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How to Handle Difficult Coworkers

July 14, 2016

Everyone has a difficult coworker, and you will too.

The coworker that talks too much, the one who doesn’t understand everyone has their own personal space, the negative coworker who complains about everything, the untruthful and lazy one, the gossip, the list can go on. And I’m sure you could add a few to it as well.

With so many different personality types, stressful deadlines and long hours at work, it is inevitable that personalities will clash. While it may be tempting to roll your eyes and try to find a way out of working with these types of coworkers, you are missing an opportunity to further your career and grow as an employee.

There will always be someone that you don’t care for. Jumping from job to job, or team to team, to avoid these people won’t solve your problems.

The best solution is to learn how to work with them. Not learning how to work with difficult coworkers in a graceful manner can lead to conflict that will effect your performance at work.

Here are some helpful tips on how to deal with difficult coworkers and conflict at work.

Be the bigger person.

Sharon from Mutual of Omaha says, “While you can't change others, the only thing you can change is your reaction to them. Try to be the bigger person in these situations and don't engage energy into arguing, etc.” Full Quote

When you give into the drama of difficult employees, the only person you are hurting is yourself. Frustration can turn into bitterness which can be emotionally draining on you and distract you from your job. Focus your energy on your career and not on how other people are making you upset.

Try to surround yourself with people that you do like.

Not only should you focus your energy on your job, Nell at Pitney Bows also suggests surrounding yourself with the people that you do like.

"Surrounding yourself with people who encourage you towards your career goals can outweigh negativity and difficult coworkers. It will also help you enjoy your time at work." Full Quote


Jamie from Worthington Industries says, "Make sure you are not telling yourself a story about the situation." Full Quote

When someone annoys us, a lot of times we can make the situation seem worse in our head than it actually is. In this case, take a step back and intentionally focus on their positive character traits. 

Ashley, from Textron, says “It is a good idea to take a step back and review why the conflict has occurred and look at it from a different perspective. Taking this type of approach will allow you to view the conflict from a different angle and may aid you in figuring out how to resolve the conflict.” Full Quote

Ask a mentor for advice.

Your manager has your best interests in mind and can give you a good outside perspective and practical advice about how to work with these difficult coworkers. Ask your manager for help on working through the relationship.

While it may be tempting to ask your manager to step in, this will only look bad for you. When asking your manager for help, make sure you really aren’t asking your manager to do the hard work for you.

Pick and choose your battles and remember you aren’t perfect either.

Just as you may find another coworker difficult, you have to remember that you also may be considered difficult to some people.

We all have different personalities and work in different ways. When you find yourself wanting to explode, remember that you too aren’t perfect and may have habits or quirks that some find it hard to work with.

Just as you wouldn’t want people nit-picking every little thing you do, only pick the battles that are really effecting your performance, rather than ones that are just annoying you.


Above all, remember that those who are most successful at their career are usually the employees that have mastered the art of people. Consider making “mastering the art of people” one of your career goals rather than seeing people as something that get’s in the way.

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