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How to Deal With Difficult Co-workers


Imagine walking into your office each morning, and it’s glowing with sunshine, birds are chirping, and your co-workers break into a flash mob and start singing “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”. And then everyone hugs until skipping to their cubicles. Unfortunately, this isn’t the environment of most offices. There always seems to be at least one or two difficult co-workers who just refuse to skip.


We are all pretty much in control of our home lives, and can pick and choose which friends we want to hang out with and which ones we prefer to avoid.  At work, we don’t have that control or choice and people are not always compatible, may be moody, and sometimes may just be prone to “bad days” resulting in a difficult and possibly stressful office-life. When dealing with these types of difficult co-workers, you may want to keep a few tips in mind.

People Who Are Disorganized or Ignore Deadlines

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It’s difficult to complete a task when you have to wait on someone else to complete their end of the task first. The disorganized co-worker who seems to have no regard for deadlines, procrastinates and ends up waiting until just before deadline, or never even makes the deadline, causes everyone else’s jobs to be more difficult. This person needs to be reminded early on, and may even need you to set up their calendars and their deadlines for them. In fact, similar to dealing with people who are chronically late for appointments, you may even have to give them a completely different, earlier deadline, to insure that things are completed on time.

Co-workers Who Think Everything Is a Contest

Some people are just competitive in nature and in many situations, a small amount can be helpful if it results in work being completed quickly. However, not everything is a contest, nor is it always a good idea to be racing toward the finish line on every project, or trying to be “the best” at everything. Worst case scenario:  Everyone is stressed out and anxiety ridden from trying to win the race and the work is completed too quickly and inaccurately. Co-workers who are over competitive should always be given credit when credit is due, while being reminded that in the end, the person who completes the work first or the fastest is not necessarily the person who did the best work.

Backstabbing Co-workers

Nothing makes office-life more toxic than gossipers and backstabbers. Almost everyone has had some kind of experience with a person who has thrown them under the bus, or told someone else something that wasn’t intended to be shared. With these types of co-workers, it is important to limit contact outside of normal work communication, make sure other people are around when you do communicate, and give neutral responses when communicating. And just to be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to document emails and correspondence, just in case.

Sometimes the only solutions for dealing with difficult co-workers are to either avoid them as much as possible, or set a meeting with management regarding the difficulties. It may not solve all of the problems you have, but you may find something that works and the difficult co-worker may eventually end up being not so difficult.

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 (Photo Credit: IRS EIN/Flicker)

Christina Majaski
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BarnabypantelisM.M. Shaikh Recent comment authors
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nice article but what about co workers that have a low IQ 

M.M. Shaikh
M.M. Shaikh

Very nice article.


Great post, I love the imagery in the opening paragraph!

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