Munif Ali

7 Ways How To Deal With Difficult Coworkers

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how to deal with difficult coworkers

The office is like a 3D printer; when all the parts and pieces work together, they can turn an idea into reality. Any workplace in the world, whether in a cubicle or an online network, needs all its members to cooperate. In other words, work life is a team game and every person needs to do their part.

Sadly, not every colleague you’ll meet at work is going to play nice. Sooner or later, you’ll meet a coworker who makes your life, and your company’s work, much harder. There are many reasons why they might act this way. Sometimes, they don’t know that their behavior is bad. Other times, they’re trying to look good by blaming you for mistakes or piggybacking on your success.

Whatever kind of reasons they have, it’s a big challenge to handle these people. You might even ask yourself how you can fix the problem. To help you out, here’s what you need to know how to deal with difficult coworkers.

What are the different types of difficult colleagues?

Before you can even start dealing with difficult coworkers, you have to know what they are. There are many types of colleagues that make your career harder than it has to be. Here are the types of problematic colleagues you’ll meet at work.

The gossip guru

Picture this: on a slow work day, you’re busy at your desk when a coworker comes by and sits next to you. Before you even ask what they want, they begin to tell you about someone in the office that’s rude or unfair. Perhaps they spin a tale about someone taking too many breaks or being on the phone too much.

You might think that “someone” is a bad colleague. Here’s the problem, though: you don’t have any proof. What you do know for sure is that your coworker just came into gossip and chit-chat about one of the other staff members. That person is the real problem.

Gossip gurus are people at work who like to spread rumors or blow up untrue things out of proportion. What starts out as a simple joke, like a romance between two colleagues or the manager getting fired, spreads like a disease. Worst of all, because these things are untrue, they can damage someone’s reputation even when there’s no proof.

The vandal

Have you ever had a coworker who “forgot” to do a task, whether it was delivering new documents or copy editing your work? If so, you might be dealing with a vandal in the office space.

Vandals are people who go out of their way to sabotage your work or the work of others. They might act coy or unproductive, but they’ll gladly point to you as the culprit. In other words, they’d rather make your life harder just to look good or decent.

The nitpicker

One of the most frustrating kinds of people you’ll ever meet is a nitpicker. Think of someone who constantly corrects your reports or your output. While getting things right is fine, it’s not fair to try and get every minute detail exact. However, there are colleagues who’d rather spend hours criticizing your work than seeing the overall value.

Nitpickers tend to be hypercritical and perfectionists. For them, anything less than 100% is as good as trash. It’s like a parent who will consider you a failure when you get at least one mistake in an exam. Not only is this mindset toxic, but it can really harm your confidence and make you feel worthless. 

The passive-aggressive

In contrast to the nitpickers, the passive-aggressive colleague will pretend like nothing is wrong. They might have a serious problem or issue with you or your work, but they’ll never mention it directly. Instead, they might make snide remarks or subtle comments that feel off.

What’s worse is that many passive-aggressive coworkers won’t even admit to the issue when confronted. They’d rather play it off like a joke or a game, even though it can be a big deal. These kinds of people would rather give you a mean glare than tell you what they want or need.

The slacker

Whether you work at a busy office or you remember your high school projects, you’ve definitely met a slacker. These colleagues are practically sloths in the human world. They want to put as little effort as possible into any serious endeavor.

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What’s worse is that slackers might even be good at their job. That means that they can be a help in your career, but they get so lazy that they choose not to. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as being forced to work overtime because someone won’t lend a hand. It’s even worse when you have to help out in another person’s specialty, all because the slacker is busy staying away.

The overbearing

Last but not least is the overbearing colleague. To illustrate who they are, imagine a time when you wanted to eat lunch by yourself. Then, before you even get a bite of your food, someone else comes by and sits beside you. They don’t ask permission or offer to eat with you. Worse, even when you don’t say anything, they start to rattle off about their day and pay no attention to you. Even if you want to walk away, they’ll follow you and continue talking like there’s no tomorrow.

That is what an overbearing colleague can be. They are coworkers who may constantly annoy you in your cubicle or outside of work. Think of people who don’t seem to get the hint and stay quiet. Rather, they’ll go out of their way to be beside you or ask questions at work. Even if it’s obvious that you’re busy, they won’t think twice to interrupt you.

What are the signs of a difficult colleague?

Each of the types I’ve covered so far seems so obvious as bad colleagues. That said, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to spot them from afar. You might even feel like some of your coworkers are nice, only to discover that they aren’t as helpful. To know how to deal with difficult coworkers, you need to know their signs. Here are some red flags to help you know which colleagues could cause problems in your life.

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1. They keep interfering with others’ affairs.

While work is a group effort, it’s not an excuse for people to interfere in your work. Every person in a team or company has to contribute something that they can do themselves. For example, if you’re good at writing, you’ll likely handle a lot of blogs or content creation.

Now, imagine that you, a writer, try to make a draft but get constantly cut off or edited by another team member. That sounds frustrating, right? That’s because this colleague is going out of their lane to mess with your work. They might be micromanaging you or trying to sabotage your efforts. Either way, this invasive attitude not only hurts your performance but also hurts your output.

2. They refuse to help or assist.

Whereas some colleagues like to insert themselves into others’ works or plans, there are those who don’t even bother to check on you. You might know someone in the office who doesn’t ever volunteer or advise their coworkers, even if they know something is wrong.

If you have a colleague who doesn’t bother to lift a finger to help others, then you’re dealing with someone very selfish and unfair. Remember, work is a group effort. If someone is struggling, it’s crucial that you can help them with advice or tips. It can even be life advice for things outside of work. However, if you don’t bother to speak to them or help them out, then you’re putting yourself ahead of the team.

3. They don’t respect or credit you.

Sometimes, a difficult coworker is one who doesn’t show the proper respect or credit to their peers. Think of a colleague who always second-guesses your decisions or your choices. Even if you aren’t the team leader, there’s no harm in trying to contribute or suggest ideas. However, if there’s someone who seems to always question you, that might be because they don’t respect you.

Aside from always second-guessing your ideas, a difficult coworker might go out of their way to exclude you from the group. They might purposely credit themselves or their own team for the ideas or suggestions you’ve made. For them, it’s all about looking good, and that means they don’t mind stepping over you to do so.

In addition, disrespect and taking credit can happen outside of work. Some coworkers might discriminate against you or judge you poorly for little more than your name or background. These people are unfair and horrible, because they have no reason to treat you badly, and yet they do so anyway.

4. They use their mouth more than their ears.

Lastly, it’s a bad sign if your colleague or manager at work doesn’t bother to listen. If they like telling you what to do, even when it’s not a good idea, then they’re also thinking only of themselves. There is no reason to ignore someone’s input, especially if it’s to clarify a problem or understand an issue.

That’s why colleagues who run their mouths can do a lot more harm than good. Even if they know what to do, they shouldn’t act like they are the only authority around. Not only does that make you feel unwanted, but it can also hurt your pride and passion for work. This, and all the other signs of a bad coworker, can be the difference between a happy job and a resignation letter.

How do I deal with difficult coworkers?

Now that you know how dangerous these types of coworkers can be, it’s time to help you find some peace of mind. Dealing with a difficult colleague is the best way to your workplace into a healthy space. Here are some tips to help you learn how to deal with difficult coworkers.

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1. Treat them with respect

The first step might be the toughest one but it’s still the most important. You should always treat your colleagues with respect, regardless of how difficult they can be. By doing so, you can start to reach out and see their side. Perhaps they don’t realize that their behavior is bad. Perhaps there’s a reason why they’re acting that way. 

The best way to know how to deal with difficult coworkers is to understand their side.

Now, if they still treat you poorly, that’s when you know that you have to go above them. Sometimes, you might need to confront them directly and point out their flaws. Other times, you may have to call in the manager to get things fixed. Just remember that you tried to be civil. If they force you to act tough, then that’s their fault.

2. Find support from more positive colleagues.

Sometimes, the coworkers you have won’t go away. Perhaps you differ in beliefs and mindsets. If you guys can’t seem to get along, sometimes you have to simply turn elsewhere. Consider cutting them out of your life as much as possible, or at least reducing any interaction. You don’t need to ignore them, but you can at least be civil and stay apart.

More importantly, if you aren’t getting along with that coworker, then you need to think of who do enjoy being with. Knowing how to deal with difficult coworkers is useful, but surrounding yourself with friendly ones is more important. Be sure to reach out and spend time with colleagues that seem good, honest, and caring. Once you surround yourself with good people, your life will feel much better.

3. Stay neutral; avoid taking or making sides.

Suppose that you’re stuck in the middle of a big fight or inter-office problem. Maybe there are two colleagues who’ve become bitter and hateful toward one another. It could also be a case of two department heads or supervisors being competitive. In either case, you might be tempted to pick a si

Here’s the truth, though: taking sides will only further divide your workplace. The last thing any worker wants is a quarrel between two halves of the same office. It’ll only bring discontent and anger to everyone involved. You’ll struggle to know how to deal with difficult coworkers if you form a bias to one side or another.

Whether you’re a boss or a worker, you should do your best to stay neutral. Look at the facts and see who is in the objective wrong. If there is any issue, solve it with a level-headed approach. Otherwise, you’ll only make things worse if you take sides or voice your opinions.

4. Speak to your manager or supervisor.

If things get so bad that you need to talk to someone, always consider approaching the manager or the head of your company. Contrary to popular belief, not every boss wants to keep their distance. In fact, if there are any serious problems in the office, they should be the first to know.

So, if you need help with how to deal with difficult coworkers, talk to your boss first. They might help you see another point of view that explains why you need to get along. Alternatively, they could also help you stay away from that person as much as possible.

In summary

Dealing with problematic or difficult colleagues is going to happen sooner or later. You might meet one of several types, from eagle-eyed nitpickers to obnoxious gossip gurus. Whoever they may be, the last thing you want is to put up with colleagues that are selfish or arrogant. That’s why you need to learn how to deal with difficult coworkers.

You can start by treating them respectfully and trying to see their side. If that fails, you can always surround yourself with better people and talk to the boss. Remember, if there is a difficult colleague at work, you should always be the bigger person. Just because they are unprofessional doesn’t mean you should sink to their level.

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