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How to Effectively Handle A Difficult Co-Worker

Updated on August 25, 2012
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Annemarie is a community relations assistant and a licensed real estate broker. She is a married mother of two and lives in Florida.

Some People are Just Crazy

Open up a can of whoop ass
Open up a can of whoop ass

There are many types of personalities in modern workplace, but none quite as memorable as the "difficult co-worker". You know the type I'm talking about. They come in many different forms: bossy, negative, passive-agressive, sneaky, condescending, manipulative, power-hungry, egotistical, demanding, moody, etc... you get the picture. But, the question is, "How do I deal with a difficult co-worker?" I am going to break it down by type, and give you some examples and suggestions to help you effectively get through your work day, hopefully with as little reaction as possible.

Difficult Personality Types in the Workplace

Here are a few difficult personality types you may already have encountered:

  • Micro-Manager (aka the control freak)

The micro manager is a control freak in disguise.  This person scrutinizes every move you make, and rather than doing their own work, they will criticize yours and watch you under a magnifying glass.   

  • Sneaky (aka the spy)

The sneaky co-worker will be watching your every move and looking for faults to report back to management.  This is to feel more important.

  • Power Hungry (aka corporate climber)

The power hungry co-worker is looking to get ahead, no  matter what the cost may be to others.  It is all about moving up.  This person will step on anyone who gets in the way, including you.

  • Condescending (aka better-than-you)

This person talks down to you, and tries to make you feel stupid or inferior.  This comes from their own insecurity.  By talking down to you, they feel superior. 

  • Negative (aka been there, done that)

This is the co-worker that has been with the company for many years or has many years of experience in the industry, and has tried everything, but nothing worked.  You come with a fresh perspective and they will be sure to let you know it has already been tried and will not work.

  • Bossy (aka my way or the highway)

Another control freak.  This person has to be in control, and even if they are not your boss, they feel the need to be a step ahead of you, and feel inferior if you know more, or are more capable than them.

  • Manipulative (aka lying, lazy)

This is the co-worker that cannot perform their job well, and usually it is due to poor decisions or laziness.  They will not accept responsibility for their poor performance; there is always an excuse or someone else to blame.  They can smile and lie there way through poor job performance by manipulating you into believing their lies. 

How to Handle Tough Situations

The most effective way to get what you want is by being assertive. If you want something, you must ask.

When faced with a difficult personality, assess who you are dealing with. First listen, then decide on your reaction. If you initially react the way you feel, it may not end well. Remember that you are responsible for your feelings, not the other person. Your feelings are a culmination of your life's experiences, and your environment. If you find yourself getting angry, take a deep breath, and do not blame the other person for your feelings. Own them.


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    • nina64 profile image

      Nina L James 

      6 years ago from chicago, Illinois

      It's funny that you mention so many different personality types in the workplace. Believe me, in all my years of working, I have encountered all of them. If at all possible, I try to avoid being around these types of people. They are so nerve wrecking. For me, I stay to myself a lot just to prevent confusion. I don't know if that is a good or bad way to be. That is just my way of staying out of trouble. Great hub. Voted up.


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