Dealing with the difficult coworker

When dealing with the difficult co-worker, it can be hard figuring out the most appropriate way.

Confronting a person publicly is not the most efficient way to resolve an issue, nor is slipping an anonymous note into the person’s pigeon hole. You don’t want to humiliate a person with body odor issues by placing a deodorant can on their desk, and you certainly wouldn’t pull a ‘Godfather’ move and leave a horse head in their bed. So what is the most efficient way to directly deal with the difficult coworker?

Below are the four steps you should follow when dealing with difficult people:

1. Examine yourself

Examining yourself enables you to re-assess the situation. Are you sure that the co-worker in question is actually the problem? Are you over reacting? Will the consequence of confronting the co-worker make the situation worse than it already is? Perhaps you will find there is a pattern with you and your co-workers, or that you have certain “hot buttons” that when pushed really annoy you. Starting with self-examination helps you to identify your objections when confronting difficult co-workers, and to evaluate if the situation really is due to your co-worker’s actions.

2. Discuss your experiences with a trusted friend or colleague

Discussing your experience with a trusted friend of colleague enables you to see an outsider’s point of view. Their view can really provide insight into the situation as they are not emotionally involved. Together you can brainstorm various ways to handle the situation without emotions or politics getting in the way.

3. Approach the difficult person for a private discussion using “I” messages

When approaching the difficult co-worker, it’s important that you talk using “I” messages. “I” messages are when you focus on the situation and emotions that you’re experiencing rather than the person them self. It’s important you stress to your co-worker the impact that their actions have had on you.

Be pleasant and agreeable when talking to them as this may be the first time they have considered and reflected on their actions and how they have affected people. However, they may be very aware of their actions and impact – but give them the benefit of the doubt. Throughout the discussion, reach an agreement on the issue and a plan to resolve it through positive actions.

4. Follow up the initial discussion

Although the initial discussion with may seem to be the most important task; following up the discussion is just as important. Evaluate and determine whether your co-worker’s attitude and actions have changed and identify if you believe a follow up discussion is needed. Do you really love and want to keep your job? Do you want to make peace with the co-worker? Do you have the support of your boss? If you answered yes to all three questions a follow up discussion may be valuable to you.

If you continue to have problems with the difficult co-worker, it may be worth having a third party moderate the situation or make an effort to limit the difficult person’s interactions with you.

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