How to Deal with a Difficult Coworker

The work day can be hectic, and the last thing anyone wants is to have additional stress introduced into their day. But, what if a co-worker is creating your added stress?


I attended a friend’s birthday dinner not long ago, and one of the girls there – Sarah – told me about some issues she had been experiencing with a colleague. Sarah said her colleague had been with the company longer than her, but she felt she was progressing in her position at a quicker pace than this coworker. Sarah said her coworker would make sly comments towards her and would omit important project details from their work discussions. Eventually, Sarah began thinking her colleague’s actions were intentional efforts  – which then left Sarah trying to navigate the weirdness with her co-worker each day, instead of focusing on steadily developing her career.


Life is simply too short for this type of irrelevant stress, and no one needs a third party to put extra weight on their shoulders. Here are six ways to help you deal with a difficult co-worker:


Be kind.

It can be trying to treat someone with respect and kindness when they aren’t extending those same courtesies to you, but kindness is the best reaction you can have – especially in the workplace. You have to remind yourself that you are responsible for your own actions, and as soon as you say or do something you wish you hadn’t, you have entered into even trickier territory.


Put yourself in their shoes.

If you stop for a moment to put yourself in your coworker’s shoes, it will help you understand what you’re dealing with. Are you both working towards the same promotion?  Are they dealing with extra stressors at work or in their personal life? Understanding why your coworker may be jealous, insecure or negative will help you appropriately react to them, and it will also help you to not take their actions too personally.


Be supportive.

By now, you probably have an idea of what’s causing your coworker’s actions or mood. How can you make an effort to be supportive? If they are working through personal issues or are exposed to extra stressors, perhaps they just need to vent. Being supportive and lending a listening ear can do wonders for someone who simply needs to have their feelings and thoughts heard. If they feel an underlying competition with you in the workplace, acknowledging their personal and professional wins will help them see you’re not focused on that competition.


Don’t stoop to their level.

You might see an opportunity to show your coworker’s true colors, but would that actually do you any good? Probably not. Don’t stoop to deceiving or negative actions to put yourself in a better light than your coworker. Focus on the good, the positive and let anything else roll off your shoulders – all while being kind and respectful. You don’t want to jeopardize the respect and place you’ve earned in your company.


Don’t let it drag you down.

It’s important to try to not let workplace drama affect your overall mood or productivity. Separate yourself from negativity and treat everyone equally. Remain focused on yourself and the tasks you have in front of you.


Speak up if it affects your work.

When you’re at work, your main focus is to do your job to the best of your ability, and if something begins to hinder that, it’s also your job to raise a hand. If a coworker’s words, actions or mood actually begin affecting your work, it’s time to speak up. It could be a good rule of thumb to have a casual, private conversation with that coworker to point out what you’ve been noticing, how it’s affecting your job and how you may be able to help. If that doesn’t help, or if you don’t feel comfortable going that route, perhaps a private chat with your supervisor will make your supervisor aware of the situation so he or she can steer things back on track.


Did you find this article helpful? How do you deal with workplace  drama or challenging coworkers? Share with us in the comments below!

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