How to deal with difficult co-workers

Don't go head to head when you don't see eye to eye - be likeable instead

In every workplace, there is that certain someone whom others flock to because they are so likeable. There are also individuals who are callous or caustic - or both.

Tackle tough colleagues by being likeable, with these tips:


Being friendly does not mean you are pals with everyone.

It does mean that you are approachable, even to nasty individuals. Also, pay attention to your body language - watch that you are not always crossing your arms around the wet blankets. And focus on the tough colleague when he is speaking to you; make him feel like the most important person at that time.


Figure out what drives a difficult co-worker. Try to connect with him in that space.

Also, pass on helpful information about the company's goals (except for confidential matters, of course).

By taking the dissenting individual into your confidence, you may wear down his hostility and win him over.


Hone your listening skills because others want to know they are being heard. This act helps you to become more empathetic.

Also, show interest in your colleague's needs and wishes. Be sensitive when he is overwhelmed or overworked, assisting in any way you can.

Lend an ear if the colleague is suffering from a personal loss. When you are empathetic, others - including the disagreeable person - perceive you as a team player and someone who cares about them.

If all that civility does not smoothen the path, there are practical ways to keep your cool.


Realise you cannot change your co-worker.

Accept your differences and focus instead on the job. Where your duties overlap, resolve to keep interactions professional.

Before each work day, anticipate the bumps ahead and think of ways to minimise the friction.


Discuss an issue with your co-worker. Invite him to lunch and let him know, tactfully, what is bothering you.

Be prepared to receive the same feedback. Maybe you have said or done something to ruffle his feathers. If so, be prepared to make amends and start afresh.


E-mail is often the fastest and simplest way to communicate with colleagues.

When working with a difficult co-worker, do not be afraid to take the conversation offline via a phone call or face-to- face chat.

This way, you will avoid misunderstanding the tone and meaning.


It is not possible to avoid a nasty co-worker altogether. If he remains antagonistic despite all your efforts, minimise your interactions.

Consider that the root cause of that person's behaviour has nothing to do with you.

Personalities clash and work styles differ. It is not possible to see eye to eye with everyone in the office.

But even thorny situations can be dealt with effectively if you keep your head, maintain your poise and develop another perspective - and perhaps, even a sense of humour.

This article was contributed by Right Management (, the global career experts within United States-listed HR consulting firm, ManpowerGroup.