At one point or another in everyone’s career, we all have to face the inevitable: a difficult coworker. They come in all different types: the brown-nose, the back-stabber, the sloth, the office gossip… They appear in all different habitats, no matter where you work. So how do you address these stressful situations and find a way to coexist with a difficult coworker?

  • Try to find common ground. At the end of the day, you will need to find some kind of common ground with your coworker in order to accomplish something. Be willing to compromise, have open discussions, and keep emotions out of it when working towards a solution. Find something that you can both agree upon as a starting point and build on that.
  • Keep interactions short and professional. Sometimes when facing a difficult coworker, less is more. Stick to the facts, state clear and concise expectations, and don’t over tell. Simply provide the necessary information and facts, include specific data points, and move on.
  • Think before you speak. Be careful who you trust with your personal information, or even with your great ideas. There will always be people you come across who try to take credit for your work, steal your ideas, or even share your personal stories with others as a way of gossiping. Be careful what you say and who you say it to in the workplace.
  • If nothing else works, talk to your boss, or seek out a mediator. Sometimes it’s a matter of misunderstanding, and when emotions are involved, or when one of the two parties takes matters personally, things can get heated. Call in a 3rd party who you can trust to be fair and can help the two of you come to a working compromise. Many times those who are difficult don’t really know how they are coming across, or don’t intend to be as difficult as they are perceived. Another person in the room can change and improve the dynamic.
  • Try to make peace. If the difficult person is at all reasonable, try to extend an olive branch. Oftentimes it just takes one person to let their guard down to change the energy in a relationship. Try making a joke, or offering to grab them Starbucks one morning. Sometimes the old aged of “killing ‘em with kindness” does actually work!

Although there’s no real cure to the ailment of a difficult coworker, these tips will help you at least get by better when faced with a difficult colleague in the office. But, remember if you are ever faced with a coworker who makes you feel physically intimidated, afraid, or bullied. Always report the incident to your HR department immediately.