Almost everyone will encounter a difficult co-worker at some point in their career. They exist throughout the organization, up and down the ranks, in any type of position. They could be the loud mouth co-worker that is constantly yelling into the phone, the lazy employee that never pulls their weight, the negative co-worker that hates everyone and everything, or the boss that micromanages even the smallest project. Either way, their actions impact your professional life and leave you feeling frustrated and unhappy. Don’t let the difficult people in your office ruin your day, or worse, impact your potential for growth in your company. Here are a few things that you can do to deal with the difficult co-workers in your life.
The first step is to identify the problem and determine if it is worthwhile to confront the difficult co-worker about their behavior, create and action plan to deal with their behavior, or just ignore and avoid them. In most cases, if the situation is impacting your ability to complete your job and ruining any chances of you moving up in the company than they should be confronted. If the person is annoying but not really impacting your job than it is probably better to create an action plan or avoid them all together.
If you feel that you need to confront your co-worker, set up some time to speak with them privately. You don’t want to confront anyone in front of a group of people because this will automatically make them defensive and may make you appear unprofessional. Once you have found a private place, talk to them about the problem. In some circumstances, the person may not even be aware that there is a problem. For instance, the co-worker that speaks too loud on the phone may not even realize that you can hear them. That may be their natural tone or just didn’t realize their volume level. Since the co-worker may not have been intentionally trying to annoy you make sure to explain the situation to them in a gentle calm tone. Focus on “I” and about how the situation is impacting you and your ability to get your work done. Once the issue has been discussed and both parties have voiced their point of view, work together to determine a mutually beneficial action plan. If the other person is unwilling to stop their behavior, you may need to bring the situation to your boss or HR representative for further assistance. When discussing the issue with your boss or HR representative, make sure to focus on how the co-worker’s behavior impacts your ability to complete your job. You don’t want to come off as petty or whiny and this will make them more motivated to put an end to the undesirable situation.
If the difficult co-worker’s behavior is not impacting your ability to complete your job than you may want to find some other resolutions other than confronting them. For example, if your co-worker is constantly complaining about their boss, projects, or even other co-workers, you may want to try reacting to these negative comments differently. Instead of sympathizing, respond with something positive about the person/project in question. Your positive outlook on life may begin to rub off on them or they may seek comfort in someone else that is more willing to share their negative views. If that doesn’t work, you may just want to limit the time spent with the negative co-worker.
If your co-worker is loud and opinionated and always tries to dominate conversations in a meeting, you can prepare yourself for these situations and come up with an action plan to keep everything on track. For example, you can pull together a clearly defined agenda for the meeting and review it with the group at the start of the meeting. When your co-worker starts to get off track, kindly refer back to the agenda, and ask them to off-line any additional talking points. This type of response not only keeps this opinionated co-worker in check but also makes you appear organized and in control.
Despite whether you decide to confront your co-worker or ignore their behavior or them, it is always best to maintain a professional demeanor in the work place. Don’t start trash talking this co-worker to others. Don’t be rude to them in meetings or have loud confrontations in the hallway. Don’t say mean things or pull pranks on them. This type of behavior can cause you to become labeled as a difficult co-worker and could also put your job at risk. Everyone deserves to be treated equally and with respect at work. If you are unsure of how to handle a situation, it may be best to reach out to the HR team for their guidance and support.