Tips For Working With Difficult Colleagues

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Published: 23 Jul 2016      

Many people, regardless of their industries, have found that they have had to work alongside people they consider difficult at some point during their careers. How you deal with such people is often going to be crucial to your success in your role, as handing difficult people incorrectly could lead to blame being placed on you for failing to ingratiate yourself into teams or cooperate with the person in question. The following pointers should all prove useful to those who find themselves in such a position.

Know The Warning Signs

A difficult colleague is not always somebody who bullies you or is directly confrontational. Instead, you may find that some are more passive, such as people who talk without offering you the chance to respond or those who try to shirk blame, often at the expense of their colleagues. You may even consider yourself to have fairly cordial relationships with such people, but it is important that you are able to recognize these signs to ensure you are not placed in a bad position because of them.

Suggest A Meeting

It is possible that your colleague is being difficult without even knowing it, which means it is sometimes a good idea to suggest a meeting where you can discuss your issues face-to-face. This may not be an option if you are being bullied or intimidated directly, at which point you should contact your Human Resources department, but you may find that a simple meeting will help all parties deal with any issues that they may have.

Stay Professional

Poor working conditions caused by colleagues can lead to inappropriate emotional reactions, which places you in a bad place where people may begin to see you to be a large part of the issue. Instead, maintain your professionalism at all times and don’t allow yourself to rise to baiting or bullying. This can often be difficult, especially in cases where it is happening every day. However, by staying professional you are more likely to gain the support of your peers, bosses and anybody else with whom the issue is raised.

The Paper Trail

It may be the case that you receive emails or other messages from colleagues. This is particularly common in cases of sexual harassment or continued bullying. If this happens, it is a good idea to keep a record of such instances so that they can be produced as evidence during disciplinary hearings. Consider creating a folder where you can store such documentation so that it can be used should you need to elevate the situation.

Take Action Quickly

If you have just started a new position it may be scary to take action against difficult colleagues, especially those who are in positions of power. However, allowing the situation to continue will lead to it becoming normal for you, while also making it more difficult to be taken seriously when you raise the issue. As such, you should be swift in confronting the problem, to make sure that it doesn’t continue. 

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