How To Deal With A Difficult Co-Worker

During the workday, it is essential to stay on track, brainstorm with others, and collaborate on projects to meet deadlines. Sometimes, you may encounter a co-worker that makes these efforts more challenging or has a negative outlook towards you or the team. Whether they are taking credit for your project, focusing mainly on downsides, or spreading rumors – there are ways to address these issues. Here are strategies to develop your interpersonal communication skills and tackle problematic relations when they arise.

Focus on The Positive
When working on major projects or navigating strict deadlines, it is essential to stay positive and upbeat. One of the biggest deterrents, when trying to increase morale, is a co-worker who focuses on the negative. They may only point out the downsides of the situation, complain on the regular, or look for problems instead of solutions. This behavior not only distracts the person in earshot, but it also spreads discouraging energy throughout the department or office. Make a point of redirecting each pessimistic statement to a positive one. Point out the upside, suggest a solution, or even use humor to combat a gloomy colleague. Eventually, they may catch on to thinking and acting more enthusiastically, or if anything, they will learn that you are not a go-to for a venting session.

Limit Communication
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you might still struggle to communicate effectively with a co-worker. When confronting the issues and mediation does not prove to be effective, the next strategy is to limit your interactions. Do not add fuel to the fire or continuously try to talk things out. In these cases, it is a good idea only to interact when needed or to be otherwise cordial. There is no need to go out of your way to engage or, on the flip side, to cause unnecessary tension. Stick to the agenda, focus on the task at hand, and keep any side-bar conversations work-related.

Curb the Gossip
When in a tough situation with a co-worker, it can be tempting to vent to others about the circumstances. Although this can seem like a harmless way to release tension and get advice – it can often make the problem worse. “Conversation” can be misconstrued as gossip, which may spread through the office like wildfire. Not only will bad-mouthing a colleague reflect poorly on you but the information circling could negatively impact that co-worker. Instead, save critiques or grievances for the Human Resources department, and leave any updates for friends and family when off the clock.

Track Your Responsibilities
After dedicating time and effort to a task and knowing it was a success, it can be frustrating when someone else attempts to take the credit. Although it is vital to work toward a collective goal without seeking praise, there are career-defining moments where recognition is warranted. When you know a co-worker did not put in equal (or any) effort in an assignment but is claiming otherwise – there are preemptive steps you can take. Before starting a project, take the time to write your responsibilities and note what your team is working on. That way, there is tangible evidence of each person’s contribution. Check in regularly with your manager for status updates – so they know what you have been doing and your overall progress. If those tactics are ineffective, a one-on-one conversation with management can help clear up any confusion about who accomplished what.

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