Dealing with Difficult Coworkers – 3 Tips

dealing with difficult coworkersWe all come across difficult coworkers.   How we deal with them can fundamentally affect our career and happiness.  Below is a real life situation from an avid reader around dealing with difficult co-workers.   I am thankful she reached out so I can not only help her but also shared this situation and my advice with any of you in similar situations.

Dealing with difficult coworkers is a large topic as there are many different kinds of difficult coworkers.  This particular situation focuses on two kinds of difficult people – A co-worker who is a “Dictator” and a manager who is a “Passive.”

From Sarah: I follow your blog and I love your advice. I have a problem at work and I would love your opinion.   I have been in my job for a year and three months. I love what I do and I love my company. However, I have been butting heads lately with a co-worker and it is making my life miserable.

She is not my manager, but she tends to act like it. We both work with a vendor and she is insisting that I copy her on every email I send to them and be on every phone call, even though it is part of my job description to work directly with them. She and I have the same supervisor. She and I are obviously not at the same pay-grade, but as I said, she is not my manager and, in theory, I should not have to report to her. There are uncountable examples of frustrations that I have experienced with her, not the least of which is that she talks down to me in front of our other co-workers. It is also worth it to note that I’m not the only one she has problems with. Other, more experienced member of our team have essentially refused to work with her. 

I have talked to our supervisor about this and she has done nothing of substance to fix the problem. So far, we have further clarified who has which role to play with the vendor, but it has not stopped the co-worker I have issues with from inserting herself into my day-to-day. 

I am thinking about leaving my dream job because she doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. It has also made me realize that there isn’t that much room for advancement anyway. The next level up is essentially a Director, but I don’t want to stay Entry Level for too long.  What should I do? If I leave, how can I do so without leaving a horrible impression? I have several exciting (read: complicated) projects that are open and there isn’t really anyone else in the office who can back up the projects. I don’t want to leave them high and dry on those projects, but I can’t take much more of this. I feel like I am at the end of my rope. 

Sarah, if you are prepared to leave anyways, then there are three things to try in dealing with your difficult coworker and passive manager.

  1. Stop listening to this coworker.    Don’t do what she asked and just ignore her.  Since she is not your manager, you can do what’s best for you.  This may not be easy as you probably prefer to work in harmony with others.   However, when it comes to a “Dictator” coworker who is butting in where she do not belong, you also have the right to express your opinion and do what is best for your sanity and your job.
  2. Since you manager doesn’t know what to do, tell your manager what you will do and ask for his support.   This way it makes it easy for him to say yes.  Be explicit and say “For me to be effective and happy, I need to do the following…..  Can I have your support?”   Then write everything you think you need to be effective and help your “Passive” manager simply say yes or no.   Since you are obviously a valuable member of the team, it is in his interest to say yes if you make it specific on exactly what he needs to do and easy.
  3. Look for another job.  Don’t ever feel bad about leaving a job and a team high and dry when it is not a good fit for you politically.  You can always do a good transition to do your best. If they don’t appreciate it, It supports your decision to leave as they don’t support you anyway either way.

I know you don’t want to leave a dream job but a dream job in content with nightmare manager or coworker or both still makes it a terrible job.  I happen to just leave one myself and so happy I have done it.    I hope this helps. Keep me posted on how it goes and additional questions.  (See Sarah  response to my advice in the comment section)

Your comments: If you have additional tips for Sarah or on how to deal with difficult coworkers in general, please add your comments below. I also look forward to your additional questions.

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6 thoughts on “Dealing with Difficult Coworkers – 3 Tips”

  1. Thank you so much for the answer! Great advice and it certainly helps me feel a bit less emotional about the situation. I’m looking around for new opportunities now, nothing has come up yet, but I’m hopeful something will. Thanks for the advice. I love following your blog!

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