Four tips for dealing with difficult colleagues

  | Lilli Hender

Four tips for dealing with difficult colleagues

Increasingly, there is a day or week dedicated to almost every possible topic – from Talk Like A Pirate Day to National Sandwich Week. In October, Cranky Co-workers Day proves to be one of the more constructive. Ever been the recipient of a passive-aggressive Post-It or a bolshy email? Lilli Hender, in light of this most useful of days, suggests four key things to bear in mind when dealing with a difficult colleague.

Manners don’t cost a thing

It can be hard to maintain the pretence that you’re fine when someone has upset or angered you at work – not least because most offices these days are open plan. In such situations, it’s easy for ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and general politeness to fly out the window. Don’t let this be the case. The bigger person is the one that retains an air of deference: losing your cool in the form of tears or tantrums won’t help the matter.

Count to ten (or 100)

The above advice is often easier said than done but this is where using the old counting trick can help. Before you respond to a snarky comment or ‘harmless banter’, take a minute to reflect whether your reply will simply perpetuate the situation – or whether you need reply at all.

Of course, some situations require a response – an email from your boss, a question from a colleague about a joint project – and in these cases, it’s even more crucial to allow yourself thinking time to construct a measured, professional reply.

Work out your work/life balance

Difficulties at work tend to fall into one of two categories: work-related and non-work-related. For both of these issues, creating a bit of space between yourself and the party involved is a good solution. This space can be literal or figurative. Stick in some headphones: they do wonders for blocking out banter, gossip, inappropriate comments, negativity, and many more draining office occurrences.

Taking a walk at lunchtime can also help to clear your head by offering a change in environment. Similarly, if your co-workers are really grinding you down, a day or two working from home can help to restore your sanity – you might even find you miss them!

Empathy is an underrated skill

Emotional intelligence is often termed a ‘soft skill’ but it’s one of the most important in the world of work. Understanding someone else’s intentions and motivations is naturally going to be tough when you’re personally involved, but try to be objective.

Imagine yourself as a bystander to the events: can you see where they’re coming from? If you can and you’re still having trouble with it, explain this to them to show you’ve considered their perspective. If you can’t and you’re still having trouble with it, ask them because it’s better than second-guessing - and don’t forget to explain your side too. Honesty is (more often than not) the best policy and such a conversation can help you both take a step back in order to move forward.

Last but not least…

Don’t underestimate a helping hand. If you’re facing constant battles with a co-worker, make sure to talk to a manager or someone you trust in a position of authority that can understand and help. When you can’t seem to find a solution, sometimes the best option is to allow someone else to step in. Support structures in the workplace exist for numerous reasons and cranky co-workers is one not to be overlooked.

Author's Bio: Lilli Hender writes for Office Genie: a desk and office space marketplace for freelancers, startups and SMEs. She focuses primarily on workplace wellbeing and productivity.

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