4 Ways of Dealing with Difficult Co-Workers

How to minimize office tension

The workplace can be a stressful environment, with deadlines and pressure from bosses. The last thing anyone wants to deal with is difficult or annoying co-workers. You try to smile and be polite, but they seem to break down your best defenses. Here is a list of techniques to help disarm even the most challenging of office opponents without losing your cool.

Talk to the person directly

As uncomfortable as it may sound, the best thing to do in many situations is talk to the person in question. Often people don’t realize that they have violated office etiquette and offended others. Approaching your difficult co-worker in an assertive but non-aggressive way to let them know that you would like the behavior to stop can help you manage the situation in a healthy way. Be sure to approach them in a respectful and private manner. If you embarrass them, you're likely to incite defensiveness and the situation could get worse.

Use humor to disarm

Try making light of the situation. People sometimes get worked up and don’t see the sunny side of life. When a difficult co-worker starts a problem, make a joke to break the tension. Be careful not to be sarcastic or belittling. Doing so communicates that being rude is acceptable to you, and will perpetuate problems in your working relationship.

Talk to a superior

Sometimes, managing the difficult co-worker is not just a problem for you, but also for others. In cases where your co-worker has not responded positively to your attempts to work things out between the two of you, talk to your manager or boss about what's been going on. A lot of other employees may be having similar problems, and your boss could speak to your co-worker about changing his behavior without bringing you into the situation. When you do discuss things with your boss, be sure to stick to the point, reporting only the facts. The last thing you want is to be considered the office tattletale.

Report it to HR

If you are lucky enough to be in a company that has a human resources department, don't be afraid to use it. Report the incidents to the HR office, and official documentation will be created with dates, times and specifics. This documentation will go in your difficult co-worker's file, preventing a case of he-said she-said if disciplinary action is ultimately necessary. Always use specific language when reporting problems. State the exact trouble you are having, avoiding general statements that the person is “bothering you.” The best part about HR is that you can ask them to keep everything confidential. Sometimes you just need to vent, and it’s better to use the HR department than to be labeled the office gossip.

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