Career tips

How best to deal with difficult colleagues?

There is one in every workplace. Such a person who always arrives late, takes credit for someone else's work, always borrows your stapler and never returns it, or is simply unpleasant to deal with. The impact of this behavior is significant: a downer on the work atmosphere, reduced job satisfaction among colleagues and a negative impact on general well-being. Since they themselves are sometimes unaware of the frustrations they cause, dealing constructively with such colleagues is a delicate matter. However, the longer you wait to address the situation, the more the frustration and negative emotions grow. Ignoring the situation is one option. Taking action, however, is the best way to create a more pleasant working atmosphere for yourself in the long run. So concretely, what can you do?

Improve your relationship with difficult colleagues in 4 steps.

1. Check in with yourself 

Why does the colleague's behavior affect you? What is he or she doing that crosses your boundaries? When we have trouble with someone, it's often because they remind us of someone from the past or parts of ourselves that we dislike. If you know the source of your frustration, you can discharge a situation more easily. 

Learn to deal with people as they are. Not the way you want them to be. 
Life gets a lot easier when you don't expect apple juice from oranges. 
Rigel J. Dawson

2. Set a good example

Avoid engaging in disruptive behavior yourself as a result of your sense of annoyance. If you are more self-aware and remain professional, you can encourage others to behave better by example. Evaluate your own attitude and actions toward the colleague in question. Acknowledge your mistakes. Always try to communicate in an open and respectful manner. Reflect before you speak, remain professional and always be aware of your surroundings.


3. Enter the conversation

If you engage in a conversation about his/her behavior, take the colleague aside when you are both calm. Then try to clearly describe the situation using examples. Use the "I" form. Starting from yourself can help the colleague see things from your perspective. Also explain clearly how you prefer to view things. Also, give the colleague time to respond and listen to what he/she says. He/she may not have been aware of any wrongdoing. Keep on asking questions and try to reach a constructive and long-lasting solution together. If, for whatever reason, you do not want to start the conversation, limit your interactions with the colleague until you are ready to engage in dialogue.


4. Seek help from a third party

Did your conversation with the colleague fail? Then ask for help from a third party. This could be your supervisor, the confidential advisor or someone from HR. Prepare this conversation well. Stick to factual examples and discuss the effect this has on you, your being and your work. Talk about what you have already done yourself to improve the situation. Clearly state your desire to find a solution. Agree with the person concretely within what time frame action will be taken. This will also give you some peace of mind.

Irritation, frustration and sometimes anger cost a lot of energy and distract you tremendously from your work. It is therefore important to take action and work towards more pleasant interactions with all your colleagues. It will improve the overall work atmosphere, your job satisfaction and your general well-being.


We hope our concrete tips will help you and we wish you every success in your future career.
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