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How Do You Deal With a Difficult Co-Worker?


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Do you enjoy your job but find it difficult to work with certain people? Most people have bumped into someone at work that they just don't like or find frustrating or annoying to be around. Unfortunately, when faced with a difficult co-worker, we may not know how to best deal with the situation. Maybe you think you have to quit, speak with your manager, or live with your annoyance. Depending on the situation, you do have different options in dealing with difficult co-workers.

Since you need to keep your income coming in and take care of yourself, learning how to deal with difficult co-workers is important. Stress in the workplace can affect you physically, emotionally and in all of your relationships.

Before deciding how you will handle the situation with difficult co-workers, fully understand the circumstances around the issue. A small conflict may be one that you can handle on your own; however, problems that are more complicated may call for the additional support of a manager.

1. Start by stating on paper the issue - what is the co-worker doing that bothers you?

2. How serious is the behavior?

3. Write down all possible solutions to the issue. Ask friends to offer solutions to your issue so you have a larger repertoire of potential choices.

4. Select one solution that you will act on and create a plan to handle the situation.

A potential way to deal with a situation is to speak with the difficult co-worker privately. When speaking with this individual, you will want to be careful in how you present the issue. It's important to speak with them when you are NOT frustrated, otherwise your edginess will show through loud and clear.

If you are frustrated with a co-worker who can never seem to get a project completed on time, you may want to offer to help them create a schedule. If you have a problem with a perfume or cologne that a co-worker may be wearing, you may first want to explain any health complications that you may be having due to the scent.

What if a co-worker talks too much or interrupts you while you are working? A good way to handle this is to say, “I'd love to speak with you but right now I have to complete this project. How about we take a 15 minute break later and chat?" You are taking care of yourself, still responding positively to the individual and you are in control of the interruptions.

If you feel that a co-worker is harassing you, in a *** way or not, you may want to refrain from speaking to them. When a co-worker exhibits inappropriate harassing behavior, speak with your supervisor or manager. In the workplace, you can expect to work in an environment where you are not harassed or discriminated against. If your manager is acting inappropriately, then speak with your Human Resources department or your manager's boss.

If you have discussed your problems with a co-worker personally and have not seen any positive changes, you may want to consider speaking to your manager on this issue. It depends on your manager . . . some of them just don't want to hear about the small issues and expect you to deal with different personalities in the workplace. Others will be helpful and assist you in finding a solution.

If you have acted on several potential solutions to an issue and it still isn't resolved, then you will have to make a decision: Do I let go of the problem with the co-worker or do I let go of the job? What's important is for you to let go of the stress attached to the issue . . . find solutions that work for you.

When you can solve workplace issues, you increase your confidence. Think in terms of solutions for everyone. Create win/win solutions so everyone feels good about themselves.

Copyright (c) 2008 Pat Brill

Pat Brill is co-author of “9 Steps to Starting a Women's Group". To download your Free copy of this e-book, go to .


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