Dealing with Difficult People in the Workplace

It doesn’t matter where you work; people who are challenging to work with exist. It may be someone who is condescending towards you and won’t listen to you because you are younger or hold a higher position, a lazy worker, and those who you find are constantly attacking you in a non-confrontational manner, either verbally with connotations or behind your back.


We call this office politics, and it won’t ever go away, so we need to know how to deal with it.


Be smart about your choice of words

This involves using words that show respect, are commonly understood, and evoke feeling. They also need to be grammatically correct. This will show respect for what you are trying to say and demonstrate that you have a positive attitude towards the person you are talking to. Your colleagues will then respond in the same manner, but this may take a while to happen. Use positive and up-building words, e.g. I’m so glad you’re here today, Nice work, Good morning, etc.


Words are a powerful means of communicating with colleagues and must be used wisely. The saying ‘think before you speak’ says it all. However, the words you use in your conversations must be used in the proper context with the right tonality; otherwise, your message may be misunderstood and have the wrong effect than intended.


Using “I” or “my” too much in your conversation can cause co-workers to think you always talk about yourself. Unless it permits, try and use “you” “us” more to show you see that things are done as a team. Try and avoid talking about yourself.


Show patience

When confronted with a difficult co-worker, have you ever asked yourself, “how many times should I have to forgive this person?” Sure, forgiving someone many times may seem ridiculous, but what if you were that person being forgiven? The same principle applies to putting up with the difficulties of a co-worker. It takes patience and endurance on your part.


Keep an eye on your body language

Body language is the non-verbal messages that we put across through our physical positioning and movements. There is positive and negative body language. Negative body language can show that we are not interested in speaking to someone. This includes crossed arms; body pointed away from someone while they are talking to you. You need to make sure that your body language is correct and shows that you are interested in what a colleague has to say. Showing positive body language includes pointing your body to the other person or mirroring their body language, is a great way to establish rapport. Also, maintain eye contact with the person you are talking to and show that you listen to them by nodding and looking at their eyes and lips.


Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself

Sometimes you need to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Think if you were them, how would you like to be treated? You should try and make amends with someone simply for the fact that they don’t like you. Sometimes you just need to be the stronger person.

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