difficult colleagues

If in remote work you may have had fewer physical interactions with your colleagues, once the team returns to the office, certain attitudes or behaviors may put you in trouble. It is important to be aware that getting along with those difficult colleagues is an important part of developing your conflict resolution skills. As you learn how to work them, you can focus more on your own work and your team.

According to a survey conducted by Olivet Nazarene University, the number one source of tension in the workplace is interpersonal relationships. In fact, 36% of those surveyed admitted to changing jobs due to an annoying or arrogant co-worker, and 96% revealed that they get annoyed with their co-workers on a regular basis. And almost everyone has to work with a challenging co-worker at some point in their career.

When you leave conflicts or small unresolved grievances, they get worse. You become so angry and feel so overwhelmed that you act irrationally and are no longer productive. It’s much better to approach the difficult person directly, trying to maintain your objectivity and emotional control. Otherwise, if you only complain about the relationship with certain colleagues, you risk being labeled as a manager without social skills, who avoids solving the problems he encounters.

The solution is to learn how to treat interactions with difficult people in a healthy way for you and your company. Here is how to deal with your difficult colleagues on your return to the office:

Accept their personality
It’s important to be aware that you can’t meet people like you. You may find that a colleague doesn’t break from any internal rules of the company, but you simply don’t like his personality. It is important to learn to accept him as he is and to look for things you like in his personality, trying to value them when you work together.

Analyze the moments that trigger conflicts
Maybe the relationships are not always tense, but only in certain situations generated maybe by approaching a deadline or reaching a target. By knowing better the situations that can trigger tense behaviors, you will be able to stay calm and you will be able to manage the situation better. One solution is to not come up with remarks that could further amplify the situation but to direct your energy towards successfully completing a project or a work task.

Express your point of view
If your co-worker is making it difficult for you to feel comfortable at work, it may be time to confront the situation. Plan an open, face-to-face discussion with your colleague. Show how you feel so that they understand your perspective better, using the pronoun “I” rather than “you”. Using “you” language may make it difficult for him to accept responsibility for their actions.Here are some examples:

“I feel upset when you talk to me like that.” vs. “You always say the wrong things.”

“I find that your behavior makes it hard for me to focus.” vs. “The way you act is irritating.”

Always be open to listening
Sometimes knowing your colleague’s perspective can help you better understand him. Once you find out his life experiences, you will realize that they shape his behavior and point of view and you can even make him certain proposals through which he can model his behavior.

Get to know yourself
It is much easier to blame our difficult colleague or manager than to admit that we have our own flaws. Carefully analyze why you are in conflict with people. You have to be brave enough to look at yourself with honesty and compassion. This could mean a return to childhood just to discover the patterns of thinking that are sabotaging you now. Find out what drives you to have certain reactions. Difficult colleagues could even be an opportunity for you to become aware of certain emotions and learn to manage them in order to raise them professionally.

Control your anger
It is normal to be outraged when you have been treated unfairly by your difficult colleague. But anger is not good for your health, for your psyche, and is not proof of professionalism. The best approach is not to get into a confrontation. Instead, allow yourself to notice what is happening, take time to think, and come back with an answer. Come back when your emotions are under control.

Focus on your positive relationships
Rather than expecting to get along with a difficult co-worker and your expectations becoming higher and higher, becoming an obsession, you better turn your attention to those with whom you can establish a good relationship. Build positive relationships with them. Conversations with people who motivate you to grow professionally can make you feel happier at work. And you can start by agreeing to join the team in a co-working space or after work, socializing or pursuing a passion.

Show empathy
Every person has things to solve or problems that concern him that could explain how he acts. Try to show empathy and compassion as you get to know this person better. You may find that if you were in the situation of your colleague, you would have acted similarly.

Talk to the manager
When a colleague starts violating the internal rules of the company or negatively affects your work, maybe it’s time to bring up the issue into a discussion with the direct manager. Document your colleague’s behaviors so that you can support your statements. Your manager should find ways to solve this conflict. But be careful not to use this option all the time, as he may think that you are not able to solve your own problems.



There is at least one in each office. While you can hardly cope with the workload, he has a knack for doing the bare minimum of actual work. If he is not prohibiting you from effectively doing your job or producing quality work, it may not be an issue. But if this difficult co-worker affects your or your team’s performance, it’s time to step in.

How to manage the relationship:

The first step is to approach it directly and in a professional way. Tell him how he affects you in your work and try to find out if he is facing a situation you probably do not know. Try to find out more about his responsibilities in the project, to understand if he has an approach in line with what he agreed with the manager. And keep track of your attempts to remedy the situation. If you can’t solve things amicably, maybe it’s time to go to the manager.


It is normal to complain, but when this behavior becomes chronic it is also tiring. You probably have colleagues who focus more on the negative and look for problems instead of solutions. Over time, they can affect the morale of the entire team.

How to manage the relationship:

Encourage them to look for a solution. Ask them questions such as “How do you propose to solve this problem?” Also, make it clear to this difficult co-worker that things aren’t going to change if they continue to indulge in chronic complaining.

When you get involved and work hard you can also have disappointments, someone takes credit for your work. He is the kind of colleague who likes to be in the spotlight and enjoy taking credit for the success of their teammates—often to compensate for his own insecurities.

How to manage the relationship:

Keep track of your accomplishments and provide regular work reports to the manager. And most importantly, don’t be shy about bragging about everything you do. Because if you don’t brag, someone else will probably do it with your achievements.

He likes to monopolize conversations, reject the contribution of others, and make decisions without considering all the facts. He is a weak listener, he pretends to know everything and he tries to impose himself.

How to manage the relationship:
Approach your colleague as an ally. You can even ask him for help in solving a work problem that puts you in trouble. By showing him that you appreciate his expertise, he will understand that you want a positive relationship and he will gradually give up the egocentric approach. But if he does not change his behavior and your work is affected, it’s best to tell him directly what bothers you. By having an individual conversation, you give him the chance to find out that his actions affect others.


Talking about others can create a tense team atmosphere. And insinuations affect both the person and the company.

How to manage the relationship:

Try not to engage in negative conversations. If people insist on finding out news from you or talking about you, you can tell them, “I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I really don’t feel comfortable talking about this.” Another tactic is to change the subject, leading the discussion to work-related issues. Last but not least, ask the person to stop, giving him this argument: discussions about colleagues can affect his career.

At every job you will meet difficult people. But how difficult they are also depends on your self-esteem, self-confidence and your professional courage at work.
You have two options: either you learn to live with them, or you try to change them. Learning to live with them is often the easiest way. As long as you have a strategy to deal with them. But if the difficult colleagues directly affect your work, you need to make an effort to propose changes to them and to follow their approach. But this is the most interesting part, it trains you as a leader.


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