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How To: Deal With A Difficult Co-Worker

Updated on March 15, 2017

The Impossible Co-Worker


How to Deal With THAT Co-Worker

Everyone has a co-worker that is difficult to get along with for one reason or another. You know the one – he or she is always right. Always knows everything better than everyone else. Always thinks that his or her way is the not only the best way, but the only way. The one, that if you said the sky was a pretty blue today, he or she would have to argue with you and say that it wasn’t quite the perfect blue, it was more of an off gray. That difficult co-worker.

There are several ways to deal with the difficult co-worker. Some will get you further ahead in your company – some could get you fired! Here are some ideas :

Ignore the Co-Worker

This will change nothing. Life will continue as it has. You will continue to be bullied by your co-worker because your co-worker will assume you are okay with it. Or too weak to do anything about it. This is the least best way to deal with a difficult co-worker. This way will allow your co-worker to continue to walk all over you and just assume that they can get away with it. Things may even get worse instead of better.

Try to Talk Calmly With The Co-Worker

This can sometimes work. Sometimes the co-worker really is just trying to be helpful. They just don’t know when to stop. Speaking to him or her will help remind them that you are willing and able to do your job and that you really do not need any help in doing it. Let them know that you don’t appreciate the way that you have been treated, and maybe share ways that you would like to be treated. But, truly, if this works, you do not have a difficult co-worker – just an overeager one.

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Talk to Your Supervisor

Let your supervisor know your concerns. It is possible that your supervisor doesn’t see the same problems you do – or doesn’t see them from your perspective. It is important that your supervisor knows the pain this co-worker is causing you. Your supervisor might just see that the work is getting done and doesn’t see the bullying that is being done along with the work. Or the supervisor may see the co-worker as someone in a leadership position and doesn’t see that he or she is being adversarial while doing that work. Your supervisor needs to know how you feel about this person. But be careful! Be as kind as you can when you complain! You don’t want to become the problem!

Don't Whine About It


Have a Meeting With the Co-Worker and the Supervisor

You might have to work with both the co-worker and the supervisor, especially if the supervisor is getting differing stories from you and your co-worker. Having a face-to-face meeting will air out all the issues and force the co-worker to confront them more honestly. Notice that I didn’t just say “honestly.” Meeting with the supervisor doesn’t guarantee that your co-worker will be honest – but may help him or her to be more honest. Just stick to your guns and keep telling your side of the story. Sooner or later the lies will come unwound.

Listen to My Advice!


Write the Co-Worker a Letter

If you have a fear of any confrontation at all – as I do – maybe your solution is to sit down and write an honest letter. Lay out all of your concerns on paper. Be honest, but be fair – remember by writing it all down your co-worker now has proof of what you have said. If you are honest and try to be helpful with your words and not try to be rude and degrading just to get back at this person, you are less likely to be in any trouble if your co-worker shares your letter with your supervisor. I guess the bottom line here is, if you don’t want your supervisor to see it – don’t write it!

Make a Phone Call

If you can’t handle face-to-face confrontation – make a phone call. Call your co-worker and explain to them how they are making you feel. Be nice. Don’t be hurtful, even if the opportunity arises. You don’t want to turn into that difficult co-worker. Just explain your point of view and how you want things to change. Explain that you know how to do your job and really don’t need their help in doing it. Let them know that if you DO need their help, you will surely ask them. Small gestures can soothe the ego.

Talk to Other Co-workers About Your Difficult Co-Worker

Talk to others in your company about your difficult co-worker. They may be seeing the same thing. See how they handle this person. They may have ideas that you haven’t thought of or tried yet. They could be just as frustrated as you, but know how to deal with that difficult co-worker. Even if they don’t have an answer, sometimes it just helps to talk to another person going through the same thing.

Transfer Positions

If it is possible, transfer positions in your company to get away from your difficult co-worker. Be careful – this is a permanent move. Make sure this is a move you want to take. You might just put yourself in a position where you are working with an even more difficult co-worker and an even less sympathetic supervisor. And sometimes, this isn’t even possible, especially if the company or department you work in is too small. But for some, this is a very distinct possibility.

Have It Out

Depending on how secure you are at your job, you might just be able to have it out with that difficult co-worker. Just tell them up front how you feel and what they are doing to make you uncomfortable at your job. This is different than just having a meeting with him or her – this might happen after you have tried that meeting. This time you might have to be a little more in your face about your issues and less friendly. I would only use this if you are very secure in your job or if you are ready to make a change in jobs, because it could backfire and you could lose your job over it.

Find a New Job

This is the most dramatic fix to the problem – but for some it may be the only solution. It also might happen against your will if you have had a confrontation with your difficult co-worker. Again, you must be very careful making this decision – it is a permanent fix. Make sure you are willing to give up everything at your current job – all of your benefits, friendly co-workers, anything positive – just because of one difficult co-worker. If the co-worker is that much of a pain, it may truly be worth it – but make sure you weigh all the pros and cons before you make this decision.


Everyone in every job has to deal with difficult co-workers at least once. These solutions may work for some of you dealing with this problem and may not help others. Maybe these ideas will sprout other ideas for you. Just remember – you have to work to pay the bills. You DON’T have to be unhappy while you work – especially because of a difficult co-worker.


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    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 2 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      EBonny...thanks for reading! And thanks for the link!

    • Ebonny profile image

      Ebonny 2 years ago from UK

      This is an interesting read and you're so right about not having to be unhappy at work. Will link to one of my new hubs about silent treatment in the workplace. Thanks for sharing.

    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 2 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      letsabouteduc - thanks for reading! I'm sorry you had to walk away from your job. Unfortunately, too many times that is the only solution.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile image

      McKenna Meyers 2 years ago from Bend, OR

      I had a difficult co-worker and handled everything by the book -- calmly, step-by-step in a professional manner. When I talked to her supervisor, the supervisor said she had received many other complaints about this woman. In fact, she knew exactly who I meant before I even mentioned her name. However, nothing changed and I resigned. It was causing me too much stress so I walked away. I miss my job, but my health has improved immensely.

    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 3 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      Genna...thanks for reading! Glad you like my suggestions!

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      I think we have all had, at one time or another, that difficult co-worker. I am so pleased that I am now self-employed. Your suggestions are excellent. :-)

    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 3 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      Blossom....thanks for reading! I think we've ask had our fair share of difficult co-workers!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Thank you for the interesting and helpful tips. Over my working life I had some difficult co-workers and no doubt some of them thought I was difficult. It's great being retired.

    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 3 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      Always exploring...thanks for reading! Some days I wish I were retired, as well!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Your tips are useful. I've had my share of difficult co-workers. Thank goodness I'm retired. Great topic..

    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 3 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      Frank...thanks for reading! I can't imagine that you'd be a difficult co-worker...but if you were hopefully my tips will help those you work with!! Lol

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      I have a difficult co-worker.... oh no wait.. Im the difficult co-worker..LOL joking aside great tips for whomever has a difficult co worker

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It's good to see you writing once again, LaDena. Welcome back. Great topic and tips. I'm happy to report I work by myself, but I've had some run-ins from time to time when in the workplace many years ago, and your suggestions would have helped back then.


    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 3 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      LadyFiddler - thanks for reading! You are right! I should have added that one - put your foot down at the beginning!

    • LadyFiddler profile image

      Joanna Chandler 3 years ago from On planet Earth

      Yeah we all do run into them once in a while sad isn't it? YES INDEED!! Sometimes a transfer don't always help you may just end up off the beaten track and run into a next psycho LOL.

      I think the best way to deal with this is in the early stage put down your foot and let them know what timing it is. Let them know that anyone ought to tell you how to do your own work is the Supervisor or Manager if they have a problem with it.

      You go with your Job description and getting things done on time.

      ~~~ Thanks for sharing ~~~