7 Strategies for Coping with Difficult Co-Workers
By Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC
Co-workers who are difficult to deal with can have a negative impact on your mood and performance. There may be many reasons for your colleague's discontent, but this should not affect your emotional health. There are many approaches to promoting harmony in the workplace.
Try these strategies for more peaceful communications with difficult co-workers:
1. Talk with your colleague first. For any workplace dispute, supervisors appreciate employees who demonstrate the maturity to resolve their own conflicts. Start by speaking directly with the individual.
2. Know when to consult your supervisor or the human resources department. If you and your colleague can't resolve the situation privately, you may need to escalate. Follow your company's grievance policy or ensure your colleague is aware of the appropriate avenue to express their concerns.
3. Focus on inappropriate behaviors. When speaking with your co-worker, be specific about the conduct that you think is inappropriate. If necessary, explain how it's disruptive.
4. Help the perfectionist to be more realistic. Some people complain because they have high expectations that are difficult to meet with the time and resources available. Try to reach a consensus about what is feasible.
5. Introduce change gradually. Some are resistant to change and find it unsettling. If you anticipate that upcoming events are likely to create conflict, try to give notice or mention it it the staff meeting to discuss the situation. People may accept unwelcome changes more gracefully if they're notified in advance and understand the reasoning behind them.
6. Avoid personal criticism. Making fun of others is often a sign of insecurity. If you're working with a co-worker who makes disparaging remarks about others, the situation can sometimes be improved by helping them to feel more secure and confident in their own abilities.
7. Follow up. Once you make progress towards a more positive workplace, maintain the momentum with constructive follow up. Inquire if your co-worker's legitimate complaints have been resolved to their satisfaction and thank people for all their efforts.
Coping Strategies for Your Own Peace of Mind:
1. Put yourself in your co-worker's place and remember their good qualities. It will be easier to maintain a pleasant work relationship with co-workers if you try to understand their point of view. Keep their strengths in mind to balance any tendencies that you find irritating.
2. Remain friendly. Encourage constructive exchanges while avoiding griping. Keep up daily pleasantries for an amiable environment.
3. Maintain your sense of humor. Any situation is easier if you can laugh about it. You may be able to find some entertainment value in your colleagues' bellyaching.
4. Develop a strong support network. If you still sense negativity at the office, keep yourself strong with a good support network. Get the support that works for you from family, friends, or your faith tradition.
Difficult co-workers can make getting through your day and completing your work hard for you. By taking the initiative to create a more positive workplace, you can help eliminate tension and boost your own morale.