Often, business owners like to refer to their employees as part of a corporate “family.” Yet, the reality is that coworkers aren’t family – they aren’t even friends. Sometimes, the only thing two team members have in common is that they share the same work space. While you don’t have to be best pals with your coworkers to enjoy your job and achieve your career goals, it’s never easy to deal with difficult coworkers. Eventually though, most professionals will encounter at least one team member who is mean-spirited, incompetent, stubborn, frustrating, or possibly even cruel. Today, we’ll explain how you can address a tough situation at work and get along with a frustrating coworker:
Extend an Olive Branch to Difficult Coworkers
Occasionally, workplace animosity is the result of a simple misunderstanding. Perhaps you misinterpreted the tone of an email. Or maybe a coworker made a joke that you didn’t appreciate. Rather than letting discontent fester, it’s typically a wise idea to first extend an olive branch to a so-called “difficult” employee and see if you can’t clear the air. Most of the time, people will be quick to apologize if they hurt your feelings inadvertently. Just make sure to approach them in a respectful, non-confrontational manner.
Find Common Ground with Difficult Coworkers
Perhaps you and another employee strongly disagree about how to tackle an assignment. Rather than going back and forth about issues you can’t seem to resolve, consider starting the conversation with something you can both get behind. Once you find common ground, it will be easier to make compromises and work together effectively.
Keep it Professional
Not everyone is going to like you. And it’s unreasonable to expect that you’ll enjoy the company of everyone you meet. That doesn’t mean you can’t put your differences aside to finish a project, though. One way to ensure workplace harmony is to keep your dealings professional. Don’t attempt to engage a difficult coworker with “extra-curricular” activities, so to speak.
Bring in a Third Party to Mediate
Situations tend to dictate behavior. That is, people act differently depending on where they are and who they’re with. Given that fact, it’s a wise idea to ask a third coworker for help if you find yourself partnered with a difficult employee. Having another voice in the room can alter the team dynamics in a positive way and facilitate desired outcomes.
Don’t Seek Out Trouble with Difficult Coworkers
Some employees simply have to communicate with each other on a daily basis. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to talk to someone you despise day in and day out, then there’s not much you can do to avoid them. Alternatively, though, some employees rarely –– if ever –– need to collaborate. If you and someone from another department don’t get along, then there’s no shame in simply leaving them alone. Ignoring a problem might not seem like the best method available, but in truth, there’s no need to create trouble where none exists. Let them be and they’ll likely return the favor.
Think Before You Speak
Difficult people at work can be frustrating to the point of madness. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you always take a moment to think about your words before you send an email or decide to call a difficult coworker. Even if they resort to juvenile name-calling or other such nonsense, resist the urge to sink to their level. Instead, take the high road. It may not be as viscerally satisfying as yelling at them, but in the long run, it’s a much more reasonable approach.
Talk to Your Boss – But Tread Lightly!
Though it’s not ideal, individuals who have exhausted every other option when dealing with a difficult employee shouldn’t hesitate to talk to their boss about the problem. Explain your issues calmly and make sure to convey that you’re serious. A good boss will take action to resolve the tension in a fair and expedient fashion.
Call the Authorities
Note, such an action should only be taken in extreme cases. However, if someone at your work is making you feel unsafe through their words or actions or if they’ve physically harmed you in any way –– call the police. Individuals who have spoken to their boss and received minimal support or an outright dismissal after reporting a violent or dangerous coworker should know that they can always call the authorities if they truly feel someone is threatening them. Though this is a drastic step, all professionals should know that they have the right to take it should they feel it’s necessary.