How to get along with a difficult coworker

How to get along with a difficult coworker

Anyone starting a new job might want some tips for getting along with difficult co-workers. In every job, there is usually someone who isn’t easy to get along with. Because working with them is a necessity, it is important to handle the situation delicately. We discuss some of the most common types of difficult coworkers. We then offer 10helpful tips for how to manage a difficult coworker’s behavior.

Types of Difficult Coworkers

Dealing with difficult coworkers can greatly impact your work life. Different individuals bring their unique personalities and behaviors to the workplace, which can sometimes lead to conflicts or tension. Here are some of the most common types of difficult coworkers.

The Negative Nancy or Ned

This type of coworker always has something negative to say, whether it’s about:

  • a project
  • an idea
  • the overall work environment,

These coworkers can be demotivating and drain the team’s energy with their constant pessimism.

The Micro-Manager

This coworker tends to excessively control and monitor the work of others. This can lead to frustration and a lack of autonomy among team members. They might not trust their colleagues to complete tasks without their constant supervision. It can be hard to maintain a productive and positive work environment with a micro-manager around.

The Slacker

The slacker is someone who consistently shirks their responsibilities and doesn’t meet deadlines. They rely on others to pick up their slack. This can lead to resentment among team members who feel like they are carrying an unfair load. Working with a slacker can be very frustrating if your own work depends on theirs.

The Know-It-All

A Know-It-All can be exceptionally draining to work with. This individual believes they have all the answers. They may come across as arrogant or condescending when interacting with others. They might dismiss others’ ideas and opinions, making collaboration difficult.

The Non-Communicator

Communication is key to forming positive relationships with coworkers. Working with a non-communicator can bring down an entire team. Thie coworker avoids open communication. This can lead to misunderstanding and missed deadlines. These individuals may also ignore emails or requests for information. Projects can be delayed when a non-communicator is part of a team.

The Over-Competititive Colleague

It can be difficult to work with someone who is over-competitive. While healthy competition can be motivating, an over-competitive coworker may go to extremes to outshine others. This behavior can lead to a cutthroat environment and hinder collaboration.

The Disorganized Co-worker

There are several reasons why people might find a disorganized coworker frustrating to work with. They may struggle with time management or forgot important deadlines. This can create chaos and stress for the entire team.

How to Deal with Difficult Coworkers

Effectively dealing with difficult coworkers is crucial for maintaining a healthy and productive work environment. While it can be challenging, it can also be a valuable learning experience. We highlight 10 ways to deal with difficult coworkers.

  • Practice Empathy and Understanding
  • Reflect on Your Own Behavior
  • Use Active Listening and Open Communication
  • Choose a Positive Approach
  • Discuss The Problem
  • Acknowledge Their Contributions
  • Try Being Friendly
  • Look At The Situation Differently
  • Minimize Interaction
  • Report If Necessary

Practice Empathy and Understanding

When faced with a difficult coworker, it’s important to put yourself in their shoes. Consider that they might be dealing with personal issues, work pressures, or communication challenges that contribute to their behavior. By understanding their perspective, you can approach interactions with more patience and compassion. This empathy can create a more conducive environment for open communication and problem-solving.

Reflect on Your Own Behavior

If you are having a difficult time getting along with a coworker, you need to consider why you dislike them. Have they done something specific to upset you? Do they remind you of someone else you don’t like? Do they have values or belief systems that are unlike yours? Once you understand why you dislike them or find them difficult to work with, you can be more effective at improving these professional relationships.

Use Active Listening and Open Communication

Engaging in active listening is crucial when dealing with a difficult colleague. Given them your full attention and maintain eye contact. This will show genuine interest in what they’re saying. Encourage them to express their thoughts and concerns without interruption. Effective communication involves both speaking and listening, and by actively engaging in dialogue, you can avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

Choose a Positive Approach

When interacting with a difficult coworker, you can focus on maintaining a positive attitude. Respond to their behavior with professionalism and respect. Instead of dwelling on past conflicts or negative aspects, look for opportunities to collaborate and find common ground. Your positive approach can help shift the dynamics of your relationship and encourage more cooperative interactions. By choosing to have a positive outlook, you can help support a healthy and harmonious work environment.

Discuss The Problem

The first step when dealing with a difficult coworker should always be to try and talk through the issue like reasonable adults. Carefully consider where the root of the problem truly lies. Try and lay out a compromise and see if the difficult co-worker will accept it. This is the ideal way to handle the problem because both parties are likely to walk away without hurt feelings. The difficult co-worker may not have even realized they were being difficult and will cease the problematic behavior without issue. This doesn’t always work, but it is always worth a try in order to improve your working relationship with them.

Acknowledge Their Contributions

Even if their behavior is challenging, it is important for you to acknowledge their contributions and expertise. Remember, they were hired for a reason! By showing appreciation for their skills and efforts, you validate their role within the team. This recognition can create a more productive work environment and help build a positive relationship with problematic coworkers.

Try Being Friendly

Being friendly is another way to get along with difficult co-workers. Most people will react more nicely if someone is nice to them first. Early impressions can be wrong and it may just be a case of getting to know someone better. As Inc states, humor, especially of the self-deprecating variety, also works exceptionally well to diffuse a situation and can reframe the problem in a more agreeable manner for the co-worker who is being difficult. Sometimes, the solution to the problem can be that simple.

Look At The Situation Differently

Sometimes the problem is the person who has a problem. Take a step back and look at the issue critically as well as from the other person’s perspective. Perhaps the difficult co-worker is not actually being so difficult after all. Perhaps the employee with the problem is looking at the situation the wrong way. It is entirely possible that the annoyed employee was not an especially good match for working in this particular office environment. Perhaps what is making the difficult employee difficult is a disability they cannot control. It is important not to judge until the entirety of the story is known. Often, the best solution is to alter expectations.

Minimize Interaction

Simply ignoring the difficult co-worker may prove to be the solution. People engaging in obnoxious behavior typically stop when they see it is not getting a response from the intended victim. Choosing to work in a different area of the office than the co-worker is a good solution, as is moving offices altogether if possible and not too blatant. If the situation is particularly bad, the person with the problem could quietly transfer to a different department or manager as well.

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Report If Necessary

Reporting difficult co-worker’s behavior should always be a last resort, but it is among the most important tips for getting along with difficult co-workers. Sometimes it is wholly necessary to talk to a manager about the issue. This is especially true if the difficult co-workers are doing anything illegal or against company policy. Harassment should never be tolerated and inappropriate behavior should be reported to the human resources department immediately. If a manager is the problem, going to HR, another manager at the boss’s level or a boss at the higher level are all options to help with conflict resolution.


Difficult co-workers are a reality of working life. Methods of effectively dealing with these people must, therefore, be cultivated. These tips for getting along with difficult coworkers should be able to help anyone adjust to a new job.

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