How To Deal With Difficult Co-Workers

perception is reality

In a perfect world, you’d probably love your job, your boss, and your co-workers. Alas, we don’t live in a perfect world. With difficult jobs, sometimes you just have to take them to pay bills, learn as much as you can, and buy your time as you try and transition into something that doesn’t make you want to hyperventilate as you walk into work every morning.  With difficult bosses, well, you pretty much have to pretend you’re part of a stage play and indeed play your part the best way you can until you’re able to move on to bigger things. Difficult co-workers, however, can be tricky.

Difficult co-workers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are the boss’s pet and will report every minor failing on your part to make you look bad. Some are just lazy and you end up having to pick up their slack. Others are passive-aggressive in some shape or form which leaves you in a constant state of having to worry whether you’ve done something wrong or they are just having a bad day. Short of quitting, how does one deal with difficult co-workers? Well, I asked a few people who have some experience with this and here are a few suggestions:

1. Black out the noise/Put in headphones.

This is so Gen Y but one person I talked to said the key to her survival at work is that she pretty much doesn’t talk to her co-workers unless she has to. Plus it makes her work day go by faster when she doesn’t have to endure their petty conversations. This might work if you’re in a field where you’re able to focus solely on your individual tasks. However, if you have a lot of group-related tasks in your work, probably not the strategy for you.

2. Kill them with kindness.

One of my friends insists on killing his difficult co-workers with kindness. He said they tried to make his life a living hell when he first started working for the company. Given his often “soft” demeanor, they thought he’d eventually crack and asked to be moved to a different department like a lot of newbies apparently end up doing. He used his soft demeanor to his advantage, and actually ended up making it a kind of secret joke. The meaner they were to him, the kinder he was – offering to stay late, pick up on the slack, taking initiative despite very harsh criticism in all his projects. He also made sure to never do anything half-assed. He became head of his team within eight months. He who laughs last, laughs loudest. I’d say this one is available to all of us if we actually have the stomach for it.

 3. Focus on work-related tasks/Never take anything personally

This was advice given by a mentor. She said in human relations, there is a tendency to make how other people treat us about us. She says no matter how someone treats you in relation to the work, focus on getting the task done and even if they have a mouthful about your personality, don’t take it personally. She says people think, speak, and act according to their reality and perceptions and you fall prey to them when you respond in the manner in which they treated you rather than according to your own reality. I’d say that’s good advice for all of us.

Have you had difficult co-workers? How’d you handle it? What would you change? And what advice do you have on this issue?

Kovie Biakolo

Kovie Biakolo is a Drake University Marketing Graduate. Originally thinking she was headed to law school in Chicago or a year in Spain, Kovie found herself in the Windy City in digital writing and marketing for over a year. Currently, Kovie is in graduate school for Multicultural and Organizational Communication and started a blog, Life At Twenty Something to write about the good, the bad and the ugly of the twenty something life.

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