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How to work with difficult colleagues

11th April 2018

Some people are just difficult. They’ll find a way to make your day problematic and be blissfully unaware of the trouble they’ve caused. Or, they’ll be negative all the time and again remain unaware of the impact this has on their colleagues. Or, they just work and think differently to you.



In your day to day this can be annoying, but in work it can be really damaging and unavoidable if you work in a small office or team.

Stress has been known to reduce memory and overall health, so it’s worth putting some time into making your work relationships better. What can you do? It might seem hopeless but there are some tried and tested methods to deal with difficult colleagues.

Avoid their negativity

People who consistently complain are one of Irish workers biggest bug bears. Just one person constantly complaining can drag a whole team down.

Avoid this by removing yourself from the situation where possible, for example at your desk by popping in earphones, or if you end up in a tricky conversation ask about the person’s solution. “What do you plan to do about it?” This simple question forces the complainer to think about a resolution, rather than wallowing and can often result in them quietening down.

Stick to work

If you must work with a difficult colleague try and keep the relationship as professional as possible. If they’re acting inappropriately point it out to them privately. They’ll either back down, or at the very least be aware of their behaviour.

Create a professional boundary by sticking to work questions and conversations, and discouraging one-to-one conversations. This isn’t always easy, but if you stick with it you’ll see results.

Reframe your own thoughts

Controlling and reframing your thoughts isn’t easy, but once mastered this method will enrich your thought process in and out of work. If you find yourself struggling make sure you have an outlet to get rid of any negative tension, exercise is brilliant for this as it actively reduces cortisol, the stress hormone, and releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller and mood booster. Plus, do yourself a favour and get a good night’s sleep each night.

If exercise isn’t your thing you could try keeping a journal, cooking or actively making time for something you enjoy – such as watching movies, meditating, reading interviews or listening to podcasts.

Emotional wellbeing might seem like something you should focus on outside of work, but how you feel and how you perform at work is just as important. If a colleague is bothering you or if you feel your emotions boiling over regularly at work it’s important to address it and focus on solutions and the other good things about your job, rather than how annoying your colleague is.

There’s no quick fix, but small daily changes will help and improve your health and happiness in the long run.

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About the Author

Niamh Keenan

Content Marketing Executive

Group Marketing

I am a Communication Studies graduate with years of experience in client relations, digital content and print media. Although my experience is varied my goal is always the same. To provide information in an engaging and informative way – whether that be through blog posts, email campaigns to job seekers or social media posts

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