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How to Handle a Difficult Co-worker

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We’ve all had that one exasperating coworker who gets under our skin so much that it spoils the evening and even weekends. Workplace expert Lisa Copeland says that how you handle this situation can not only restore harmony to your day, but serve as a testament to your leadership abilities.

Her tips:

  1. Don’t be a victim. When your turn for harassment comes, don’t ignore the problem. If you let the other employee walk all over you, it’s never going to stop. You need to deal with it immediately.
  2. Look inside. If you’ve experienced similar problems with other coworkers before, then chances are you might need to change something about your behavior. Address this before you confront your co-worker. It’s a tough task to look in the mirror objectively, but it could be a classic case of “It’s not you it’s me” playing out.
  3. Talk to others. Before you confront a difficult person, be sure to talk through the problem with a few people you trust. Don’t come off as a complainer, and don’t expect them to fix the problem, but actively seek their feedback and ideas how to create a positive outcome.
  4. Meet in private. Conversations of this kind should not be done in public. Ask to speak to the difficult coworker alone. Be kindhearted and amenable to ideas. Be a good listener. Talk about how you feel about their actions, not the actions themselves. Try to reach an understanding on how to move forward. And don’t forget to follow up with them later.
  5. Remember your values. If you and your coworkers have agreed upon a set of values or rules for conduct, it’s much easier to provide focus to these tough conversations. For instance, you may be able to say, “I don’t think you are cheering for me,” if that’s one of your team’s core values.
  6. Be willing to forgive and forget.  If things work out with the annoying coworker, be prepared to forgive and forget. If it doesn’t, then it’s time to get a manager or HR involved. If that doesn’t help, then either limit your exposure to the person or consider moving on. Nothing is worth the grief that some people will inflict upon you.