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How to Deal With a Difficult Co-Worker or Colleague

Updated on October 25, 2015


Communicate by Starfotograf Communicate by Starfotograf DESCRIPTION Businesswoman is talking on the phone and her colleagues are standing in the back
Communicate by Starfotograf Communicate by Starfotograf DESCRIPTION Businesswoman is talking on the phone and her colleagues are standing in the back | Source

Dealing with Difficult Co-workers or Colleagues

You choose your friends. Your employer chooses your co-workers or colleagues. When choosing friends, people choose people that are generally similar to themselves. However, throughout your working life you will work with people, who are very different to you. Sometimes this can lead to conflict. A difficult co-worker or colleague can puzzle you and make your work harder than it need be.

How You Relate To Others Says Much About You

The way you relate to others, especially difficult co-workers, tells your employer much about your character, skills, and talents. Creative and careful thought can help you to deal with the most difficult person. Think very carefully about the difficult person, but do nothing. Certainly, do not go running to report this person to the boss or Human Resources and do not confront him or her you will only exacerbate the situation and make the workplace atmosphere unpleasant for everyone, including you.

Are You The Problem?

You need first to consider yourself and your own behaviour. Is something about you that irritates your colleague or co-worker, making him or her difficult? For example, someone who works in a slapdash, untidy manner is irritating, and worrying to a methodical, tidy person. Your co-worker may believe that your attitude to work is slack and slapdash. Trying to be more methodical and tidy in your work will help you and convince your difficult co-worker that you care as much about your work as he or she does.

The problem may not be with your colleague at all but with you, and how you see him or her. The person may remind you of someone with whom you had problems in the past. In this case, you must separate the present from the past and look at this person without any preconceptions. You may need a professional help from a counsellor to do so.

Your own behaviour may make the person difficult. Treat everyone with respect, consideration, courtesy and dignity. Young workers particularly often treat older colleagues as though they are stupid and know nothing. Older people may not have the educational certificates and degrees that you have and you may know all the theory about the work but older people have the practical knowledge and experience of this process in this workplace, which you lack.

How To Treat The Problem

Concentrating on the similarities, rather than the differences, between you and the difficult colleague will help you both. Try to find some common ground; perhaps you share an interest or hobby.

Examine your own attitudes, do you find that workmate difficult because you disapprove of the person or how he or she lives life? Maybe your own intolerance is the root of the problem. It would be a very boring world, if we were all the same and the only person we have the right to judge is ourselves.

If the problems between you and the difficult person are affecting work, perhaps a calm, peaceful talk, with a third person present may solve matters.

Understanding why your colleague is so difficult helps

In many cases, one is unaware of workmates’ private sorrows, strains and difficulties. One should not bring one’s private life to work, however this is easy to say and hard to do. Difficulties and problems in a person’s private life can affect their character and behaviour. Lack of sleep because you have been up all night with a chronically sick child, or a relative suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, is enough to drive anyone cranky. Try to discover discreetly, without gossiping, whether your workmate has such a sadness or difficulty in their private life. Understanding the reason for someone’s strange behaviour makes it more bearable.

Why Dealing With Difficult People Successfully Helps Your Career

You will have to deal with difficult co-workers and colleagues throughout your working life. Your skill, tact and artistry, in doing so, demonstrate your professional qualities. Inter-personal skills are extremely important for career advancement and success.


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    Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    People can be difficult and a difficult co-worker to cope with can be frustrating. I once had issues with a difficult co-worker I just ignored her. Your tips are valuable and more meaningful.