure your tone is one of curiosity, not anger. 4. Consider Their Perspective—First You already know your perspective and you're ready to defend it; however, a productive start to any discussion is 

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

trying to understand the perspective of the other person—first. You're going to have to step outside your own comfort zone, ask questions, and listen to the other person before you start to form your own opinion. 5. Timing Matters Consider the timing and location before you engage in a dialogue with the difficult person. In the public hallway 

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

at work right after a heated meeting, for example, is probably not going to produce the best outcome. Consider setting up a private time to meet. If you strategically pick and choose your tough conversations, you will increase your chances of a better outcome when addressing colleagues who don't deal with disagreements in the most rational ways.

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

6. Examine Your Own Behavior Take a step back and consider the role you're playing in the relationship. Be honest with yourself and examine your own behaviors, tone, body language, etc. 7. Share Your Experience With a Trusted Ally or Mentor It can be helpful to get some feedback on a situation from a trusted mentor or ally before 

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

you engage in what might be a tough conversation. Not only can you get some clarity on what your next step should be, but they might be able to offer you critical feedback on your own actions or biases. 8. Schedule a Private Conversation We mentioned timing earlier, but it's worth repeating. Most people do not appreciate (or 

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

respond in a productive way) to being publicly shamed, embarrassed, or confronted. You’re way better off waiting for an opportunity when this individual is not being “difficult” and communicating in a non-confrontational way. You want to understand their perspective while sharing your own as an alternative so you two can reach a mutual conclusion.

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

9. Practice Empathy Empathy is an essential workplace "soft skill" for a reason—it helps you create more successful outcomes for yourself. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes and consider their side.  10. Come from a Place of Curiosity In addition to the last tip about 

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

empathy, practice coming from a place of curiosity—not defensiveness. Listening is one of the most important skills at work, yet very few of us are actually good at it. 11. Name the Specific Issue—And Address It Quickly One way to address conflict productively is by being as specific as possible about what the issue is. When you're too 

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

vague or try to include too many issues into one conversation, it all gets lost and confusing. You'll be more successful if you can point to a specific issue, provide an example (visuals help!), and address it within 24 hours of it happening. When you bring up something that is still bothering you six months later, there's a high chance that nothing will get resolved.

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

12. Know Your Own Trigger Points A lot of dealing with difficult people also comes down to knowing yourself. What's your personality type and, especially, what are your triggers? Did this person respond to you in a way that triggers some strong emotions? What might seem at first to be their fault, really turns out to be a much bigger emotion that you are working 

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

to better manage. It doesn't mean you can't bring up these trigger points to the other person and ask them to help you by editing their responses, it just means that in your conversation you're taking responsibility for your own emotions. 13. If Needed, Limit Your Interactions If you have brought up 

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

your trigger points and made some specific asks of the person that are repeatedly ignored, then it might be best for you to find ways to limit your interactions. If you can't eliminate your interactions altogether, can you find alternatives that help you? 14. Treat the Difficult Person With Compassion Believe it or not, you will go 

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

much further in your life—and in dealing with this difficult person—if you treat them with compassion, kindness, and respect. You can try practicing some self-compassion at the same time. 15. Set Boundaries + Enforce Them Many of us confuse boundaries with something mean or something only a mean boss 

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

would do. Boundaries are good for you and the people you work with. They let everyone know what they can expect from you and what you expect in return. When you set clear boundaries and enforce them consistently, it can help mitigate difficult work situations in general. 16. Be Accountable for Dealing With the Difficult Coworker

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

If you plan on addressing an issue with a coworker, then make sure you follow through on it. Stay accountable for dealing with conflict and finding productive ways to engage in conflict resolutions. Ignoring or pretending you are fine when things most definitely are not okay only leads to bigger emotions piling up and resentment brewing.

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

17. Evaluate + Control Your Actions Do an honest self-evaluation and consider what role your actions play in this coworker relationship. Could your communication skills be better? Are there circumstances that they don't have control over and you're blaming them? Does your lack of time management make you miss their deadlines which are 

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

leading them to lots of last-minute work? You can't control the environment or the other person's actions, but you can control your own actions. 18. Voice Your Thoughts in a Productive Way Part of learning how to be better at conflict resolution is also learning how to voice your own thoughts. When sharing 

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

how the difficult colleague makes you feel, use "I" language so they better understand your perspective. Using "you" language may make it difficult for them to accept responsibility for their actions. Here's an example of "I" versus "you" language: "I feel upset when you talk over me." vs. "You always interrupt me."

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

19. If Needed, Track Specific Interactions What happens if you're dealing with a difficult boss or a person who has influence over your career? Our best advice is to keep a paper trail and track specific interactions. You'll go further in your conversations if you can point to specific times when the boss interrupted the flow of work

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

or played favorites among team members. This is also a good idea for any person you're consistently butting heads with. 20. Treat Your Conversation Like a Collaboration While your coworker's behavior may feel anything but collaborative, you two can likely come to a mutually beneficial outcome. Start by getting a better understanding of 

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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

where they are coming from with the specific issue you two are in disagreement on. Next, learn what they would like to have you do.

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