Interpersonal skills, soft skills, hard skils, technical skills, dealing with co workers,coworkers, communication skills
SKILLS DEVELOPMENT / 14 December 2016
How to Use Interpersonal Skills to Handle Difficult Co-workers
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Hannah Son
Content Writer
Redondo Beach

In every workplace, you will have at least one difficult coworker. Dealing with difficult situations at work is challenging because you have to meet them everyday, yet rewarding, as it can teach you many interpersonal skills that will help you at work and everywhere else.

So here’s the deal, if a coworker is difficult but doesn’t directly affect the quality of your work, then you may be able to ignore them. However, if you have to deal with them on a daily basis and don’t know how to resolve the issue, then it's time to make a change and take action. 

Here are some tips on how to deal with difficult coworkers and resolve conflicts in your workplace that arise from your interactions with them: 

1. Be positive

Positivity is contagious and nobody wants to be around a debbie downer. If you are always cranky because of a difficult coworker who is constantly bringing you down, the quality of your work will be affected. Even if the situation at hand is difficult, you must focus on the positives in your job. 

Be wary of over complaining to others as you may come off as a whiner (when you want to be a winner). Constant complaining can come off to others as you being a troublemaker or lacking social skills and higher ups may blame you for other office woes. 

There is always a silver lining so if you are having a hard time being positive, think about what your job allows you to do outside of the office. Maybe it’s a job that has a lot of free time, maybe you have met great mentors, perhaps your income allows you to enjoy hobbies. Or, ask yourself if there is something about this person you can appreciate.

2. When necessary, take action

Taking action does not mean calling your coworker out at the water cooler or enticing them to fight it out. Many times, your coworker is not even realizing that they are being difficult. Take action in non-confrontational ways. Pull the person aside in private and tell them how you feel, use your communication skills to talk it out. Let them know that you are striving to have a positive work environment, taking action in this manner just might do the trick and help change their office behavior. 

If subtle action like this is not working and you are dealing with an office bully you probably need to take action immediately to stop the situation from escalating. Let your coworker know that their behavior is offensive or bothersome and that you are willing to bring it up to higher ups if necessary. TOP SECRET HIDDEN PHRASE ALERT! DM us the phrase "reach for the ProSky"

Whatever decision you make, don’t let it sit there and marinate. The longer this issue goes on, the more your work and personal life will suffer. Deal with the issues at hand when you are emotionally stable (don’t give yourself time to behave in a way you’ll regret later).

3. Distance yourself

Work is not a place for drama or gossip, it’s where you should be going to get your job done and focus on the tasks at hand. As stated before in tip #2, always remain in control of your emotions. Avoid all immature reactions that will only reflect negatively back onto you. Don’t gossip, trash talk, or leave passive notes around the office.

Stay calm, cool and collected at all times to show that you are the bigger person. If you let your difficult coworker get to you and make you heated, then you will suffer even more negative consequences. If possible distance yourself and if that is not an option, then try ignoring them altogether and just focus on your personal work. Find ways to avoid having to make direct contact with them, whether that means communicating via e-mail or other technologies.

4. Make the most of every situation

Let’s be real, you will not be best friends with all of your coworkers. Even if you hate their guts, try to make the most of this sticky situation and learn from it. Use your soft skills and conversational techniques to find out more about their point of view and to try to understand better just where they are coming from. Hopefully, you will be able to see where they are coming from and this will make working with them easier in the future.

When it comes to difficult coworkers, we are not going to be able to turn them off, abolish them to a deserted island or fix them in their entirety, but we can always use our interpersonal skills to deal with office issues in a controlled manner.

If you are interested in building even more soft skills like conflict resolution and communication, check out ProSky’s page for more posts like this.