5 Types Of Difficult Co-Workers And How To Cope

We've all dealt with difficult co-workers that make you want to pull your hair out. Here are five of the most trying types of office personalities and how to handle them.
5 Types Of Difficult Co-Workers And How To Cope5 Types Of Difficult Co-Workers And How To Cope5 Types Of Difficult Co-Workers And How To Cope5 Types Of Difficult Co-Workers And How To Cope

According to a survey by Olivet Nazarene University, the number one source of tension in the workplace is interpersonal relationships. In fact, 36% of those surveyed admitted to changing jobs due annoying or difficult co-workers, and 96% revealed that they get annoyed with their colleagues on a regular basis.

We’ve all dealt with challenging colleagues—that person who frustrates you so much that you feel like you want to pull your hair out. The key is learning to deal with them in a way that benefits both you and the organization.

Here are five of the most trying types of difficult co-workers and how to handle them:

The Slacker

There is at least one in every office—the slacker who has a knack for doing the bare minimum of actual work while you can hardly keep your head above water. The first question to ask yourself is whether their behavior is directly affecting you. If it’s not prohibiting you from effectively doing your job or producing quality work, it may not be an issue. But if this difficult co-worker is dramatically hurting your performance or the company overall, it’s time to step in.

How to handle them:

The first step is to approach them directly and professionally. Simply state how their work (or lack thereof) directly affects you. Ask them whether their behavior is intentional or unintentional. For all you know, there may extenuating circumstances that you are unaware of. Document the responsibilities of each team member on the projects you share, ensuring everyone is held accountable for their own work. And keep track of your attempts to remedy the situation. If all else fails, it may be time to approach your manager.

The Complainer

We’re all human, and a certain amount of complaining can be normal to blow off steam. But working with a chronic complainer is exhausting. They focus on the negative and look for problems instead of solutions. And the worst part of this difficult co-worker is that they tend to drag down the morale of the entire team.

How to handle them:

First, you can try to redirect their perspective by acknowledging their grievances and then subtly changing the subject. Another option is to encourage them to seek out a solution. Ask questions like, “How do you suggest we solve this problem?” Also, make it clear to this difficult co-worker that things aren’t going to change if they continue to indulge in chronic complaining.

The Scene Stealer

There’s nothing more infuriating than someone taking credit for your work. These difficult co-workers love the spotlight and enjoy taking credit for the success of their teammates—often to compensate for their own insecurities.

How to handle them:

Keep a record of your accomplishments and provide your manager with regular work in progress reports. Most importantly, “toot your own horn”—in other words, publicly claim credit for everything you do. Because if you don’t take credit for your achievements, it is likely that someone else will.

The Know-It-All

You know the type. The difficult co-worker who tends to monopolize conversations, dismiss input from others and make decisions without considering all the facts. They are generally controlling, poor listeners and their overall attitude can be summed up as “my way or the highway.”

How to handle them:

First, approach this difficult co-worker as an ally. You may even ask for their help solving a challenging work issue. By seeking their advice, it will signal your desire to have a positive relationship. If their behavior doesn’t change and your work is suffering, it’s best to address them directly. You may begin by saying, “I respect you and want to discuss something that’s been bothering me.” By having a one-on-one conversation, you’re giving this difficult co-worker room to express themselves. There’s always a chance that they’re clueless about how their actions are impacting others.

The Office Gossip

According to Peggy Drexler, Ph.D., gossiping is a way for humans to bond with one another. But worst case, gossip can be hurtful and create a workplace atmosphere of antagonism and resentment. Is there one teammate who always seems to have the latest scoop on everybody? Gossips love drama, yet their rumor-mongering can be damaging to the organization.

How to handle them:

Avoid engaging in any of their gossip, and try to excuse yourself from negative conversations. As soon as what’s being said becomes unprofessional, simply say something like, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I really don’t feel comfortable talking about co-workers in this way.” Another tactic is to change the subject back to work-related topics. If you find someone spreading malicious rumors, remind them that gossiping could hurt someone’s career and politely ask that they stop.

No workplace is without difficult co-workers. And ignoring them isn’t an option if you want to get ahead. Try implementing these strategies and being flexible with how you express yourself. By making adjustments, you will better connect with a colleague that has a different personality and communication style than your own.

Are you feeling stuck and unfulfilled in your career?  Download my free guide: 5 Signs It’s Time to Make a Bold Career Change!

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