5 ways to deal with troublesome colleagues in the workplace

If we were to go by what Hollywood films tell us, bad work colleagues would be incredibly easy to spot all the time. Sabotaging your presentations, stealing your food, or in some cases, just upright badmouthing you in front of your face. But, for better or worse, the real workplace will never be that black and white. Bad work colleagues come in all shapes and sizes, and work and act in many ways. It’s inevitable that at some time in your career you’ll encounter people you won’t  get along or agree with, and how you react to them will, in some way or another, affect how people will eventually view you and how professional you are. It’s a tough balancing act to get right – you don’t want to be seen as a pushover or gossip, but you also don’t want to have to dread going into work every day (well, at least not because of someone you don’t like).

Here GearHungry’s Resident Career Advisor Charlotte Moore breaks down 5 ways to deal with a co-worker you just never seem to see eye to eye with. ‘How is it possible to work with someone who no matter what you do seems to take everything the wrong way, or worse, outright pushes your buttons? The first thing I always suggest to people is to remember that no one’s perfect, and that we all have our faults when working. Before attempting to resolve the issue, always ask yourself first ‘is it them or me?’ or sit down with someone you trust at work and go over the situation, asking for their honest opinion. Try to see it from their point of view. Are they nagging you about your work rate, or have you repeatedly been late with your projects over the last few months?’

‘In most cases, it is usefully a mix of two people with crossed wires, rubbing each other up the wrong way. It is possible in these situations to avoid each other and let things settle down. Unfortunately, sometimes the tension never seems to resolve itself, and in these circumstances, it is best to take positive action. Below are 5 tips to help you conquer those troublesome colleagues.’

Identify the issue

We all dislike someone in our lives, from people we have close contact with, to famous people on the television. But for many, it is hard to pinpoint the exact moment you started to find a person annoying. ‘Humans are petty, and when we work in a place, we’re not happy in that pettiness can increase to a point that there’s no logic behind it. Because of this, the smallest irritations can send us off into a rage. Try to pinpoint exactly the moment you started to clash with someone at work, and determine if it really is a big deal, or something that has mutated over time. If it is something small, like breaking your favourite mug or criticizing a project of yours, then the likelihood is that relationship can be repaired. I’m not suggesting you’ll become the best of friends but finding the cause of the issue and resolving it can give closure to you and your grievances.’

‘Another thing to do is determine if the person you don’t get along with actually knows that there’s an issue. Do you have a problem, and they seemingly have no idea? Do you like them and for no reason they have a problem with you? Or do you both outright dislike each other? In all of these cases, dealing with the issue is normally the same, but it’s vital to work out where the issue lies before trying to fix it’.

Put the gossiping on hold

Gossiping to a friend at work can seem harmless, but as Charlotte explains, it can quickly turn nasty. ‘We all gossip, it’s a fact of life, and gentle complaining has been proven to be good for moral in the workplace. But there’s such a thing as ‘blowing off too much steam’ with a colleague. Ranting about work is an important and natural part of life but it should be kept in check, and it’s necessary to know if there’s a line that’s been crossed. If not kept under control, complaining at work can turn an already negative and toxic workplace into a hostile one, leaving you focused on the bad qualities and blind to the good ones. If you feel a conversation is becoming negative put a stop to it by walking away, or changing the subject, and ask yourself after ‘do I feel positive or negative right now’ Most gossip sessions leave you in a negative mood, and you’ll carry that around for the rest of the day. Gossiping about a work colleague will also strengthen the divide between the two of you, as it helps build up the image of them you’ve created in your mind. If someone is late everyday it can be annoying, but if you complain about it 5 times to people, you’re convincing yourself that it’s a bigger issue than it actually is. Gossiping in the long run only hurts one person’s reputation – yours’.

Honesty is the best course of action

‘For many people the idea of confrontation can freak them out. Instead, they’ll either ignore the problem, make it worse by reacting to it, or fake smile their way through the tension. If your co-worker is doing something that upsets you, and you know specifically what that problem is, you should approach them and have a civil conversation about it. Cutting to the root of the problem as soon as possible before it reaches boiling point is best as the longer you leave it the harder it’ll be to correct. Be precise, reasonable and open to discussion. Remember, it’s a relationship, so be ready to hear feedback in return. Listen and talk over the issues you’ve both presented and work out how to resolve them in the future. You should also be able to gauge from this conversation if it’s actually a work issue or a personal issue – either way, agree to follow through with the outcome suggested.’

Surround yourself with goodness

‘Even after talking, resolving and problem solving, tricky co-workers can always rear their heads. Sometimes it’s inevitable that you just won’t get along with certain people you work with. Whether it’s a mild disliking, or outright hate from their side, one of the best things a worker can do is surround themselves with positive and happy people. Hopefully you’ve made a bond with at least one person you work with, and if not try to work on the relationships with people you consider good. Focusing on the positives is not only good for moral and relationships, it’s also good for your mental health. Remember, you’re spending at least 8 hours here a day, so you want to be comfortable in that environment’.

Asking them for help

‘Admittedly this can seem a bit weird to people, but it’s a proven technique that I’ve seen show many positive results over the years. Think of it a ridiculously cheap, and slightly weird, teambuilding exercise. Asking a colleague for help can kick start the relationship into action, showing both of you that you value the others opinion, and can work together. Approach them and ask their advice, or work with them on something that involves communication. Even if the results are not the ones you were looking for, focusing on work and not personal issues is the first step in moving on from your problems. In most cases, sticking to your work and reducing the time you both see each other is an effective way to overcome the fractured relationship, and hopefully after asking for help they’ll see that you’re just like everyone else there’.