How To Deal With A Difficult Co-worker

Having a difficult co-worker can pose a threat to not just your work ethic but also your emotional and mental well-being. It can lead to less productivity which places you at risk of losing your job.

And no matter how passionate you are about your work; a difficult coworker can drain your energy and may even force you to fly off the handle.

Unfortunately, there's usually one difficult co-worker in every workspace, regardless of the sector. This is typically due to differences in personalities, ideologies, backgrounds, and experiences. And that's one very important key in dealing with difficult co-workers.

You must understand that everyone cannot act and think the same way you do. We all have our individual differences. As such, it's essential that you learn to adapt and get along with others despite your differences. Particularly when it affects your source of income.

This all brings us back to the original question. How do you deal with a difficult co-worker? In this article, we'll be setting out 10 ways or strategies that you can adopt in dealing with a difficult co-worker.

#1. Evaluate Yourself

In some cases, we term certain people "difficult," and we never stop to wonder if we're actually the "difficult" co-worker. You can typically tell if you're the difficult person if you tend to have issues with multiple co-workers.

If that's the case, it may not be that everyone else is being difficult. As the common denominator, you may just be the difficult one. This can be a bitter pill to swallow. 

If you don't think you can be objective, ask another co-worker who you're friendly with. But remember to brace yourself for the honest response.

#2. Try to Understand the Person's Personality

Understanding is quite crucial in resolving conflicts. It makes it easier to see the situation from the other person's point of view. As such, you could take out time to study the difficult co-worker in question.

#3. Engage Them in a Friendly Conversation

It's possible that your difficult colleague doesn't know they're being difficult. They may even think you're the difficult one. And when you always present an air of hostility, it'd be difficult to think otherwise.

So, rather than avoid or confront them, you may want to try a more friendly approach. Engage them in a civil conversation. It doesn't have to be about work. It can be about sports, fashion, politics, etc. You may be able to find some common ground.

You can also go straight to the point and be honest about how you feel.

However, be careful when conversing with them so that you don't escalate the situation rather than alleviating it.

#4. Talk With Your Colleagues

If your discussion with the difficult co-worker did not yield any positive results, you might need to involve your other colleagues. Your goal isn't to bad-mouth the person or use it as a topic of discussion. It's to get better ideas on how to deal with the situation.

#5. Talk With Your Boss

In many cases, you discuss such situations with your boss. Let your boss see how this problematic co-worker is making you uncomfortable and less productive. It's now left for the boss to handle the case squarely.

Once again, the goal isn't necessarily to condemn the person or get the person fired. You only want peace. 

#6. Focus On Positivity

Nobody's perfect. Everyone has their flaws and lapses. So, rather than focus on those imperfections, you can try to focus on the good parts of your difficult co-worker.

#7. Try Team Building

Most workplaces engage in team-building activities to improve communication and promote bonding among employees. If your organization doesn't do this, you can suggest it to your employer.

#8. Maintain A Slight Distance

If you've tried everything and they've all failed, it's best to put some distance between the both of you. Avoid any situation that brings you both together. It'll help you maintain your sanity at the workplace.

#9. Watch Yourself

Be careful not to overreact to situations, even at trigger points. Control your emotions when you're around the difficult colleague. Maintain professionalism in all you do and focus on what's important - your job.

#10. Consult a Career Coach

Whenever you're not certain about what to do in any situation, it's always best to speak with an expert. The same principle applies here. You can consult a career coach for advice on how to deal with your difficult co-worker.

At VanderYacht Consulting, we're particular about making sure that our clients reach their full potential career-wise. With our help, you can set SMART career goals and know how to achieve them.


Peace and harmony are essential ingredients in any workplace. There will be little to no productivity if you continue to work in a hostile environment.

It's therefore important that you do everything in your power to alleviate tension in your place of work.

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