Are you thinking about work/life balance lately? Do you wonder about how to deal with difficult people better? You don't want altercations at work, and you don't want to bring negativity home with you. Let's discuss how to address colleagues during unwanted workplace situations.

How to Deal with Difficult People

Let’s acknowledge that there are distinctions between how to handle difficulties with a friend and a coworker. With friends, you’d be likely to share more and reveal your thoughts. With coworkers, when similar situations arise, you’ll want to take a different approach. Reconsider what to do in these instances regarding how to deal with difficult people in the workplace.

There’s a good chance you spend more time with your colleagues than your friends, so you’ll want to create great work relationships. As you do this, you’ll learn that colleagues come with different conditions and must be treated with more discretion. There isn’t just one set of rules on how to deal with difficult people. So we’ve taken the time to address the best ways for dealing with difficult coworkers.

Developing Strategies Beforehand

You don’t want to wait until a situation is out of control before you have solutions on how to deal with difficult people. Get familiar with tactics you can use, so they’re easily accessible to you if a situation arises. You may already have a tactic or two that’s worked for you in the past, so keep those fresh for you.

When you have effective strategies in place, you will reduce your stress levels when having to cope with difficult people at work. Be prepared to deal with them effectively, and you won’t worry about coming up against the unknown. Your variety of approaches will enable you to control what you can. Review the tips here that we give on how to deal with difficult people, and you’ll control when in these situations.

Tips for Difficult Work Colleagues

Establish Healthy Boundaries

You must be proactive to establish your boundaries in the workplace. Otherwise, if you let things unfold naturally, you’re bound to be reactive when a difficult situation comes along. When healthy boundaries are in place, you’ll feel more in control of how to handle the person causing difficulty. It’s important to stay consistent with maintaining your boundaries every time you feel they’re being crossed.

Once your boundaries are set, you may have to confront your difficult coworker when they’re impeded. Confronting a co-worker can be a challenge, but with a difficult person, it may be necessary to defend your rights at work. Boundaries come in multiple forms like dealing with co-worker habits and sharing credit for work assignments. You need to confront a difficult co-worker, and you want to feel comfortable and confident to resolve the conflict.

When Less Is More

You want to be mindful of over-sharing with your co-workers. Whenever you share, remember to always keep it professional and respectful. It’s recommended that you proceed with caution as to not divulge too much personal information and opinions with your coworkers. Keep it simple and positive, and when in doubt listen rather than speak.

You’ll want to keep certain topics under wraps. You should keep private, information about your transactions with the company, like getting a promotion over someone else a secret. You’ll want to minimize making assumptions about others or saying things to sabotage others. You’ll also want to minimize discussions about political beliefs or controversial social issues that might incite heated disagreements.

Don’t Take Things Personally

While it may seem like your co-worker is directing their difficulty at you, it really isn’t about you. Your co-worker has his or her own intentions and is following the desire to express it. Of key importance for you, is to not take what they do or say personally. Whatever your co-worker's attitude or behavior is, it's separate from you in that situation.

Have an objective mindset when viewing the situation and try to understand the person's intentions. You can ease your thoughts by affirming that your co-worker isn't out to get you. Trust that there’s an underlying reason motivating your coworker to act this way. Bring yourself back to your own breathe and intention and follow along accordingly to what you know will bring the best outcome.

Manage Your Reactions

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When you interact with a difficult co-worker, remember to take a few breaths before reacting. Use those moments to reflect quickly on how you’re feeling and how you want to feel. Think about how you can respond to your co-worker in a way that creates the best outcome for the situation. Be sure to stay level-headed and minimize any defensiveness or negativity you might project.

There will be situations when you’ll want to let your co-workers know where you’re coming from. Begin with letting your co-workers know your intentions and be cordial. Assure them you’re addressing the situation and not them personally. By managing your emotions and your reactions, you’re more like to get them to get them on board with you.

Don’t Accept an Invitation to Fight

There may be an instance where a difficult co-worker is simply looking for someone to argue. They take a stance of “Us vs.Them” by wanting to fight an opposing side. When you sense that this is your co-worker's vantage point, be sure not to accept the invitation to spar. Even though your co-worker may try to provoke, in this situation you won’t want to engage.

Have a Good Grasp on Office Dynamics

If you don’t want your boss to know something about you, don’t share it with any of your colleagues. Why risk putting yourself in a position where someone else has the power to divulge that information? Err on the side of caution that people will talk and won't necessarily be concerned about breaching your confidentiality.

Being clear about your co-worker's role and who your co-worker works with most will inform you about predicting behavior. Do you have an interest in the hierarchy and group formations within your workplace? You definitely should be interested. This will prepare you with how to deal with difficult people within the office culture that guides these dynamics.

When No Reaction is the Best Reaction

If you’ve tried everything, and the person isn’t being receptive, you don’t have to continue to react. If someone is being mean, irritable or angry, it’s okay to ignore them. If your perception is telling you it’s best to walk away, then do so. You can always approach them later when they’ve cooled down and resolve the situation then.

Model Best Practices and Positivity

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It should go without saying you want to treat people with respect, but it's a good reminder to mention. You can continue to be a role model of how to treat others and how to interact in the workplace. Your deliberate calm presence will reduce anxiety, promote comfort and increase productivity.

It’s important to build a rapport with your co-workers. You want to get to know them as individuals, not only as colleagues. Have conversations about their families, their interests and what they enjoy doing. As you develop these connections, there will be less likelihood of difficulty.

What to Be Careful Of?

Sometimes people are unaware they are difficult and having a negative impact on those around them. Some people are more self-aware, and others can be difficult intentionally. The question becomes do you want to figure out which end of the spectrum your difficult co-worker is on.

Are they enjoying creating disharmony and chaos around them? Or do they not have a clue how people perceive them? As you pinpoint this aspect of your difficult co-worker's personality, it will give you an idea of which tip you’ll use on how to deal with them. If you get a strong sense that the person is unaware, you can ask them a heartfelt question about the circumstances that might give them insight into their difficult behavior.

This approach must be handled tactfully. If you approach them, try not to take the stance that the behavior is wrong or that your coworker needs to change. Just ask questions about the situation and leave it at that. Let your colleague think of the answers as it will initiate further thought about it.

Not All Difficult People are the Same

Keep in mind that people who come across as difficult can be aggressive or submissive, or somewhere in between. Deciding how to deal with difficult people should be based on this factor. Surely you’ll have your boundaries in place no matter who the difficult co-worker is, but you’ll want to hone your approach on this key personality characteristic.

Aggressive people push others too hard, may say provocative things or may be overly defensive. Submissive people may lack confidence, may be socially awkward or may have a fear of failure. You want to bring each of them toward a happy medium and maintain a cohesion working relationship.


Do you feel you're better equipped on how to deal with difficult people? Of course, you do! Use these tips within your workplace interactions, and you'll be getting along with your co-workers nicely.

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