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Office Drama: How to Deal With a Difficult Coworker


Almost every one of us knows how hard it can be to focus on work when there is a coworker or boss with a really difficult character. Some people don’t care what others think of their behavior, they may test your patience and push your buttons. It thus goes without saying that such coworkers make the overall atmosphere in the team unhealthy.

Moreover, according to research by Gallup, actively disengaged employees make companies lose up to $550 billion, which makes workplace communication an even more important issue.

Bad attitudes can be very distracting. Difficult coworkers may be the reason why you’re not being productive enough or even the cause behind you starting a new job hunt.

However, if you’re smart and patient, you can handle it, regardless of whether you are an employee tired of a manager or a manager who has a valuable, yet difficult employee. This article will go over some simple tips that will help you do your job without being annoyed by someone else’s emotions.

The Main Challenges of Modern Workplace Communication

We all are different, and there’s no single type of a difficult employee or boss. However, it’s possible to distinguish a few most common behavioral patterns that create challenges for managers and other workers.


The problem of bullying is present everywhere, from schools to the workplace to politics. Some employees are overly argumentative and never miss an opportunity to pick a fight with their coworkers. Usually, such people don’t want to compromise and act rude every time somebody doesn’t agree with them.

According to statistics, the majority of American workers have experienced bullying in the workplace, and around 61% of bullies are bosses. It’s a difficult problem to tackle, and the only way to change this situation is to improve the corporate culture.

Companies need to build the environment of mutual respect, where leaders understand that their position implies demonstrating an example of proper behavior.

Negativity towards the company

There are many employees who constantly make sarcastic remarks about their company, leaders, coworkers, etc. They create an atmosphere of negativity towards the company’s goals, which is bad for motivation.

This problem can be solved only if the organization pays attention to the root causes of such behavior. Perhaps, employees don’t feel comfortable in the workplace or are not satisfied with their salary. Sometimes, such behavior may also indicate that leaders don’t stay in touch with their teams.


Some employees are just unmotivated and not engaged in what they’re doing. They may spend most time goofing around and distracting their coworkers. Such employees are considerably less productive and make more mistakes. In addition, if they get away with such behavior, other employees may feel frustrated and lose motivation as well.

In this case, it’s important to determine whether the effective communication is still possible, trying to understand what motivates such workers. Quite often, such people are manageable, and there’s often no reason to fire them, paying costs associated with hiring new employees.

Lack of subordination

On the one hand, some employees may oftentimes challenge the authority of their leaders and even refuse to work on some tasks just to prove their point. Such behavior is dangerous and disrespectful, so leaders should react to it immediately.

On the other hand, it’s important to make sure there’s no misunderstanding or confusion. In addition, all employees must clearly understand the consequences of such behavior.


How to Deal with Difficult Coworkers

1. Focus and rise above

This is the simplest yet the most effective solution, especially if you deal with a difficult boss. Every time you stop to reply to the negativity, you also sacrifice your productivity. If somebody bothers you, don’t stoop to their level and keep it professional.

2. Talk directly

Just talk to your coworker directly and address the problem honestly. Some people spread the negativity in the workplace but don’t even realize it. No matter what your situation is, talking about it is the most logical solution.

If you don’t want to be tough on your coworker, try using softer language, for example, say “I feel that we have to talk about it” instead of “You must stop doing it.”

3. Talk to your coworker as a group

If you’re not the only one who is tired of a certain worker’s behavior, it makes sense to address this problem with a group of other coworkers. Kristeen Stahl, HR manager from College-Writers, notes:

“Even the most stubborn people may reconsider their habits if many people express constructive criticism from different angles.”

4. Seek help from higher-ups

When you have problems with another member of your team, it may be enough to talk to HR. However, if you experience toxic behavior from your leader or boss, it makes sense to talk to talk to people who have more power and ask them to intervene.

In the same vein, if you believe that simply not sharing the same workspace might help, you can also ask them to move you to another department.

5. Don’t take it personally

It’s hard to work in the negative environment, but you shouldn’t let this negativity affect your productivity, motivation, or self-esteem. It’s important to realize that the toxic behavior of some employees existed a long before they started working for your company.

Some people just blame others for their own faults or try to assert themselves by hurting others. You have nothing to do with their personal problems, so don’t take their behavior personally.

6. Don’t be afraid to move on

If you’ve tried everything above but it hasn’t worked out, ask yourself whether this job is worth your negative emotions. What if the real problem is a bad corporate culture? Don’t let this job hold you back. Think of other career opportunities and move on to a better place.


Many people have to deal with difficult coworkers. Toxic behavior in the workplace is a common issue. It may distract you from important tasks, affect your productivity, and undermine your team’s goals.

It’s important to understand that most often, such a problem can be solved. Leaders should stay in touch with their teams, understanding the motivation of each employee and looking for possible roots of the problem. Employees shouldn’t be afraid of addressing such a problem.

Finally, if the situation has passed the point of no return, it’s better to move on, looking for a company with a proper corporate culture and well-developed team values.

About the author: Ester Brierley is a QA Engineer in software outsourcing company, a seasoned content creator and virtual assistant for College Writer. When she’s not writing about cutting-edge digital trends, Ester tries to bring the Lagom lifestyle philosophy to live by.  For business inquiries, you can find her on Twitter.

Image source:
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