Workplace Issues

How To Deal With A Difficult Colleague? Dealing With Bullies At Work

Written by mrafeeq · 4 min read >

Photo by Andre Tan on Unsplash

A workplace is a milieu where you get to meet people of different characters. Most of the colleagues you will work with will be part of your professional growth and development. Some may even become friends and buddies in the long run.

Like any other place where there are groups of individuals, the office also has its share of overly sensitive, irritable, or even downright obnoxious people. They will never fail to get into our nerves and sometimes even make us feel stressed. Once the pressure mounts, it becomes unbearable and causes us to either become unproductive or even think of leaving our jobs.

So how do we strictly deal with people who make our professional life miserable? Although each of us has our way of coping with inter-office relationships, there are commonalities in our behaviours that we can learn from.

Setting Up Your Priorities

The primary reason why we are at work is that we need to earn a living. Developing relationships is only secondary. Therefore, when confronted by a difficult person, you must never lose focus on why you are in your workplace. As such, you always must maintain professional decorum no matter what difficulties you face.

Knowing and Understanding What Drives the Difficult Behavior

Knowing what triggers another person to act differently can help us manage the way we react towards them. Some people may appear to be difficult because they are experiencing some challenging situations in their lives that make them snap and respond out of the norm. For example, some co-workers can be very competitive and consider the rest of the team a threat. Some are just downright horrible when it comes to dealing with other people. Understanding these people’s behaviour and attitude will assist you in developing inter-personal dynamics that are beneficial for you.

Be Conscious of Your Reaction

Self-assessment is a crucial step in dealing with difficult people at work and anywhere else. If you dig deeper into interactions, it boils down to our reactions to other people’s attitudes, mindsets, and behaviour. For example, while we may detest a co-worker’s sensitivity, we might also be displaying the same conduct by the way we get affected. As such, a person who has the habit of asking many questions can become annoying, although all he wanted to do was ask questions. Awareness of our reaction to perceived negativity at work will make us react maturely and professionally. It is not about what they do but how we respond to them, making office life bearable or intolerable.

Be Calm and Collected

Always come to work with a positive mindset. Start your day by greeting and smiling at everyone you come across, including your difficult co-workers. You convey a message that you cannot be easily swayed or affected by pessimism and negativity by displaying an optimistic attitude.

Competitive colleagues may argue and question your thoughts, plans, and recommendations. Stay calm and focus on the message they want to convey and not on how it was delivered. Address the letter competently and ask questions to clarify your co-worker’s contentions. You can win competitive people over by making them feel that you are not a threat but a professional partner who can exchange ideas.

Be Proactive Instead of Reactive

Some people will irritate us by simply ignoring us. There are instances when we cannot finish our work because the next stage needs your colleague’s input. Instead of being furious about his demeanour, approach him and ask for a bit of his time to discuss the project. Getting angry about his inattentiveness will only give you frustrations, whereas setting up a dialogue can help you get things done. Who knows, maybe a professional conversation is just precisely what he needs.

Choose Your Battles

Accept the fact that not all people will be on your side. Do not play psychologist or therapist to your difficult colleagues. Yes, you may offer a sympathetic ear to a co-worker undergoing difficult times, but make sure you know your boundaries. Avoid people at work who gossip or who always pick up fights. The less time you spend with them, the better for your psyche. Completely dissociate yourself from obnoxious people and never even attempt to win them over. This type of person has an entirely different mindset and may need professional help. Spend your energy by being productive instead.

Maintain Professionalism Even When You are Emotional

There’ll be instances when our emotions can get the better of us. Before you say anything that you will regret, take a deep breath. Don’t speak when your emotion runs high. If the pressure is too much to bear, talk with your HR or your immediate supervisor. Explain how your colleague’s conduct affects you personally and professionally. Avoid talking about a colleague with another co-worker. It will only fuel inter-office politics that will make the work environment even more volatile.

5 Dos and Don’ts of Dealing with Difficult People in the Workplace

Dealing with difficult people in the workplace is never an easy task. Of course, we all want to have a good relationship with our colleagues, but sometimes it seems like the more we try, the worse it gets.

1. Establish boundaries: Establish and maintain boundaries with difficult people and set clear expectations for how to communicate and behave with them.

2. Listen actively: Actively listen to their stories, empathize, validate, ask clarifying questions, provide feedback.

3. Handle the situation calmly: Stay calm, focus on the person’s issue or question until it is resolved or have been heard out ultimately.

4. Address underlying issues: Address underlying issues of the person’s behaviour — not just their actions — by asking them what may have caused them to become so frustrated or angry.

5. Get everyone involved: Involve other people who may be part of a difficult conversation or situation in a positive way — whether it’s those who are present at the time or those that will be impacted by the decision later

Understanding someone’s anger is the first step to managing it.

Anger can be an unhealthy feeling, but it also has the power to push us into action.

At work, this may manifest in people’s behaviour, with them showing up late for meetings, not getting any work done or even asking for a transfer or new job. However, nobody would like to see their co-workers get angry at work every day without ever doing anything about it. So what are some tips to handle an angry co-worker?

Anger management tips for co-workers:

Before you do anything else, try to listen. Think of anger as a signal that something is wrong and your co-worker might have just needed some attention long before

It’s hard to deal with a problematic colleague, but it is possible. Above are some strategies that may help you in the future. ____What do you think? Have any of these ideas helped you out before? Share your thoughts below! Remember, always take time for yourself and keep your head up! You are not alone in dealing with these types of people.

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