Dealing With Difficult Coworkers

Dealing With Difficult Coworkers

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We all occasionally work with people who are negative, uncooperative, or bring more drama than a reality TV housewife. Margaret Heffernan says, “For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.” Ms Heffernan has a point: some disagreement is healthy for brainstorming and problem solving. But some folks are so contradictory they impede progress or make their coworkers uncomfortable. Be your most compromising self for National Kiss-and-Make-Up Day today, and try these tips to calm the conflict…

Rise Above

Shut down your office gossip by avoiding their snide chitchat. Not sure what to say when they try to bait you? Here are a few ideas for responses:

  • Tell them you hate to cut them off, but you have projects to finish and need to double down on deadlines before the week’s out.
  • Suggest that since it doesn’t really affect you, it might be best to shrug it off.
  • Say that you simply don’t want to know, so that you can avoid learning any incriminating info about your coworkers that could get back to you.

It may be hard to stand your ground, but it’s essential. By engaging in gossip, you contribute to negativity and division. If you learn something damning about another coworker that you weren’t supposed to know, your position could be in jeopardy if you choose not to report it to management. Also, do not bring up politics into the workplace.

Got a coworker who always seems to see the worst in a situation? The best way to deal with someone who is unwaveringly pessimistic is the time-honored “kill ‘em with kindness” approach. While this approach can be emotionally exhausting, it’s a great way to shut down someone who always has something bad to say. Once they realize you’re not willing to feed their misery, they’ll leave you alone. Hackneyed responses like “Don’t worry about it, you’ll be fine!” or “Well, at least your ___ is going well” may feel empty and insincere, but they serve your ultimate goal of getting the Negative Nancy to stop taking things out on you. They’ll stop pestering you once you stop feeding them attention. If they really have an issue, they need to practice some accountability by working it out with the boss.

Don’t Fear Confrontation

Face the issue head-on. Get your supervisor involved if necessary, especially if you feel like someone is bullying you. Most supervisors won’t want to lose you as an employee over issues of conflict or harassment. It helps to document the times you felt threatened by recording dates and what was done or said. This makes you come off as calm and prepared, and will give you the confidence you need to face a potentially confrontational situation.

If you think you can resolve the issue without management oversight, go for it. Even people who’ve been working together for months or years can get on each other’s nerves, so having an earnest conversation with an office cohort often isn’t the end of the world. If you generally enjoy working them and have a decent relationship, they’ll most likely be open to a discussion about what’s been on your mind. Don’t be hostile or defensive. Just ask them if they can talk, and be open and honest about what’s bothering you.

Team Building Exercises

This might seem like a corny solution, but team building activities break up the workday routine, and give coworkers insight into each others’ lives and thought processes. Team bonding events, workshops, and icebreaker exercises are often effective for improving communication, no matter how silly they are. It may be because they are in fact, silly, that they bring people together. People need to escape work mode occasionally. If nothing else, they’ll bond by collectively rolling their eyes at the absurdity of the icebreaker du jour.


Photo credit: Pixabay

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