3 Bona fide Tips: Handling Difficult People at Work

By May 31, 2018 September 13th, 2023 Building a Better Team

Last Updated on September 13, 2023 by Dave Schoenbeck

Handling difficult people at work is an unfortunate part of life. Whether you have a coworker who annoys you to death or one who goes out of their way to make your life harder, we’ve all got that one person at work that we can’t stand.

When it comes to handling difficult people at work, there are a few things you can do to make your life easier.

Here are 3 proven tips to consider if you constantly deal with people you can’t stand at work.

A team argues and depicts Handling Difficult People at Work

1. Take a look in the mirror.

Are you reading too much into the situation? People can feel slighted by blunt emails or short replies, but if that’s just how your coworker communicates, there’s no need to take it personally. See if what you perceive as “bad behavior” can be chalked up to a difference in your personality types.

If you are singled out, ask yourself if you could contribute to the problem. If the coworker senses that you have an attitude or are annoyed by their presence, they might consciously or subconsciously react to this.

As thought leader Rick Brinkman states in his book Dealing With People You Can’t Stand, “Expressions of negativity can be virulent, spreading like the flu through teams of people.” If you’re exhibiting negative behavior, don’t be surprised if that’s what you get in return.

2. Be friendly, no matter what.

Even if someone gets on your every nerve, please try to find something you have in common. Getting along with someone is much easier if you focus on what unites you instead of what drives you apart. You don’t have to be best friends, but you need to work together, so try to make it a pleasant experience.

Everyone wants to be treated with respect. If someone is being difficult, please listen to what they’re saying before you jump in with a response. Sometimes, an angry coworker wants to feel heard, and by being the bigger person, you can help resolve the problem instead of getting bogged down in it.

Remember that causing a scene at work is never a good look. If your attempts at friendliness are met with more anger, it’s better to walk away for now than to try and have the last laugh.

3. Set boundaries.

You have more control than you think when handling difficult people at work. Establish conscious and proactive boundaries about when you’ll interact with a difficult person. This could mean delegating tasks involving interacting with that person, but the edges will look different depending on the situation.

For example, if a coworker constantly interrupts your work to talk about something else, explain firmly that you’re in the middle of something and would prefer to be reached by email. If a coworker is taking credit for your work, confront them directly. Be assertive and let your difficult coworker know when you won’t tolerate specific behavior, then stick to your guns.

Someone in your business always needs to be clarified for you to understand and influence. If you need help handling difficult people at work, fill out my contact form, and I will help you with some ideas.

Coach Dave


Dave Schoenbeck
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