How To Deal With Difficult Coworkers-17 Perfect Ways

10 minutes read

Building a good relationship with your co-workers is vital, as it impacts your productivity. One of my coaches said, “You can be friendly with everyone but you cannot be friends with everyone.” This is common in a work environment. There are some people who will always antagonize whatever you say. They are termed difficult coworkers.

These are people who display behavior that causes conflict, tension, and challenge in the workplace. They show a negative attitude, lack of cooperation, constant criticism, and even try to micromanage you.  Self-assessment and trying to understand their perspective are some of the steps on how to deal with difficult coworkers.

Working in a toxic work environment can cause stress and reduce your morale and productivity. It might seem challenging and time-consuming to cope with difficult coworkers. Yet, you must try your best to create a healthier environment for yourself.

General Signs Of Difficult Coworkers

Lack Of Cooperation

This is when an individual will not want to work with you as a team. The person refuses to contribute to everything being done in groups. This is a sign of a difficult coworker.


The person might want to check or inspect everything you do.  The individual will try to control or contribute to minor projects, even those that do not concern him. This is a sign that the individual is a difficult coworker.

Passive Aggressiveness

The individual, instead of addressing any issue with calmness, will resort to using bad words. He might go to the extent of using sarcastic or subtle words. This shows you that he is a difficult coworker.

Frequent Criticism

When an individual antagonizes whatever you do. Instead of focusing on what you have done right and appreciating it, you look for your flaws and mistakes to criticize. It is a sign that you are working with a difficult coworker.


An individual who wastes his time discussing you or other people behind their backs is a gossip. Be careful with anyone who always looks for a rumor or a scandal to spread. It is a sign that he is a difficult coworker.


An individual who is not reliable is equally untrustworthy. A difficult coworker will always miss deadlines, and prepare a haphazard presentation. He will show little or no commitment to whatever is being done.

Different Types of Difficult Coworkers

According to the Myers-Briggs Company’s Conflict at Work survey, it was found that 36% of workers report dealing with conflict often, very often, or all the time. It is important to know the different types of difficult coworkers around you. It aids you in taking a better step in your dealings with them.

The Lazybones

These are the ones who will always finish their tasks late. They work at a very slow pace and always have an excuse. They run away from responsibilities and shift them to others, increasing the workload for others. This group of people can frustrate their colleagues who are ready to work.

Frequent Complainers

These are the ones who always complain about everything. They complain about their salary, the work environment, and their colleagues. Their focus is only on the negative part of the work.

Unteachable Ones

Dealing with this group of people can be tiring and frustrating. There is nothing you will tell them they will agree to do or is good. They believe they know it all and have superior knowledge than you. They are too opinionated and try to dominate every discussion. This can limit the creativity of the team.

Drama Queens or Kings

They thrive on conflict or emotional mayhem. These are people who love exaggerating. They can magnify a little situation to look so big and tiring. They love to be the center of attention.

Passive Aggressive Ones

These are people who lack the right approach to expressing their feelings. Instead of directly telling you their intentions, they use sarcasm or withhold information. This miscommunication can often lead to conflicts and misunderstandings.

The Bullies

They humiliate, belittle, or intimidate their colleagues. They can use verbal abuse, false information, or exclusion to intimidate you. These are toxic people who can make their colleagues start missing work.

How To Deal With Difficult Coworkers

Each of the different coworkers listed above has unique strategies that can be used to deal with them.  In this article, we are going to let you know how to deal with difficult coworkers.

1. Limit Your Interactions With Them

It might not be easy to stay completely silent or stop talking to them, especially if you are on the same team but you can limit your interactions. Try to act professionally and mind your business. Be brief with any discussion or interactions, if need be. It makes you stay away from trouble and maintain a sane mind.

2. Self Assessment

Examine yourself and know why you do not like these people. Check why you are always the target and take note of it. Consider your expectations of them and know if you are the one being unrealistic. This is one of the most effective strategies on how to deal with difficult coworkers and it will help you channel your energy at the right target.

3. Stay Calm

Even when they come looking for trouble, maintain calm composure and be professional. Avoid reacting negatively to any drama they display. When discussing a project with them, try to focus more on facts and things specific to the task or issue at hand. This is one step on how to deal with difficult coworkers.

4. Know Their Personality Type

Everyone is unique and has a different personality type. You must take time to learn about different personality types and know which category your co-workers fall into. Understanding their different personality types will help you manage your coworkers well and accept them the way they are. Every personality has its strengths and weaknesses. Find the strengths of your co-workers and focus more on them. It helps you stay away from conflict.

5. Understand Their Viewpoint

It might be that the reason they appear difficult is because you do not understand their perspective. Get close to them and try to understand why they behave the way they do or why they think in a different direction. You might get to understand that the challenges and pains they are passing through or have passed through have contributed to their viewpoint and attitude. This is one of the effective strategies on how to deal with difficult coworkers.

6. Concentrate On Your Positive Relationships.

It is easier to concentrate on the negative things than the positive. To deal with a troublesome coworker, remove your gaze from him and focus on other coworkers you relate positively with. Focus more on the job tasks that you love the most. Concentrate also on building more positive relationships with other coworkers. This will act as a distraction. This is the best way to deal with a difficult coworker.

7. Express Yourself Using The First Person Pronoun (I)


pavel danilyuk,8424530.jpg

Calmly approach the individuals and explain to them how you feel about them. Tell them the impact of their behavior by personalizing it. Instead of saying, “You are always fond of missing deadlines, say, I feel unhappy and frustrated when deadlines are not met.” The individual will understand it better.

8. Know Their Specific Behaviors That Annoy You

It will be easy for you to control yourself and handle the situation when you know your triggers. What specifically do they do that gets you angry? If you can identify them, you can quickly remove yourself from that situation. For instance, if they always miss deadlines, you can give urgent work to a more proactive person. This is one of the most effective steps on how to deal with difficult coworkers.

9. Be Neutral And Do Not Take Sides

To deal with difficult coworkers, you mustn’t take sides with anyone but rather always address issues on a neutral level. Refrain from office gossip or idle talk. Do not say anything about their behavior to someone else behind their back. Keep your thoughts to yourself to maintain a healthy environment. If you need someone to talk to about their behavior, you can talk to a friend or a family member who has no relationship with your office.

10. Create Boundaries.

Set a boundary and communicate it effectively to your difficult coworkers. Let them know the behavior that upsets you and what you expect from them. Be ready to set unacceptable behavior consequences when they attempt to cross the boundaries. It can make them desist from their behavior and steer clear.

11. Learn Some Life Skills

Human beings are difficult to handle and it is essential that to cope with very difficult ones, you need some skills. Make room to improve yourself and become a better person by learning soft skills. These skills include patience, humility, cooperation, leadership, and team building. These skills will help you deal with difficult coworkers.

12. Know The Exact Time To Discuss With Them.

For someone you already know is always aggressive, it is important to know the perfect timing for a discussion, either about his behavior or an office project. Know the time, place, and how to communicate with them. You can choose a private location over an office location and times when office work is less stressful than when there is pressure. It has more positive outcomes. This is the best strategy on how to deal with difficult coworkers.

13. Try To Compromise

Compromise in this scenario does not mean doing something bad. Try to accept any ideas or suggestions they make. Do not be someone who will always like things done his way, especially as a leader. Try to compromise and find common solutions to a task that you both can agree on. Let each task be done collaboratively.

14. Try To Accept Faults

These individuals are indeed difficult but that does not mean you are always right. To avoid drama, own up to your responsibilities and accept your mistakes. It’s one of the strategies to deal with difficult coworkers.

15. Create Job roles and responsibilities

If you are not the boss or a team leader, you can talk to the person in charge to create a work roster. Creating work roles can help difficult coworkers know what they are expected to do. It can help reduce conflicts in the workplace.

  16. Document their behaviors

Try to take note of their difficult behaviors. Write down the times they miss deadlines, come to work late, or abuse or criticize you. This will help when they refuse to change and you report them.

17. Report your supervisor

If you have tried everything and it seems not to be working, make a report. Talking to your boss or supervisor may be the only option left. Talk to them, using the document you have as proof of their misdeeds. This can be a step toward managing a difficult coworker and bringing them to order.

Final Words

An unhealthy work environment is toxic to you. Try your best to create a healthy environment for yourself despite all odds.

Understanding your difficult coworkers, limiting your interactions with them, and reporting to your supervisor are how you can deal with difficult coworkers. If you can do this, you are sure of a safe working environment.

Leave a Comment

DISCLOSURE: Some posts may have affiliate links, which means that if you click on the links and make a purchase, we get a commission. Note: That doesn’t affect our recommendations in any way. We are committed to giving you the best.