Dealing with Difficult Coworkers


Backstabbers. Two-faced liars. Chronic whiners. Laz-abouts. Gossipers. Idea-stealers. Meddlers. Drama queens.

We’ve all experienced a work life with difficult co-workers. It’s no fun and depending on the severity of your colleague’s “difficulty,” working with such a person can be toxic on your happiness, your career, even your emotional and physical health.

And, unless you decide to leave the company, there’s no just “avoiding’ the situation.

In fact, avoiding your unease is the last thing you should. Never let the problem fester; it only will grow larger. In addition, your own anger could rise to the point that you become irrational yourself.

Instead, the sooner you address the situation, the better.

If possible, speak with your colleague in private. Regardless of where you talk to him, be sure you’re in a calm, objective and collaborative frame of mind. Start gently; you may find your adversary is just as eager as you are to improve your relationship. Begin talking by saying something like “We seem to have our differences. I’d like to work with you on improving our working relationship and I need your input. Is there anything I can do that can help us get along better?”

And then listen. Really listen. Repeat back what you’ve heard so that your colleague can clear up anything you may have misheard or not understood.

If your colleague doesn’t have any ideas, or if you feel it might be best to start your conversation with you giving a suggestion, do so in a collaborative fashion. Keep it objective:

“When we’re in meetings and I’m talking, it’s very distracting to me when you make comments before I’m finished and I find it hard to listen to what you’re saying when I’m distracted.”

The two of you may find that you can’t come to a perfect agreement. That’s OK for now. You’re moving in the right direction and your relationship can improve with time. If at all possible, find something you like about the person and whenever you can, comment on that in a positive way (he made a great presentation, her solution to a problem was a good one, etc.) Doing so can go a long way to getting that person on your side and helping your relationship greatly improve.

Contact RealStreet Staffing when you’re looking to: find a great job, move your career in a new direction or get your foot in the door at some of the Washington Metro area’s finest construction, engineering and architecture employers. We have terrific temporary, temp-to-hire and direct-hire placement opportunities. Contact us today!

The RealStreet folks are always helpful. They were instrumental in landing me a rewarding FEMA assignment in Southern California.

KC Green

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