Dealing with difficult co-workers: Do’s and don’ts

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Do you have co-workers who:

  • Complain a lot.
  • Don’t do what they say they will.
  • Don’t want to help others.
  • Talk a lot about what needs to be done.
  • Disagrees with everything and everyone.

Here are some tips to help you deal with them:

  1. Don’t take it personally

    There are many reasons why people might behave this way. They could be tired. They might have personal problems. It’s important to remember that it’s not about you. Always stay professional. Think about the job that needs to be done.

    For example, don’t say: “You’ve missed the deadline again. Stop being lazy.” Instead, say: “When we miss deadlines, it affects our team. May I know what is making it difficult for you to finish your work on time?”

  2. Communicate clearly

    Your co-worker might not know they are difficult. Be direct if you need to tell them. Be calm and don’t make judgements.

    For example, if your co-worker doesn’t help others, you can say: “I noticed that you don’t answer when others ask for help. This makes it difficult for the team. It also makes it hard for us to be eager to help you. Is there something we can do so you’ll be able to work better with us?”

    Another good way is to ask questions. This can lead to a solution.

  3. Ask for help

    Talk to other co-workers about how they dealt with the difficult person. You might learn good ways that have worked in the past. If the difficult person’s actions is affecting with your work, talk to their supervisor or manager. Ask for help from HR.

  4. Don’t give up on them

    Having to work with difficult people takes a lot of energy. Stay away if it’s possible. But don’t give up on them. They can change. With a little patience, you can make the best of a difficult situation. You might even become friends.

Article updated November 15, 2023.
Sources: How to deal with difficult people, Brian Tracy; 9 useful strategies for dealing with difficult people at work, Celestine Chua, Insider; Accessed November 4, 2021.

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