How to deal with difficult coworkers

Deal with difficult co workers

How to deal with difficult coworkers

Everyone has to deal with difficult coworkers — even your favorite team members can sometimes be hard to work with. You might not always be able to turn a difficult coworker into your best friend. However, you can take action to improve the relationship and make the relationship more manageable.

Employees that feel comfortable generally perform better. That’s why when a difficult colleague is negatively impacting the work environment, it’s necessary to address it. However, how to deal with these situations can be challenging to determine. What might feel the most cathartic—passive aggression, complaining to others, or lashing out—usually isn’t the most effective. So how do you you approach dealing with difficult people in a productive way?

Assess the situation

The first step in solving the problem is to define the situation. When possible, it’s best to first remove yourself from the situation. Then, take time to properly assess the situation.

Typically, there is a reason why you find them difficult to work with. Make an effort to understand what the cause of your challenges with them is. From there, try to understand why this person acts that way. Be prepared to be sympathetic to their point of view. While you may not agree with them, you won’t get far if you can’t at least understand where they may be coming from.

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Know the types of difficult coworkers

When assessing the situation, it can be helpful to know some common “types” of difficult coworkers. Not every person will fall neatly into one of these categories. However, they’re a good framework for approaching the problem.

There are many different types of difficult coworkers, and if you can define the type of difficult worker, you are one step closer to finding a solution to the problem. Forbes magazine breaks down some common types of difficult coworkers. So let’s take a look.

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There are lazy people in almost every workplace, and the people who work hard are constantly picking up the slack. Slackers may frequently take time off, do the bare minimum on a job, and create productivity holes for other coworkers.

Now, it’s important to recognize the difference between slacking and having a work-life balance. A slacker is an employee who doesn’t put in the effort and isn’t available. Simply using your vacation time and being unavailable after close of business are just signs of a healthy work-life balance.

Slackers need to be micromanaged. Management needs to be adamant with these workers and, if they’re missing targets, put them on a performance improvement plant. One way or another, they need a wake-up call. However, as a coworker, you may not be in a position to do this. If you’re not getting the work you need from someone, or a coworker isn’t pulling their weight, then speak with your manager. They should be able to move the problem through the proper channels.

Self-esteem issues

Personal issues aren’t supposed to bleed over into the work environment, but they almost always do. Low self-esteem can cause a worker to be less productive, irritable, and too passive when they need to put their foot down. Coworkers should help lift each other up out of the holes of depression as much as possible.

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The best way to deal with people who have self-esteem issues is to build them up. Give compliments, recognize their contributions, and make them feel as if they matter. It’s also important to remember that shallow compliments can feel patronizing. Don’t simply say “you’re doing a great job” — explain how they’re doing a great job. Making it specific makes it appear genuine.

In extreme cases, human resources may need to be involved with self-esteem and depression issues. For example, if the employee makes comments that allude to self-harm, then human resources should be brought in immediately so they can be given professional help.


There’s always that team member that doesn’t let others get a word in, which ultimately stirs up the tension in the workplace. While an intelligent coworker can be a valuable asset, the know-it-all can be one of the most difficult type of employees to work with.

The best thing to do with someone who doesn’t let other people get a word in is to not let them steal the spotlight. Stand your ground and speak up when you feel confident in what you have to say. It’s important that each employee has time to speak whether it be in a one-on-one conversation or in a group setting.


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1. Self-awareness

Nobody makes it out of childhood unscathed. We all experience flashbacks to our youth, families, and close connections that shaped who we are now. When we least anticipate it, feelings of rage or irritation might arise. Instead of deciding how we respond to a circumstance or person, we react. Instead of blaming others or events, look at why you respond negatively to them. The ability to control your emotions, ideas, and actions in a way that promotes your achievement is what is meant by mental toughness.

Having the courage to face oneself with honesty and compassion is a must. These thinking habits may have been formed during adolescence when you were a victim of abuse. You don’t have to be a coward. It’s time to figure out who or what presses your buttons. Working with challenging co-workers isn’t always a drag; in fact, it may be an opportunity for rapid advancement in your career.

2. Speak with your difficult co-worker

Talking to a problematic co-worker is nothing less than a Sisyphean task. However, you cannot avoid not dealing with them. As a professional, use reflective communication skills to overcome unpleasant situations, especially in dealing with a difficult co-worker. So, instead of saying “you,” send an “I” message to a colleague to describe how you’re feeling. Explain to your toxic colleague that their behavior affects your well-being and productivity.

When conversing with a problematic co-worker, keep your demeanor friendly and cordial. Some people may not realize how their words or actions disturb you. They may be discovering how their actions have affected you for the first time. A pattern in their interactions with other individuals may also need to be considered and confronted by the individual.

They may be aware of their influence on you, but they may deny it or attempt to justify it. Unfortunately, many don’t give a damn. Focus on the activities that have the most significant negative impact on you.


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