Dealing With Difficult Coworkers

5 Proven Strategies For Dealing With Difficult Coworkers

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By Susan Nudelman

At one point or another, everyone will need tips for dealing with difficult coworkers. It is key to develop your conflict resolution skills so that you can effectively get along with this person. You may want to have a harmonious work environment but some difficult coworkers have other plans.

As you gain guidance on how best to navigate around their behaviors, you will be able to focus more on getting your own work done.

difficult coworkers

Are you doubting that your own behavior is causing this issue? Well, Let’s find out in this post.

Below are five proven strategies for dealing with difficult coworkers

Dealing with difficult people at work can be stressful and draining. With that being said, it is definitely possible to have positive relationships with difficult coworkers.

The tips we are about to go over will have you sigh a breath of relief the next time you encounter yourself dealing with a challenging situation.

1. Learn how to communicate

If you are dealing with a difficult coworker who is passive-aggressive with you, it may be time to confront the situation. Your communication skills become very useful in this case.

When you do decide it is time to speak with your coworker, make sure you use “I” language instead of “you” language so they better understand your perspective.

When you use “you” language, it makes it hard for the other person to take responsibility for their actions.

Here are some examples of how you can switch up your language when dealing with a difficult coworker:

  • “I feel upset when you speak to me that way.” vs. “You are always say the wrong things.”
  • “I feel that your behavior is making it hard for me to focus.” vs. “You are acting irritating.”
  • “I feel unheard, do you have time to talk?” vs. “Why don’t you ever listen to me?”
  • “I feel like you don’t understand me and it’s making me upset” vs. “You just don’t understand me!”

When providing feedback, here are some additional tips for an effective conversation:

  • Shoot for comfortable eye contact.
  • Keep an open mind.
  • Watch out for non-verbal signals so you know how the other person is feeling.
  • Don’t just describe your feelings.  Make a request for what you would like to see happen next and come up with a plan of action.
  • Focus on the behavior that is bothering you.  Don’t make it about the person.

If you want to get rid of a toxic work environment, you’ll need to deal with difficult coworkers by communicating this way. You can also follow this method If you are dealing with a motormouth coworker.

2. Have Boundaries When Dealing With Difficult People At Work

dealing with difficult coworkers

Assertive people take responsibility for their actions.  When they have an incident where those boundaries are crossed by a coworker, they don’t take responsibility for that person’s actions.  They have limits in place and will not stand for people taking advantage of them.

This person knows to use the “I” vs. “you” statements we cover above.  Furthermore, difficult coworkers become quickly aware that they can’t push an assertive person to go along with what they want.  Known, clear boundaries will dissipate the potential for conflict to appear.

3. Learn empathy

dealing with difficult coworkers

When dealing with a difficult colleague or coworker, it is easy to just become defensive.  Don’t just directly complain about them to the human resources department, see what they want you to do and understand where they are coming from

What do they need that they are not getting? 

Perhaps they are seeking acknowledgment or recognition.  Instead of thinking about how you can get back at this person, ask yourself how you may be able to create a win-win situation.

4. Become proactive

Dealing with problematic coworkers can leave you feeling emotionally and physically drained.  One way to avoid this is to be proactive about your own career objectives

Instead of participating in office gossip, see what do you want to accomplish in the next couple of years?

The more you focus on yourself and what you want to accomplish, the more difficult people fade away into the background.

5.  Be solution oriented

When it comes to difficult coworker tips, a key strategy is to be solution-oriented. It will always be easier to turn away from conflict, but that will not solve anything.  The key is to resist that urge and challenge yourself to come up with a constructive solution to the issue at hand. 

You need to approach these uncomfortable situations by staying curious and asking open-ended questions. You need to understand someone else’s behavior. 

Listen with an open mind and without judgment and the best answer will more easily appear.

Dealing With Difficult People At Work Can Be Positive

You shouldn’t always consider working with difficult coworkers as a bad thing, you also need to take a look at the positive aspects of this.

When it comes to our jobs,  we are not always able to choose whom we work with.  What we do have control over is how we engage with others.  Try and learn from situations that you experience with others. 

Approach them with understanding rather than frustration and you will come out the other side a better teammate and leader.

After understanding their frustration, hopefully, you may have positive relationships with them that’ll lead you to a positive work environment.


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