Rise Above the Feud: How to Deal with a Difficult Coworker

Posted by The Editors on January 17, 2012
Rise Above the Feud: How to Deal with a Difficult Coworker
This weekend at the Golden Globes, a feud broke out: Elton John is apparently enraged that Madonna won the Globe for Best Original Song. Not only did Elton give a nasty look during the announcement of her win, but his team took to venting on social media. Madonna hasn’t been a model of professionalism either, and had some chilly comments for Elton and his protégé, Lady Gaga.

How could two stars of the entertainment industry stoop so low and be so petty? I guess they’re only human. But, there are some lessons on professionalism to be learned from their stewing fight, which we haven’t seen the last of. Let’s just hope someone passes along these tips on how to deal with a difficult colleague. 

Figure out what’s really bugging you. Is it a specific behavior that’s bothering you about the person? Are you being too sensitive? Since it’s hard to change people, the easiest way to resolve the situation is to rise above it. (If I were Madonna, this is what I would do!)

Approach the person. If the person is personally attacking you and needs to be confronted, ask to speak to them privately. Tell Elton John—er, your coworker—how they’re making you feel, while remaining pleasant and professional, (Remember the adage, kill ‘em with kindness). They may not be aware of their actions (people are surprising clueless), and this discussion may be all they need to snap out of it. But, they may deny the accusation or make excuses. At this point it’s best to end the conversation, and accept that you may not be able to get through to them.

Confront the person in public. If your coworker is doing something inappropriate in the office—say, making sexist comments towards all your female coworkers—gentle humor or sarcasm directed towards them immediately after the comment can show that you’re not taking these remarks lightly. Plus, your sarcasm can make them feel like an idiot. 

Get your boss or HR involved. If the behavior continues and it’s affecting your work, you should clue in your boss or HR. Since they (hopefully) have a position of superiority over the coworker, they may be able to put more ultimatums into place. Too bad there’s no Golden Globe HR department.

In all seriousness, you won’t always be able to change your coworkers and can only change how you react to them. So, take control of the situation, be professional, and be kind. Your maturity in the situation will not only earn the respect of your other coworkers, but will shine an unfavorable light on the office meanie.

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