Job Search Tips

How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

difficult coworker
Written by Jessie Liu

No matter where you work, there always seems to be at least one coworker who is difficult to deal with. Sometimes, that coworker even turns into a bully, and that can affect your job performance and self-esteem when all you want to do is get along and get the job done. If you let it go, you can end up losing your temper, and that could adversely affect you both personally and professionally. 

While it can be difficult, learning how to deal with difficult coworkers is an essential skill for your professional development. In this blog, we will discuss ways you can handle a difficult colleague and make your work life easier.

1. Identify the Difficult Coworkers

All work situations have difficult coworkers, from healthcare jobs to sales jobs. It may be the office gossip, the one who never seems to be able to get the job done without help or the serial dodger, who never seems to take responsibility and blames everyone else for their shortcomings. 

Then there is the nasty coworker, who never has anything nice to say about you, no matter what. 

Your first step in dealing with difficult coworkers is to identify who ultimately is negatively impacting your work environment. This step ensures you are taking a step back to assess the situation, and that you aren’t blaming the wrong person.

2. Discuss the Problem

With a workplace bully or backstabber, it may be necessary to confront the person instead of letting things go. While it can be daunting, having a mature discussion about the problem may have a surprising response. Some people do not realize the adverse impact their statements and actions have on others and be genuinely surprised and taken aback. 

Try to talk reasonably and hold your temper, but let the person know that you will take the issue to a superior if the actions continue.

3. Talk to a Friend

A little unbiased opinion is never harmful, so discussing your coworker’s situation with a friend can be a good idea. It not only lets you vent your frustrations, but can give you an unbiased opinion of what may be going on and how to handle the situation.

4. Use Humor to Defuse a Situation

While this type of tactic can work for some people, not everyone is able to make a humorous comment to defuse a situation spontaneously. A light bit of humor might be the tactic for you if you have a funny side.

5. Have an Exit Strategy

Having an excuse to get away from a difficult coworker can help. Whether inventing a phone call you have to make, work you have to do right away or another excuse, spend as little time with the toxic coworker as possible. 

When you limit your interactions with the difficult coworker, you are able to protect your mental wellbeing. Plus, when your toxic coworker realizes they aren’t being listened to, they are more likely to give up.

6. Keep Your Co-Worker Problem Private

You don’t want your character questioned, so maintain your cool when faced with a problem co-worker. Complaining to others in the office might get you branded as a problem yourself, so keep any complaining down to those in your family or a close friend outside the office. 

 7. Be Bigger Than Your Co-Worker

You know the old adage, “You can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.” This applies to coworkers too. It doesn’t mean you have to come in every day with a new joke or be the person who organizes birthday parties. However, just being pleasant, smiling and polite can improve another person’s attitude toward you.

8. A Friend Can’t Be an Enemy

While it doesn’t work in all cases, being friendly but not overly friendly to a difficult coworker can produce positive results. If the problem is gossip, having a friendly conversation can set things straight. If, on the other hand, the coworker is trying to take credit for work you have done, you can let your boss know beforehand that you are working on a certain aspect of a project, so you will get the credit.

9. Go to Your Boss

No one likes to do this, but sometimes there is no other choice if your requests to your toxic coworker have fallen on deaf ears. If you do decide to take the matter up with your supervisor or human resources, make sure to go armed with the information you need to make your case. 

Take notes on how this person’s actions are affecting your work and productivity on projects, and write down exactly what that person is doing to adversely affect your work.

10. Find a New Job

No matter what industry you are in, there can be difficult coworkers. However, you’re not alone. While there are many ways to deal with a difficult coworker, sometimes the best solution is to start something new. 

If you have tried the above strategies with little to no success, a career or workplace change is the right move for you in the long run. A place with the right work environment is conducive to helping you feel motivated and help you build a positive relationship. Let us help you land your dream job with our resume library and career advice. To get started now, visit TheJobNetwork’s online job board to start your job search. 

About the author

Jessie Liu

Jessie Liu is a digital marketer, specializing in SEO, Digital Analytics, Content Marketing and Social Media. She helps lead TheJobNetwork’s content marketing efforts, including content strategy and promotion strategy. She believes in data-driven decision making. She recently adopted a Beagle mix puppy named Happy. Feel free to tweet her @jessiecliu for pictures of her adorable new puppy or just any marketing related stuff.