How to Get Along with Difficult Co-Workers: A Professional’s Survival Guide

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Most of us may have landed on a job that we genuinely love, but we can’t always say the same for our teammates.

In any workplace, it is inevitable that we get to meet a lot of people – and each of them is unique. Some of them might be great and could make for longtime friends, while some are probably people that you don’t even want to be neighbours with.

Working with difficult people could be hard, especially if that person is your boss or immediate supervisor. And the worst part is, you have to face and interact with them everyday.

However, if you really want to build a career from the ground up, you can’t just let difficult co-workers win over you every time. Otherwise, you will find yourself jumping from one company to another, and that will not look good for your resume.

Dealing with annoying, unpleasant and difficult workmates professionally is a social skill that you need to develop, and you can start honing that by doing the following:

Learn to be firm

At times, a boss or supervisor would bully you at work. Most of the time, they will attack whatever output you have and criticize it, making you feel worthless and undeserving for your position.

If the criticism is constructive, then you better listen. But if it is merely bullying or  power-tripping (you’d know this because they will scoff at the littlest things about your work), then it is time to make a stand.

You don’t need to clash with your boss, but you can always say that you merely followed all his/her instructions, or your report is only based on honest figures and research.

Either way, if you have been doing your job honestly and genuinely, there’s no need to bend over backwards to satisfy the whims and caprices of a bully manager or co-worker, you should firmly stand by for what it is.

Know when not to be involved

Some co-workers can be a little annoying, like the slacker or tardy ones for example. Slackers may cause delays, but if your work is not directly affected by what they do, then there’s no need to cause unnecessary conflict. Let the upper management deal with them. If it does affect your work, then it may be best to call the attention of your supervisor to let him/her know what is causing the delay.

Also, when you have workmates who gossip and badmouth your boss or other co-workers, it is best to not get involved. Remember that you are in that job to grow professionally, and not meddle with other’s lives.

Confrontations should not always be hostile

If you are the target of gossip and badmouthing, it is understandable that you would have the urge to protect and defend yourself – especially when they are talking false things about you.

Defending yourself is alright, but you need to do it the right way. First, you must learn who is the source of those stories. Next and most importantly, don’t carry it over to Social Media. Yes, you might have a lot to say, but before airing it in the social media world, you must talk to the person (the alleged source) first.

You don’t have to go straight to his/her aisle to make a scene, just invite him/her politely for a cup of coffee, or a lunch-out together to talk things out. Once you have cleared things up, you can then work out your differences without airing that dirty laundry elsewhere wherein other people can feast on it.

Learn to listen and reason with others

Working with a smart co-worker has its perks, but if he/she is an annoying know-it-all, then there might be a problem. Know-it-alls usually hate it when they are proven wrong or if their ideas are not accepted, and this could be difficult for the entire team.

What you can do however is to first listen to him/her, and find which points of their ideas are weak spots that could be improved with the other ideas from the rest of the team. This way, he/she won’t feel that the idea is totally rejected, and hopefully throughout the process, he/she would also learn the importance of teamwork and cooperation.

Be less receptive when it comes to negativity

Some employees love to gossip or chit-chat during break time, and you might encounter many negative people who talk just about anything hateful. It could be about how boring the day is, how bad the management is, how this new employee or boss sucks, etc. Sure, you might find some of those things agreeable, but don’t let it consume you.

Your boss may suck, but he/she actually gives recognition for good work, this new girl might be slow, but she’s still new at the job. Bottomline, don’t easily conclude with people who usually bring negativity to the table.

You can always try and steer the conversation towards a lighter and more positive one, or if it can’t be helped, just listen but don’t add fuel to the fire. Once a negative co-worker senses that you are not exactly receptive to his/her stories, then he/she will eventually look for a different audience to go with.

This guide seems a lot to remember, but it can actually be summarized in just one phrase: Be the better person. Don’t get distracted with every bit of issue among your co-workers, and focus more on your work. Most importantly, separate your professional life from your personal life. Whatever problems you have at home, leave it at home. And whatever problems you have at work, leave it in the office.

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