The damage of working with difficult people can affect the whole office, including customers. In this article, I'll explore tips that will help you deal with challenging people!

Have you heard the people in your office saying the following?
- “I’m just trying to do my job. I don’t know why he keeps starting things.”
- “What else can I do when she acts that way?”
- “This place would fall apart if it wasn’t for me!”

Sometimes angels are among us and sometimes they are not! If you feel like you are working with an individual who is not residing on earth it can be difficult at best.

Unfortunately, I think most people have had this experience.

I have had several coaching clients over the years ask for advice how to handle difficult employees. If you find yourself in this position (I hope you don't!), here are some tips:

#1 – Address the situation immediately - I know it’s not what you want to hear. But if you don’t address the bad behaviour, the offender will grow out of control – just like a weed – and become more offensive.

There’s a saying I love to use that captures this situation well – you teach what you allow. If you let people treat you badly then you are teaching them that it’s okay to treat you that way.

Plus, the longer the bad behaviour goes on the angrier you will get. If you handle it immediately then you’ll be addressing the situation while you still have objectivity and emotional control.

Need one more reason? Think about the message that you will be sending to other members of your team – if you allow the behaviour to continue without consequence you are lowering the bar for what is appropriate behaviour and what you’ll tolerate in the office.

I’m pretty sure you don’t want the difficult co-worker to be the poster child for “Employee of the Month.”

#2 – Take action on your own - If you decide that the best way to handle the difficult co-worker is to complain to your boss, then you risk looking like YOU are the one who doesn’t get along with others. I know – your situation goes from bad to worse!

Instead, why don’t you start by taking action on your own? Use the following process to deal with the difficult co-worker:

1. First, give yourself a reality check by asking yourself:
- Could it be at all possible that I am over-reacting?
- Is this a hot button subject for me?
- Do I have difficulties with this personality type?

2. Enlist a trusted colleague at work to help you brainstorm ways to handle the situation. The input from your colleague will help you keep your cool so that you handle the situation professionally.

3. Ask to talk to the offender in private. Prepare yourself – although you’re making an effort to address the problem, this person may or may not respond the way you want them to. No problem – take comfort in the following:

- You are addressing the issue in an attempt to resolve it.
- You are doing the right thing by taking the first step.
- You cannot control how they will react.
- You can only control your own actions.

4. Stay positive. When meet with your co-worker, avoid the use of the word YOU. Instead, use the word I. Here’s an example: • “Thanks for taking the time to talk. I feel I may have misunderstood our interaction earlier ...” Sure, it’s likely that you did not misunderstand anything but phrasing your comments like this will prevent the other person from feeling attacked.

5. Keep the conversation short. You don’t need to rehash history, just deal with the present. Yesterday is gone and won’t be coming back any time soon, so let it go!

6. Try to get agreement. The offender may not care and may not be willing to take action, but you should suggest actions that each of you can take to avoid the negative situation going forward.

If you take action on your own and let the difficult co-worker know what is and is not acceptable, you can eliminate the weed before it takes over your garden.

#3 – Use humour to gently make your point - If a co-worker is being difficult, you could react with gentle humour. For example, when your co-worker makes a comment that is rough or snappy, give a great smile and salute (not the salute you’re thinking of!) or put your hand over your heart like you’ve been wounded.

Some people don’t handle direct conversations well, so this kind of a reaction could get your point across in a light-hearted manner without any drama.

#4 – Ask for help and reduce your exposure - In a best case scenario, you can use the preceding actions to stop the situation from getting out of control. However, if you’ve taken measures to resolve the problem without any success then it’s completely appropriate to go to your boss and ask for help. In the meantime, limit your access to this person to reduce the stress on yourself.

Life is too precious to just wait and hope things will change. Give it time, but clearly define how much time is reasonable and what is not. Never underestimate the power of doing nothing!

Good luck and thank your lucky stars for your normal, happy employees and co-workers!

Success & happiness!

Nancy Drew
Drew & Associates

Author's Bio: 

Nancy Drew, founder of Drew & Associates is a business coach, sales trainer and keynote speaker who has developed proven methods for igniting business sales and success. Nancy specializes in custom training programs, seminars and coaching geared towards entrepreneurs, start ups and women in business. From one-on-one executive coaching to training large groups at Fortune 500 companies, Nancy has been helping business leaders and organizations around the world achieve sales breakthroughs and maximum results since 2004. For a free subscription to Nancy's popular Free Sales Secrets Newsletter go to: