It happens to all of us: That one co-worker who makes coming into work a chore. Maybe they’re ultra-competitive. Or maybe they’re gossipy and spread rumors around the office. You may also encounter co-workers who are bossy, incosiderate, needy or those who just interrupt your daily Zen! Whatever the case, if you’re dealing with a difficult co-worker, you must take steps to improve the situation—and your work life.
Take these five steps right away!
First and foremost—don’t ignore the problem. Not only will it not go away, it may get worse. Left unchecked, a difficult co-worker’s behavior, or your reaction to it, could escalate. Instead, take these important steps to handle the problem effectively:
- Take a step back. If you’re having a bad week outside of work, are your feelings spilling into your workday and making it more difficult to handle people who normally wouldn’t bother you? We all need to get along, and everyone is different. Take an impartial look at the situation and make sure what you think it happening is actually happening.
- Talk to a trusted friend. Choose a work friend you can trust and get their advice. Have they experienced something similar with this co-worker? Have they noticed the behavior you’re describing? How would they handle the situation? It’s always helpful to get a second opinion. Formulate a plan for what to say to them to mend the situation.
- Reach out to the difficult co-worker. Unfortunately, it’s best to confront the person head-on, even though it may be an uncomfortable conversation. Ask them if they can take a few minutes to talk to you one on one. Then, explain what you’ve noticed and how it makes you feel. It’s important to keep the conversation focused on you, rather than making it accusatory. Then, say how you’d like things to change and attempt to reach a conclusion you can both agree to.
- Talk to your boss. It’s always a good idea to let your boss know what has happened, especially if the conversation with your co-worker didn’t go well. Let your boss know what’s been happening and how it affects you. They may also wish to speak to the difficult co-worker.
- Stand your ground (and know when it’s serious). Stick to your guns! If you want the person’s behavior to change, don’t let them get away with future bad behavior—remind them what upsets you if it happens again. And always remember, if the person is sexually harrassing you, or bullying you in a way that makes you feel unsafe, this is never acceptable and should be brought to the attention of both your boss and human resources.
Know when to say when.
You need to be comfortable at work. If the behavior of a difficult co-worker makes it hard to do your job and stay productive, consider moving to a different department within your company. You may also wish to change jobs completely, depending on your individual situation. It’s not worth it to be unhappy during every workday.