Dealing with Difficult Co-workers

mean coworker

Ideally, you form strong bonds with the people you spend 40 hours with each week. But, according to Douglas Battista, that doesn’t always happen. At best, you’re cordial, but you each mind your own business in the off hours. At worst, those who share your office are certifiable jerks.

But how do you deal with an uncomfortable environment when it falls short of hostile and doesn’t really warrant a trip to HR? Douglas Battista says your first course of action, which is also the most direct, is to simply talk to the people whom you perceive to be unpleasant. Sometimes, they may not realize their behaviors are interpreted negatively. For example, you have a coworker that only responds with basic facts when approached with a question. Your expectation is friendly conversation mixed in with information about the question at hand. Your coworker may be sticking to the facts because they don’t want you to feel as though they’re wasting your time.

When polite confrontation doesn’t help, Douglas Battista advocates limited interaction. Remain positive and upbeat when interacting with the offending individuals, but don’t go out of your way to befriend them either personally or professionally.

Sometimes, you may simply not fit with the culture of your workplace. Your personality, prior job experience, and other factors can leave you feeling like everyone in your office is a curmudgeon, and them feeling the same about you. Douglas Battista asserts that, in this case, changing jobs may be your best bet. If that’s less than desirable, talk to your boss about moving into a different department. The “mood” may be different in customer service, for example, than it is in IT.

If changing jobs or departments is not an option, and confrontation has failed to come to a mutual understanding, and avoiding the negative people isn’t an option, you will have to learn to let it go, asserts Douglas Battista. People who are unhappy will try to project that onto everyone they come into contact with. It is completely up to you whether or not they are successful.