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Tips for How to Get Along with Difficult Coworkers

Holly Hicks,

Tips for How to Get Along with Difficult Coworkers

Difficult people exist in every walk of life from neighbors to co-workers. It’s hard to remain calm when they are so unprofessional and out of control.  They are the bane of every workplace because they cause bullying, harassment, violence, and stress. There are ways of dealing with them but you do have to make an effort. You can deal with them by doing some of the following tips below so you don’t end up being a victim.

A challenging co-worker is generally obnoxious on a daily bases; however, they become a pain after a while. Their unprofessional behavior can and will make you look as unprofessional as they are. Dealing with them takes patience and a lot of will power, since it’s normal to be defensive when attacked by a co-worker.

You can identify a problem worker by their ability to not listen and talk over you in most situations.  Some have to have the last word while others are always right, no matter if they are wrong. They will interfere with your work and instigate rumors or they are just a nasty competitor who wants to make you look bad.  Unscrupulous co-workers include bosses, management members, and the person sitting next to you. They can be anyone in the company where you work.

1.      Be Prepared for Conflict

The first thing you have to do is assess the situation. If you know they are difficult workers, then you just have to take a deep breath and think about your defense.  You aren’t the only one who has been attacked by them. Try to figure out why they are pin pointing you on the situation. Nando Pelusi, Ph.D., who writes for Psychology Today, suggests making a plan of your own before jumping in blind on your defense.

2.      Don’t Let It Sit and Boil

You can’t live with any bad situation long term, so you have to deal with it short term until they understand you’re not going to be easy to “get one over on.” Take action right away to save your reputation and not let them win. If you put off dealing with the problem it becomes harder to deal with and they will have more emotional control over you. That means you’ll end up losing your temper and your judgment will be affected.

3.      Don’t Deal With Them One on One

Keep the whole state of affairs private. Don’t spread around the problem (rumors) or lose control of your temper in an open confrontation.  If you need to take it up with them, be sure you have another person to back you up. If you deal with it by yourself, it becomes your word against theirs.

4.      Make the First Move

Always make the first move. They just want to be right and cause trouble. Some people are just like that. By moving on them first, you upset their “plan of action” and they do have a plan. It may be to make you look unprofessional or in the wrong, but whatever they want to do they already have it planned. Start out with something like, “I’m sorry we don’t see eye to eye…” This put them on the defensive and they end up losing most of the game plan.

Calvin Sun, an attorney who writes for Tech Republic on legal issues in the workplace, agrees with taking a defensive stance when dealing with difficult co-workers. He suggest, if you can, getting everything in writing and to not take it personal. However, it’s hard not to when someone “gets in your face”.  Also, he explains how using “I” instead of “you” leads to a more positive reaction instead of an accusation. For example, “You said that…” is accusing them of something while “I understood that it was…” is more positive and gives them less chance of taking offense.

Unless you are the boss, there’s not much you can do about difficult co-worker but deal with it. They will make their own way out the front door as more people complain about them or they shoot themselves in the foot.

Image courtesy of Ambro /

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