3 Bona fide Tips: Handling Difficult People at Work

Handling difficult people at work is an unfortunate part of life. Whether you have a co-worker 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 just can’t stand.Handling Difficult People at Work

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 find you’re constantly dealing with people you can’t stand at work.

1. Take a look in the mirror.

Is it possible you’re reading too much into the situation? People can feel slighted by blunt emails or short replies, but if that’s just the way 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 really are being singled out, ask yourself if you could be contributing to the problem. If your coworker senses that you have an attitude or are annoyed by their presence, they might react to this either consciously or subconsciously.

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, try to establish something you both have in common. It’s much easier to get along with someone if you focus on what unites you instead of what drives you apart. You don’t have to be best friends, but you do need to work together, so you might as well try and make it a pleasant experience.

Everyone wants to be treated with respect. If someone is being difficult, listen to what they’re saying before jumping in with a response. Sometimes an angry coworker just 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 it comes to handling difficult people at work. Establish conscious and proactive boundaries about when you’ll interact with a difficult person. This could mean delegating tasks that would involve interacting with that person, but boundaries 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 a certain behavior, then stick to your guns.


There is always someone in your business that is confusing for you to understand and influence. If you are stumped about 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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