How to deal with a difficult colleague

Difficult colleague

Some of us, at some point in our lives, have had to deal with someone that we had rather not come across. However, due to work circumstances and situations and the fact that we all have to work together, we have succumbed to working with them regardless of how frustrating it is to come into work every day!

Co-workers can be very difficult in various ways. For instance, I was told about a co-worker who constantly went to the boss to discuss negative things about their fellow employees. I have also heard of the co-worker who refused to share any information with the new employee because he had control issues and did not want anyone taking his ‘shine’. One of the most ridiculous ones I have heard recently has been the one where the ‘difficult’ employee has gone ahead to throw all of the other employee’s food items from the food cupboard and replaced it with expired food. Sounds ridiculous right? Yes it does, but it still happens in the work place today and amongst the people who we would consider adults.

For those finding themselves in those situations, here are a few tips that could help you get through working with them and tips for managing the relationship with a difficult colleague.

  1. STAY POLITE: Remember that you are in a work place scenario and all you need to be is to be cordial and not friends. Regardless of the fact that we spend most of our time at work, this does not mean that you have to be best of friends with everyone. It is sometimes difficult to work in a company without building actual friendships with people in the same environment. However, choose your ‘friends’ in the workplace wisely and this will save you a lot of stress and keep relationships completely professional. Maintain a cordial, polite relationship with this individual to get by. Try not to go into malice mode otherwise you will be seen as not being professional. Speak to them when there is a need and try to keep things professional.
  1. COMMUNICATE: Speak to the individual concerned if it is possible to do that without any raised voices or fights. Fights? Yes! It happens in the work place and you do not want to get yourself entangled in anyone’s messed up web. Sometimes these problems occur without people actually knowing what the reasons behind the issues are. It is worth speaking to the individual to understand if they have any special grievances or issues which you could discuss and which could improve the relationship you have with them. If no resolution to this or if you feel the situation could get confrontational if you have a one-on-one discussion then please revert to number 1. Otherwise, never underestimate the power of a sincere conversation. I have an example of someone who took this route after several failed attempts to get through to their colleague. They booked a time out in their calendar and actually sat down to understand what the issues were. The relationship going forward was greatly improved as both sides had the opportunity to express their views.
  1. ESCALATE: If the problem with this colleague is making things difficult at work to the extent that you are maybe getting depressed or finding it incredibly difficult to go into work, then maybe it is time to speak to someone about it. In as much as it might be difficult, try to speak to someone about the problems you may be facing with this individual. A problem shared (with the right individual), is a problem half solved. Speak to a senior Manager you can trust about steps you can take to make the relationship better or how the relationship can be improved. This might help improve or maintain the current relationship that you have. Also, if you have to leave the job as a result of this, at least you let someone know in advance what was causing you problems at work. It also means that you can be confident that you tried hard to make things better and improve the work situation.
  1. NO GOSSIPING: I know this is sometimes tough when all you feel for this individual isn’t anything you can call nice. However, in the midst of all this, try not to indulge in any bad mouthing about this individual. Except ofcourse you are following the number 3 point on this list, in which case, it is not gossiping but you need to make sure that you are not having that conversation with a negative mind set. The work place is always smaller than you think. You never know who this individual is friendly with or socialises with and the last thing you want to do is make matters worse by having something negative that you said about the individual being told to them. Better to avoid unnecessary gossips till the issue is resolved or at worst to maintain an air of cordiality. This applies particularly if you are new to that work place and do not yet understand the group speak within the company.

I hope these tips have been useful in giving you an idea on how to play it safe with a difficult colleague. Stay professional, watch and observe and most of all communicate where possible. Hopefully these tips will help make the work place a more tolerable environment for you if you are faced with this situation.

If you have been involved in a similar situation, please feel free to share or add any suggestions you have and comments in the box below. Thanks for stopping by.


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