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How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

Dealing with Difficult Co-WorkersThere will always be coworkers that grate your nerves, drop the ball or assume the role of your office’s ‘Instigating Ingrid’. Sometimes it seems like the key to professional success is not dedication or hard work, but learning how to deal with those difficult coworkers with a smile on your face!

Maybe you have an older coworker who is only trying to look out for you by constantly sending you job postings for positions she thinks would be a better fit, like a pet wash franchise operator, (okay, maybe that one was just me), or the ghostly, deadline-missing coworker who no one is even sure actually works there. No matter what, you can be sure to meet with your share of trying individuals.

Here are some words of wisdom for when it comes to preventing difficult coworkers from raining on your parade:

1. Focus on Self-Control

It’s impossible to control another person’s attitude or actions. So don’t focus on what’s “wrong” with your coworker or how they should change. Instead, focus on what you can control: your attitude, your words, your actions and your job performance. The only person you can control is yourself.

2. Keep Your Cool

Part of maintaining self-control is learning how to keep your temper in check. Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of a conflict to learn anger management skills or techniques to de-stress. The time is now! Stock up on words of wisdom and make a habit of practicing a few stress relief tactics.

3. Avoid Gossip

If you have a problem with another employee, keep it between the two of you. It’s tempting to share your complaints with others, or to let other coworkers complain to you at the proverbial water cooler. However, gossip doesn’t resolve conflict: gossip escalates conflict.

4. Evaluate the Situation

A difficult coworker isn’t an automatic call to action. Before doing anything else, evaluate whether your action is truly needed. Can you resolve the situation by modifying your own habits to minimize your interactions with that coworker? Is it a problem you can solve through frank discussion? Is it none of your business? Saving yourself unnecessary hassle is a habit you should incorporate into all areas of your life!

5. Remember the Basics

If you find you must address these problems with your coworker, stick to the basics:

• Avoid always/never statements; limit your conversation to your specific, current complaint.
• Avoid putting your coworker on the defensive. Use “I” instead of “you” statements.
• Allow for the possibility that you may have misinterpreted the situation, or that you may not have had all the information. Acknowledge that you could be part of the problem.

6. Keep Conversations Face-to-Face

Don’t hide behind email. Not only can it appear cowardly, but it is far too easy to misinterpret words on a page—as anyone who has ever sent a text message will know.

7. Try to Keep Things Positive

It’s probable that you’ll continue to work with the person who’s currently driving you crazy. To stay sane, do your best to stay positive. Look for your coworker’s positive attributes. Not only will this practice keep you out of a negative spiral, it can help you heal or preserve professional relationships.

8.  Know When to Call in for Backup

Going to a supervisor or superior should be a last resort. If you’ve determined that a situation can’t be ignored, make sure you speak directly to the problematic coworker before going to the boss. When you do seek help, do your best to be calm and prepared. Keep to the point at hand, leave your emotions at the door and be prepared to account for your own behavior. Bottom line: you have the most influence over your job happiness and career success. If a coworker is continually raining on your parade—bring an umbrella!

Do you have any hot tips for dealing with hot heads in the office? Share your strategies with us in the comments below!

Author Description

Kate Wilson

For some reason no one will pay Kate to read classic literature all day, so instead she writes for career development organizations and espouses motivational mantras to all within speaking or writing distance. She can be found lackadaisically tweeting in spurts and bursts @kateowilson.

  • Ashley Thompson
    Great tips Kate. I would add: 9. Breathe – All too often we get so bent out of shape we forget to breathe. Holding our breath is the bottleneck of anger and frustration like Mt Olympus getting ready to explode 10. Don take things personal – This one is never easy but oh so necessary. When we take things personally from people we work with, we internalize their issues and make them our own. Ashley
    http://dreamjobx.com/cover-letter
  • Samantha Stauf
    A lot of difficulties that I’ve had with co-workers tend to stem from personality differences. It helped me to remind myself, even though our personalities might clash, the other individual is a good co-worker and pulls their weight.


Move LifeStyle is an e-zine for the modern working woman created by Autumn Reeser, Jenn Wong and Ashley Fauset.

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