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6 tips for dealing with a difficult co-worker

We spend a lot of our weekday hours at work, and they can quickly become a nightmare if you’re dealing with a difficult co-worker on a daily basis.

How should you handle a colleague who is making life difficult for you? If you don’t want to quit your job then you’ll need to find some solutions. Here’s 6 tips on how to improve the situation:

1. Talk to a trusted friend or colleague
Sharing the problem will help, as you may find that you’re not the only one experiencing difficulties with this individual. If another colleague is also having problems, think of ways to deal with the situation together and commit to taking action. Make sure you stay professional and don’t resort to gossiping. Also, make sure you follow through with any decisions made, or you could get a reputation for moaning.

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2. Put yourself in their shoes
Try to work out why your colleague is being difficult or acting aggressively. Is he or she insecure about their job? Are they overloaded with work? Do they have personal problems? If you can understand the reasons behind their actions, then you might be able to offer some solutions.

3. Talk to the difficult colleague privately
If you’re willing to talk to your colleague, ask to have a private conversation. They may not even be aware of the impact their words or actions are having on you. Remember to bring the conversation back to you so that they don’t feel like they’re being attacked. For example, saying “I find it difficult when you…” rather than “You make me feel…” is less accusatory. However, some aggressive people aren’t concerned about upsetting other people. In this case, it’s important to remain calm and end the conversation in a positive way.

4. Stand up for yourself
Bullies pick on anyone they think may be vulnerable. Don’t let yourself become a victim. You can try to address your co-worker’s behaviour publicly: for example, try suggesting that the hostile atmosphere isn’t helpful during a meeting. If you feel you can trust your boss to back you up, make sure you copy them in on any emails or ask them to be present during meetings involving the bully. Above all, make sure that your own behaviour is beyond reproach – you don’t know what your colleague could be saying behind your back.

5. Plan your actions
Being treated unprofessionally at work can make you feel angry and emotional. You don’t expect to be treated this way and it can be very difficult to handle the situation in a rational manner. However, the worst thing you can do is to react on the spur of the moment. Try to step back from the situation, clear your head and plan how you’re going to address the problem. Getting involved in a shouting match or bursting into tears in the office will reflect very badly on you, even if it’s not your fault. You don’t want to be labelled as “unprofessional”.

6. Document your co-worker’s actions
If your colleague continues to bully or harass you, make sure you write down all the incidents or keep copies of any unpleasant emails. You may have to report their behaviour to HR, so providing them with hard evidence will definitely support your case. Remember, if a co-worker is preventing you from performing at your best, they’re also damaging the company.