How Do You Deal With Difficult Coworkers?

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May 1, 2020
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min read

If you have worked in an office, chances are you have encountered one or two difficult people along the way. When you are looking for a new job, you might have to discuss how you deal with difficult colleagues during your interviews. Below we will provide some advice on working with difficult people and addressing it during a job interview.

How do you handle a difficult co-worker?

There are many types of people that can cause tension in the workplace. Let's discuss the types of difficult coworkers you may encounter throughout your career.

The I'm always right person

If you work on a team, there may be a member who is louder than everyone else. These people are usually closed-minded and think they are always right no matter what. Oftentimes they monopolize the conversation and refuse to listen to the opinions of others.

Working with a person like this will take a lot of patience. Their behavior can be infuriating and make you feel like your opinion doesn't matter.

Try to let them get their views out first and then attempt to steer the conversation in a better way. Working with someone like this will take a little extra time but you can find ways to manage it.

The mean person

You will most likely work with a mean or nasty person during your career. They might make rude or inappropriate comments or simply belittle those around them.

A person who acts this way at work usually thinks they are funny. If approached about their behavior, they often say they were just joking around.

One way to handle a mean person at work is to discuss it privately with your manager or human resources. This person might need to be told that their actions have a negative effect on everyone else. It's important to address a mean coworker head-on so that the issue stops before someone gets hurt.

The difficult boss

One of the most difficult situations you might face at work is a boss that is hard to deal with. Sometimes employees want to discuss this problem but fear they could lose their job. If you are in an office and get into a situation with a difficult manager, try to address it at soon as it begins.

There are things you can do and people you can talk to. Find a close colleague to confide in or consider speaking to human resources. The faster you get it taken care of, the better your work experience will be.

Of course, there are more than three types of difficult people. Here are a few more examples of difficult employees you may face from time to time.

  • Co-workers who constantly gossip
  • Someone who takes credit for your work
  • A hostile environment
  • A team member who doesn't participate in a project or meeting

Answering interview questions on dealing with difficult people

If you are on the search for a new job, be prepared to discuss how you would handle a difficult co-worker. Hiring managers want to know if you have what it takes to get the job done.

Can you handle a mean or selfish coworker without overwhelming stress? Do you understand what it takes to keep a team together?

Here are a few tips on discussing difficult people during a job interview.

  • Prepare a few examples from previous jobs where you handled a difficult situation in a professional manner.
  • How do you avoid issues in the office?
  • Use a personal story rather than a generic answer during your interview
  • Share experiences that also tie back to the open position
  • Let the interviewer know you work well with all types of people and that you are ready to face the good, bad, and ugly

Final thoughts on what it will take to work with difficult people

At virtually any company, you will be faced with difficult people. Unfortunately, it's something everyone will have to deal with at some point in their career. Remember, it's possible to help people change.

Sometimes a simple conversation can make a world of difference. Whatever the situation or behavior, you have the tools and traits to better your day-to-day at work.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some strategies for maintaining professionalism when dealing with a difficult coworker?

Maintaining professionalism with a difficult coworker involves staying calm, being respectful, and focusing on the issue at hand rather than the person. It's important to set clear boundaries, communicate effectively, and avoid gossip. Seeking support from a supervisor or HR if the situation escalates can also be a prudent step in maintaining a professional environment.

How can you effectively communicate with a coworker who is uncooperative or hostile?

Communicating with an uncooperative or hostile coworker requires patience and clarity. Use "I" statements to express your perspective without placing blame. Listen actively to their concerns, and try to find common ground or compromise. If necessary, involve a mediator to facilitate a constructive dialogue and work towards a resolution that satisfies both parties.

Should you address issues with difficult coworkers directly, or involve management?

It often depends on the severity and nature of the issue. For minor conflicts, it's usually best to try to resolve the matter directly with the coworker in a respectful and private manner. If the behavior is disruptive, persistent, or escalates, involving management or HR is appropriate to ensure a healthy and safe work environment for all employees.

Dave Fano

Founder and CEO of Teal, Dave is a serial entrepreneur with 20+ years of experience building products & services to help people leverage technology and achieve more with less.

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