Posted by John Sanders on Jul 09, 2010
| Leave
a Comment

Dealing with difficult coworkers can be a full time job in itself. I define difficult coworkers as people whose core personality either obstructs or all together prohibits productivity directly or indirectly.

Thankfully I have been blessed, because currently I don’t have to deal with difficult coworkers.

But it hasn’t always been easy street for me. Earlier in my career I had to quickly learn how to deal with difficult coworkers or else lose my sanity.

So today I am going to share the lessons I learned while I had to deal with difficult coworkers. And if you are dealing with one now, hopefully you can find solace in my hard earned lessons!

The first thing you want to know is how to identify a difficult personality immediately. This will help you set your strategy for the working relationship moving forward.

Difficult coworkers have two very distinct characteristics:

1. They will be very unpredictable. One day they will be super nice and another day they will act like they have never spoken to you.

2. They have a knack for making petty issues a cornerstone of any project you work on with them.

One thing we need to be clear about upfront is that people with quirky personalities don’t qualify as being difficult coworkers. We all have quirks and as long as they don’t obstruct productivity, they have to be dealt with a thick

However, when dealing with a bona fide difficult coworker who puts pettiness before productivity, you have two options.

1. You solve the problem yourself.

2. You let someone else solve the problem for you.

When you solve it yourself, you will not be able to avoid some sort of confrontation. Sometimes this can work against you if you don’t use the proper process, which I will share with you. However this route is the most gratifying
because it will empower you to easily deal with difficult coworkers in the

The other option is to escalate the issue and have your manager or HR Manager deal with the situation for you. The problem with this route is that it can have you labeled as someone who is unable to interact with people and diffuse issues.
But this is the safest route that will ensure a predefined process is followed
to mitigate the situation.

My focus today is going to be on how to deal with difficult coworkers yourself. Because escalating is a pretty straight forward process that is probably defined in your employee handbook.

However dealing with the situation yourself can be tricky. And if you are not careful, you can find yourself in more trouble than you originally bargained for.

That is why you always want to be nothing but cordial and professional. Anything less can and will be used against you.

This is why your approach has to be strategic, tactful and within professional guidelines.

This is why I love the game of Chess. A lot of the thinking I do while playing in Chess, I do in real life. My view is that you can never think enough steps ahead and no matter how much you think you got it figured out, there is
something you are not seeing.

So what is the best contingency plan to deal with difficult coworkers?

There are 3 major items you need to invest in all throughout your career that will act as your contingency plan in dealing with difficult coworkers at work:

1. Alliances

2. Documentation

3. Your Brand

The more quality professionals you align yourself with at work, the better your standing will be amongst your peers. This also acts as a major deterrent. If you are seen as someone who knows the heavy hitters at work, most difficult
coworkers will leave you alone out of their own self interest.

You don’t make a very good target if you play golf with your company’s VP on the weekend.

However, for someone who is not social and generally reserved, then you can work around building alliances with strong documentation.

Whether you build alliances or not, you want to document everything that happens in your day to day routine and keep a copy for yourself. There is no telling when and where that documentation will save you from oblivion.

Anytime you are faced with a difficult situation where you had to backpedal and sort it out yourself, write an email to yourself. Furthermore, if possible, always try to communicate via email with difficult coworkers. You will be
surprised how easy difficult coworkers are to deal with when you are
communicating on record.

Finally, build your professional brand in way that people will never second guess a complain you make. Of course they will investigate both sides of the story, but if you are seen as a stand up citizen of the company, then your word
will carry a lot of weight.

And if you back up your word with the right documentation and leverage the proper alliances, you will have an easy time resolving such difficult issues. You do this once or twice and I assure you that you will never be a target

If you are dealing with a difficult coworker today and you don’t have any of these items in place, then start with documenting everything that you are dealing with. Once you feel that you have enough evidence to support your claim,
then escalate it.

The quality of your life is far too important to have to deal with people with negative intent at work.

Keep in mind that we are paid to produce results at work. Furthermore, we are obligated to promote a culture of productivity and professionalism. When that line is crossed by someone, they need to be shown a better way or the high

Because in the end, if they don’t learn their lesson with you, then they will just go off and hurt someone else and cost another company thousands of dollars in lost productivity.

You can read more from John Sanders at his blog at:

Views: 182


You need to be a member of RecruitingBlogs to add comments!

Join RecruitingBlogs


All the recruiting news you see here, delivered straight to your inbox.

Just enter your e-mail address below


RecruitingBlogs on Twitter

© 2024   All Rights Reserved   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service