When a colleague is not acting as a team player, it can affect the entire office. Actions of difficult coworkers can take many forms – from self-praise to “taking a backseat” on a group project. Often, members of the same team can grow resentful and fail to engage or address the frustration of the failure to collaborate and communicate.
Employers face the risk of low team morale and decreased productivity when an employee infects the team with bad vibes. Unfortunately, ignoring problematic issues between colleagues often further complicates the problem.
Therefore, it is the duty of everyone involved in a challenging work environment to take some responsibility, follow any guidance provided by your employer, and, most importantly, practice self-care when dealing with a difficult colleague. Read on to learn more about dealing with difficult coworkers.
When dealing with a tumultuous workplace situation, it is essential to exercise patience and refrain from public criticism.
Exercising patience can sometimes feel like the most unnatural avenue to pursue when dealing with a stressor – like a problematic colleague – but in the long run, remaining calm can help you manage the problem and become part of the solution.
It is natural to judge and speculate about why a person might be acting in a certain way; however, the assumptions we can make sometimes prove incorrect. While we might be experiencing the wrath of the colleague’s actions, evidence to support the bad behavior might not exist. Therefore, it’s important to withhold judgment until a full explanation or remedy appears.
If a person is experiencing external pressures or does not know how to best contribute to a project, keeping your cool and offering a helping hand could be the best path to dealing with your difficult colleague.
Mindfulness is a constant awareness of how your actions are impacting others in your space.
In an emotionally charged situation, allowing yourself to get caught up in anger or frustration in the heat of the moment might have substantial ramifications. Instead, staying calm and giving yourself a moment to breathe and refocus and help de-escalate the situation and calm yourself.
Using mindfulness techniques and meditation to defuse potentially volatile disagreements can make you look like the ultimate professional. Many Moms’ old advice – “take a breath and count to ten” – is an invaluable lesson to use when dealing with a difficult colleague.
After removing yourself from the stressful situation and leaving the heightened emotional state, it is perfectly acceptable to remind yourself that even if the particular event with your colleague was terrible, there is a better tomorrow.
Taking a deep breath and reflecting is the first step of mindfulness; the next part is more complicated – letting it go. Not every work disagreement will result in your difficult colleague’s termination; instead, the two of you or your team will likely need to keep working in collaboration.
Setting reasonable boundaries can help you maintain your mental health when working alongside a difficult colleague.
Exercising patience and practicing mindfulness are both important internal components when dealing with a difficult colleague. However, it is acceptable to establish boundaries to be respected and prevent escalation of disagreements.
For example, suppose a coworker raises their voice during a conversation about a team project. In that case, responding by saying, “do not speak to me with disrespect,” and pivoting back to the task at hand is a reasonable boundary to establish.
Other boundaries might include asking your colleague to only communicate with you during working hours, establish specific times in the day for collaboration and information sharing, or plan to have other colleagues in the space when interacting with the difficult coworker.
Your employer wants you to be successful in your career and for their company, so asking for reasonable boundaries is an effective way to deal with a problematic colleague and preserve your integrity and job.
Regularly setting expectations – from project to project or day-to-day – can help establish realistic goals.
Working with someone regularly, you can learn their style and method of accomplishing goals. Similarly, you may also know the specific skills of your multiple team members. Knowing that you will undertake a project with a difficult colleague, setting expectations early that can be agreed upon and worked toward by the entire team can be helpful.
For instance, if the team makes a work plan detailing which pieces team members will be responsible for completing, there is no question what role the problematic team member will play, nor will there be extra work or frustration if that person does not meet their task.
Ensuring that you document all of your expectations for a project can be helpful if a dispute arises about roles and responsibilities.
Employers and businesses have human resources teams for a reason, so if you need to report your colleague – do it.
If you have been patient, regrouped, set boundaries and expectations with no corrective change from the problematic colleague, then reporting to your direct supervisor or the human resources department might be a viable next step.
Having a third party understand the issues afoot might help mitigate the problem. Company resources, like human resources teams, work within the company’s bylaws to ensure the culture and the efficiency of the business outlast problematic employees.
If a disruptive colleague compromises work or affects the bottom line, you should notify employers. While it might seem like a dramatic step to take when dealing with a colleague, remember that you have tried your best to help solve the problem, and ultimately you are only responsible for your assigned duties.
Frustration to Collaboration
Finding a way to navigate working with a problematic colleague can be frustrating, but moving to collaboration can strengthen your marketable skills.
Anytime we work as part of a team, the ultimate goal is a collaborative success. Taking the adage “there is no I in TEAM,” we can see how working together builds something new and exciting. Moving from frustration to collaboration can be complicated, but remaining calm, practicing mindfulness, setting boundaries, and establishing expectations can put you on a path towards successfully dealing with difficult coworkers.