They all have one thing in common. You must address them. No matter the type of difficult situation in which you find yourself, dealing with difficult people or situations is a must. Sure, you can experience a momentary distraction or ill-advised remark from a colleague without doing anything about it. Everyone has bad days and experiences thoughtless moments. But, if the behavior continues, or worse, escalates, you must address the behavior.
How to deal with difficult coworkers
Everyone has to deal with difficult coworkers — even your favorite team members can sometimes be a bit hard to work with. While you might not always be able to take a difficult coworker and make them your best friend, you can take actions to improve the relationship or at least to make the relationship more tolerable.
Assess the situation
Typically, there is a reason why they’re difficult to work with. Make an effort to understand what the cause of your challenges with them is. From there, try to understand why this person acts that way, and be sympathetic if there is an actual reason. While you may not agree with them, you won’t get far if you can’t at least understand where they may be coming from.
Know the types of difficult coworkers
There are many different types of difficult coworkers, and if you can define the type of difficult worker, you are one step closer to finding a solution to the problem. Forbes magazine also breaks down the different types of difficult coworkers in an effort to define the issue.
There are lazy people in almost every workplace, and the people who work hard are constantly picking up the slack. Slackers are always wanting to take time off, or do the bare minimum on a job, and creates productivity holes for other coworkers.
Now, it’s important to recognize the difference between slacking and having a work-life balance. A slacker is an employee who doesn’t put in the effort and isn’t available. Simply using your vacation time and, for example, being mostly unavailable after close of business, may just be signs of a healthy work-life balance, not a slacker.
Why You Must Deal With Difficult People
Trust this statement. Your situation won’t get better; left unaddressed, it usually gets worse. Unaddressed, necessary conflict simmers just below—and often erupts counter-productively—above the surface at work.
Initially, people go into shock when they are treated unprofessionally, so if you take some time to understand exactly what is happening to you, you are not alone. Once you are fully aware of what is happening, deciding to live with the situation in the long term is not an option. It will fester to the point that you are miserable going into work each day.
You become so angry and feel so much pain that your efforts to address the situation become irrational. It’s far better to address the difficult person early while you can maintain some objectivity and emotional control.
Occasionally, at this point in your relationship with a difficult person, you can back off and decide that nothing good will come from confronting this difficult person’s behavior. You may find this is the case, for example, when you rarely encounter the person, or you’re on a short term project that will soon end.
Make sure that you aren’t fooling yourself to avoid conflict, but cases do exist when you can avoid the difficult person and minimize their impact on your work life. But, it depends on your individual circumstances.
Do you think that you work with a bully? You do if you regularly feel intimidated, dread to work anywhere near a particular coworker, and feel dismayed and upset about having to go to work. If you are yelled at, insulted, and put down, you work with a bully. If you have felt psychologically or physically threatened at work, you work with a bully.
Do you have a coworker who talks over you at meetings, who regularly criticizes your performance, and steals credit for your work? If you answer yes to these questions, then the chances are that you’re one of 54 million Americans who have been targeted by a bully at work.
Simply put, they suck. They always appear to be busy but never actually are – instead, they fob off their work to their colleagues and then reap all the rewards. They’re usually likeable and charming, and they know how to act the part. They often stay late so it looks like they have a lot to do when they’ve actually spent all day talking to their friends or reading the news online. And by the time the boss finally checks in on them, they’ve buckled down to at least complete one task on their list.
Solution: It’s hard to navigate around the Slider. If you call them out, for example, you’ll not only need concrete evidence to prove your point, but you’ll also end up branding yourself as a snitch – effectively making you the most unpopular person in the office. Instead, when they try to pass their work on to you, be blunt and simply tell them that you have your own list of priorities but will be happy to offer your advice on a certain part of a project.
When + How to Talk to Management
If you feel like you’ve tried everything and have exhausted your efforts, it’s time to escalate things to your boss. Before you randomly pop into their office, come prepared with the following:
- Have Actual Examples: Take notes or bring physical examples of where the coworker is being difficult and how it’s impacting the team and work overall.
- Come With a Plan: What’s your plan for addressing these issues? Your boss will provide their input, but it’s helpful if you come to the conversation with some ideas for solutions.
- Bring in Anecdotes from the Team: Is this a group problem? Without turning the conversation into a blame game or rallying the team to dislike someone, can you bring examples from other team members that add to a productive conversation?
- Switch Teams/Projects: If things are really bad, is there an option for you to limit your interactions or even switch teams altogether?
- Look for a New Job/Quit: If this is a serious issue that you have brought up to your boss many times but they refuse to support you or address it, it might be time to look for a new job. We always recommend leaving on a positive note.