How to Deal with a Difficult Colleague at Work

Unfortunately, there is always going to be that person at work.


The one who always finds the negative in every idea, someone who complains constantly, or never turns in their work on time, or ever.
Or simply that one person that gets on your nerves and pushes your buttons. However, your productivity, quality of work and office atmosphere doesn’t have to be dragged down by their poor performance.
If you’re dealing with a toxic co-worker, here are some ideas to manage the situation.

Don’t get too close

You already know that this person gets on your nerves, why exacerbate it by spending inordinate amounts of time around them? If you have to work on a project with them, try to keep an emotional (but professional) distance. After all, this is work and you can respond in an adult-like manner. The rest of the time try not to spend too much time in their vicinity. You don’t want that negativity rubbing off on you and sending your day down the drain.

Yeah, sure, that person may be driving you up a wall. But you shouldn’t base your happiness at work on other people. Did you just nail that big contract? Celebrate it, don’t let the other person deflate your mood! Maybe you finished a big project and know that it was done well.  Let that lift you up. Don’t allow your emotions to hinge on someone else’s reaction.
Remember, they’re not acting the way they are because of you but because they are different human beings with different values and perspectives. So, it’s likely not personal, it’s business. With this in mind, try to maintain that emotional distance between you and them. They’re simply colleagues who have performance or behavioural issues and fortunately, colleagues don’t get to come home with you when the day is done. Keep that in your thoughts too.

Vent away from the office

Sometimes sharing your struggles with another person is helpful. Just make sure that you’re not doing this at work or with a colleague that you don’t fully trust. Best is to find a friend and vent a little. Being able to talk it over with someone else can be helpful. They can help you evaluate the situation from another perspective and maybe give you suggestions on how to deal with this person.

Check yourself

Make sure that you’re examining your own words and actions. Have you contributed to the tension at all? It’s possible, after all, that they’re not the only issue there. If you see ways that you have been a part of the problem, not the solution, then change that behaviour.
Most of the time, tensions occur when there are communication problems. Use the situation as a good exercise to improve your communication skills and make sure you are doing your part of the job to have the best possible relation with that co-worker. Not for the sake of a friendship but for the sake of a good and productive workplace environment.

Try promoting teamwork

The person you’re struggling with may be all about themselves, but you can try to work against that. Try to include them in meetings or projects. Get them involved and thinking with a big-picture mindset. Sometimes, just getting people to feel like they belong as a part of a team can get them to lose that negative mindset. This may seem counter-intuitive, but try it out, you may be surprised by the result.

What’s the real problem?

Sometimes you just need to do some thinking and digging to find out what is motivating these people to act like they are. Has someone at work consistently slighted their work? Do they have issues happening at home? Try to get HR to find out about it. Maybe they’re just frustrating you because those things that annoy you are actually your own habits. If you’re the only one who is having a problem with this person, then that might be what the real issue is.
You’re always going to encounter interpersonal conflict. How you work to resolve it and deal with the issue is the true measure of the bigger person. Rather than blow up at your annoying colleague at work — and ruin your own reputation — employ some of these tactics to find better success.
For more career advice, check out our insight section here.

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