7 ways to deal with a difficult colleague

  11th February 2020       Michelle Taylor

Unfortunately, there is always going to be that person at work – the one who always finds the negative in every idea, who complains constantly, or never turns in their work on time, or ever. However, your productivity and quality of work doesn’t have to be dragged down by their poor performance. If you’re dealing with a toxic colleague, here are some ideas to manage the situation.

  1. Don’t get too close

You already know that this person gets on your nerves, why exacerbate it by spending inordinate amounts of time around them? If you have to work on a project with them, try to keep an emotional distance. After all, this is work. Even if they do get on your nerves, you can respond in an adult-like manner. The rest of the time, try not to spend too much time in their vicinity. You don’t want that negativity rubbing off on you and sending your day down the drain.

  1. It’s not about you

Remember, they’re not acting in the way they are because of you. It’s actually not personal, it’s business. They are responsible for their own actions, no matter how much they may try to blame that on other people. They’re simply colleagues who have performance issues, and fortunately, colleagues don’t get to come home with you when the day is done. Keep it that way in your thoughts too.

  1. Vent away from work

Sometimes sharing your struggles with another person is helpful. Just make sure that you’re not doing this at work or preferably with another co-worker. Find a friend and vent a little. Being able to talk it over with someone else can be helpful. They can help you evaluate the situation with another perspective and maybe give you ideas for how to deal with this person.

  1. Check yourself

Make sure that you’re examining your own words and actions. Have you contributed to the tension at all? It’s possible, after all, that they’re not the only issue there. If you see ways that you have been a part of the problem, not the solution, then change that. Make sure that you take responsibility for your actions first.

  1. Promote a team-focus

The person you’re struggling with may be all about themselves, but you can try to work against that. Try to include them in meetings or projects. Get them involved and thinking with a big-picture mindset. Sometimes, just getting people to feel like they belong as a part of a team can get them to lose that negative mindset. This may seem counter-intuitive, but try it out, you may be surprised by the result.

  1. Remember what matters

Sure, that person may be driving you up the wall, but you shouldn’t base your happiness at work on other people. Did you just nail that big contract? Celebrate it, don’t let the other person deflate your mood! Maybe you finished a big project and know that it was done well. Let that lift you up. Don’t allow your emotions to hinge on someone’s else’s reaction. If you do, then you’ll be on a constant roller coaster.

  1. What’s the real problem?

Sometimes you just need to do some thinking and digging to find out what is motivating these people to act like they are. Has someone at work consistently slighted their work? Do they have issues happening at home? Maybe they’re frustrating to you because those things that annoy you are actually your own habits. If you’re the only one who is having a problem with this person, then that might be what the real issue is.

You’re always going to encounter interpersonal conflict. How you work to resolve it and deal with the issue is the true measure of the bigger person. Rather than blow up at your annoying colleague at work—and ruin your own reputation—employ some of these tactics to find better success.

Michelle Taylor

Senior Recruitment Consultant

With a background in sales and marketing and over 15 years’ experience recruiting in Bournemouth, Michelle has an in-depth knowledge of the local job market and has developed strong long-standing relationships with both clients and candidates in the area. Challenge-driven and committed to going the extra mile, Michelle is an …

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