If you’ve been in the workforce for a bit, I’m sure you’ve come across someone you classified as a difficult work mate? A bully? OR perhaps that someone you haven’t gotten along well with?
Well, I have. A few years ago, due to a restructure, I happened to take on a position one of the ladies really wanted! I had only been with the organisation a few months, and hadn’t been working that long while on the other hand, she had been there a long time and more “qualified” in her opinion! When it was announced that I was filling the role, she went crazy! And that was my first experience of dealing with a “co-worker from hell”.
SO, if you have faced this situation, I’m sure you’ve dealt with it the best way you could or thought at the time. And if you were to face that situation again, I’m sure you’d do things differently.
From my experience, and casual discussions with people, here’re top 7 ways of dealing with that difficult colleague:
1. Consider the facts
For every situation, whether conflict or misunderstanding, you’ve heard people say “there’s always 2 sides to the story” right? SO when you feel like you’re being bullied or just dealing with a difficult co-worker, it’s important to consider the facts before you do anything.
Are you overreacting? Is it what they say or how they say it? Their actions or what they believe in?
It might pay to talk it through with a good friend / partner OR a colleague who may have been present some of the times too – just to look at all the facts. Brainstorm ideas or ways to address the situation. You’ll be surprised sometimes you may have acted in a way that would have resulted in the colleague’s actions or perhaps you could handle things better so much so that the actions will stop.
2. Address the situation
Believe you me, no situation gets better coz it’s left unaddressed. In fact, it can get worse.
IF at all possible, ADDRESS IT! You don’t want to dread going to work each day because of a co-worker otherwise it feels like high-school bullying.
Whining about it or reacting certain ways can result in you being labelled “difficult” or “unprofessional”. So it’s important to address this in a mature way.
WARNING: Do not address the difficult co-worker in public as this may look like confronting and could worsen the situation. Choose your moments/time/place.
3. Seek Assistance - Talk to your Manager / HR / external help
Depending on the structure of your organisation, and the co-worker you’re dealing with, you may want to discuss with your direct manager first before you escalate. If your manager is involved or has seen it but hasn’t acted, HR is your next step.
Some organisations no longer have HR departments but they may have external help like EAP where you can go for counselling or private discussions, perhaps seek help there.
4. Avoid or work on different projects
It might pay to work on different projects or avoid this colleague IF at all possible. Doing this won’t make you seem like a wimp, but merely avoiding conflict or drama. So find ways to avoid direct contact and minimize crossing paths.
5. Maintain Integrity / Stay Professional
It’s important to act professional at all times. Whether you run into the colleague in the corridor, or you have to work together OR talk to them about something, always act professional. Not only will other colleagues witness your efforts but sometimes that may force a change in your co-worker. Besides, it’s important to treat everyone with respect as you never know what they’re going through. Some may not even realize the impact their actions have on other people so if you kill them with kindness, you may trigger something.
Also, if you act unprofessional, it may seem like you’re high maintenance to your employer especially if you’re the one complaining about the situation (not the difficult colleague).
6. Change departments
Should you involve HR, sometimes they may be able to arrange for you to work in a different department. Some could even arrange a transfer to another city or secondment with another organisation. This should help, even if it’s temporary.
7. Move on i.e find another job
When all else has failed, and you feel you’ve given it your all, perhaps it’s time to move on. Start afresh! Some stay at the same employment because they need the money, or aren’t willing (or comfortable) to find new employment but it’s important to ask yourself, “what price am I willing to pay to stay?”
While you may be the victim, sometimes it’s important to consider your happiness, mental health and perhaps success.
Whichever way you choose to deal with the situation – take action sooner rather than later. Handling the situation before it turns really sour will ensure you deal with it while you still in control emotionally.
It’s also important to note, you may not agree to the problem or solution. The “toxic” co-worker may not view themselves as being difficult but feel their actions justifiable. As such, you should prepare yourself to learn from it all and come out a better person, perhaps understanding their point of view, even if you disagree. Difficult co-workers are everywhere. While we may not be able to eliminate them altogether, we can find ways to deal with them.
So just in case you’re wondering how I dealt with mine: Well, after shedding tears to my other half one evening, I went back the following day with a new attitude and my head held up high. I avoided (more like ignored) her for some time TILL SHE CHANGED. Thank goodness I wasn’t the only victim so she got tired of people shunning her.
Have you ever had a co-worker from hell? If so how did you deal with them? Thoughts or comments? Would love to hear from you whether you’ve been in the situation or not.