How to Deal With Hard Employees


It’s hard to do effective work, wherever you are when your coworkers are not the most friendly to deal with. Situations can often get tense, hostile, and unproductive, so what do you do?

Well, first off, don’t panic. Below we have listed five productive ways to deal with your difficult coworker. So, let’s get started.

Start out by examining yourself. Are you sure that the other person is really the problem and that you’re not overreacting? Have you always experienced difficulty with the same type of person or actions? Or, do you recognize that you have hot buttons that are easily pushed? (We all do, you know.) 

Take these thoughts into consideration before you make any actions. Begin with self-examination to determine that the object of your attention really is a difficult person’s actions and not a, say, pet-peeve.

Explore what you are experiencing with a trusted friend or colleague. Brainstorm ways to address the situation. When you are the object of an attack, or your boss appears to support the dysfunctional actions of a coworker, it is often difficult to objectively assess your options. Anger, pain, humiliation, fear, and concern about making the situation worse are legitimate emotions.

Pay attention to the unspoken agreement you create when you solicit another’s assistance. You are committing to act unless you agree actions will only hurt the situation. Otherwise, you risk becoming a whiner or complainer in the eyes of your colleague. It’s a fine line to walk sometimes which make this a tricky tactic.

Approach the person with whom you are having the problem with, in private. Talk to the coworker about what you are experiencing, using the“I” message. For those who don’t know, the “I” message is a communication approach that focuses on your experience of the situation rather than on attacking or accusing the other person. You can also explain to your coworker the impact that their actions are having on you. 

Be pleasant and agreeable as you talk with the other person. They may not be aware of the impact of their words or actions on you. They may be learning about their impact on you for the first time. Or, they may have to consider and confront a pattern in their own interaction with people.

But, be prepared. Some may know their impact on you and deny it or try to explain it away. Unfortunately, some difficult people just don’t care. During the discussion, attempt to reach agreement about positive and supportive actions going forward.

Follow-up after the initial discussion. Has the behavior changed? Or, has it gotten better/worse? Next is to determine if a follow-up discussion is needed AND, if so, whether it will have any impact. Decide if you want to continue to confront the difficult person by yourself.

Become a peacemaker until that option no longer makes sense. It simply comes down to deciding how badly you want to make peace with the other person. Also evaluate whether you have experienced a positive or negative pattern of support from your boss. These questions will either lead you to hold another discussion or not. If not, escalate and move to the next idea.

You can confront your difficult coworker’s behavior publicly. Deal with the person with person, as politely as possible in an area where others can witness the interaction. It, often times, helps to have others notice a conflict because it helps them to be aware of things that may be happening around them that they didn’t even realize.

You can also tell the difficult person that you’d like them to truly consider the negative affects their decision making has had on you. Direct confrontation does work well for some people in some situations. It may not work (as this is something of a last resort) to ask the person to stop doing what they’re doing, publicly, but you can employ more positive confrontational tactics.

Their success of your cohabitation depends on how effectively you can communicate your position and get the other coworker to make small, incremental changes in their decision making or behavior.


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