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What are the Best Ways in Dealing with Difficult People at Work?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 16, 2024
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The stress involved when dealing with difficult people at work can be damaging to productivity. For example, a coworker who refuses to stop chatting can reduce the time a person has to do his job. A continual gossiper can make his coworkers feel uncomfortable, as can a coworker who makes unwanted sexual advances. Learning some ways of dealing with obnoxious people at work can help a person return to productivity and possibly even enjoy his job more. Some ways include discussing issues with a close colleague or friend, addressing the difficult person directly in a calm manner to resolve the issue or reporting problems to the boss or human resource director.

One of the first steps a person may take when dealing with difficult people at work involves looking within. A person in this situation may examine his emotions and responses to evaluate whether or not the other person is really at fault. Sometimes it may help to talk things over with a trusted confidant, preferably someone who does not work for the same company. If after doing some soul searching and getting a loved one’s opinion, he’s sure that the other person is at fault, he may take steps to effect change. If he finds that the other person isn’t really behaving badly, he may consider whether stress is contributing to his annoyance and seek better ways to cope.

Often, one of the best ways to deal with difficult people at work involves addressing the situation calmly but directly. If, for example, a coworker’s constant chatter is interfering with a person’s ability to get his job done on time, he may let his coworker know that he loves hearing his stories but is swamped with work. He may also suggest that they meet for lunch so that he can hear the rest of the details. If a gossiper, on the other hand, is making things unpleasant by spreading rumors about a coworker’s private life, he may tell him he feels uncomfortable discussing such sensitive details and then make an effort to change the subject.

In some cases, coworkers deal with people who are constantly asking them for help. In such a case, a person may decide to pitch in when he has time and the desire to do so, especially if teamwork is encouraged in his workplace. If a coworker’s requests become excessive, however, an individual may politely explain that he has a heavy load of his own work to do and is unable to help. If the person is refused frequently enough, he may eventually get the message.

Sometimes a person who is dealing with difficult people at work encounters a more serious situation. For example, he may face unwanted sexual advances or innuendos. In such a case, he may do well to clearly state that he is not interested and wants the behavior to stop. If the coworker continues the undesirable behavior, his next step may be reporting it to his boss or a human resources representative. Of course, if a person is attacked or molested at work, he should report the incident right away.

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Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a SmartCapitalMind writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By anon311595 — On Jan 02, 2013

How do I deal with a lady at work? She is rude and a know it all. Her other two sisters work at the job as well, and they both are managers so she feels like she can do what ever she wants and there is favoritism as well.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a SmartCapitalMind writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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