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Career Advice

How To Deal With Difficult Colleagues And Avoid The Drama

By Krisha Maclang on December 1, 2015

We spend so many hours in a week with them. We achieve career and personal goals with them. We share more than a fair share of meals with them. On occasion, we even give them gifts and receive some in return. No, they’re not family or even your significant other. They’re your colleagues and the relationships you have with them can be as important as the other personal relationships in your life.

The relationships you have with your colleagues can make or break your career. These are the people you work with to make sure that your projects and goals are done exceedingly well. For the most part, our colleagues become our automatic friends at work. They help us get things done and support us through challenging times in the office, and vice versa.

However, there are times when we just have to deal with co-workers that are a little difficult. You know that person. It can be the officemate that is perpetually late for deadlines or the office gossip or the one that is always cranky for seemingly no reason.

While it can be tempting to just ignore these people or to angrily react to whatever they do, it probably won’t be the best way to handle things. Remember, it’s not a playground fight. You’re all adults at work so you have to deal with things professionally.

Here are a few ways you can deal with difficult colleagues:

Different strokes for different folks

Being in a shared space with a wide variety of personalities can be a great experience on good days and a handful to deal with on bad days. Companies often hire people from diverse backgrounds and life experiences, so it is only natural that they will have very different personalities, as well as working habits.

It can be tempting to dismiss your co-worker as simply “lazy” or “weird.” Let’s say, he is at his most creative when he puts his work off until much later in the project timeline. Or maybe he works best when he is alone for a period of time. People have different ways of functioning at work and for the most part, we should be able to accept the fact that we all deal with work in various ways.

If you feel like their working style or way of handling things may affect you and your work, you can talk to them about it. Compromise with each other to agree on a working style that will benefit all team members involved and will achieve your project’s goals in the best way.


Be patient if you can

As the saying goes, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” If your co-worker is being a little moody or is a little careless with his projects lately, you should consider that he might be going through something difficult in his life. It can be anything from a family problem, a personal illness to financial trouble. Whatever it is, if your usually cheerful and hard-working colleague has suddenly changed, he may be going through something heavy.

Your colleague may not even realize that he is acting any differently. If he seems to be going through something, try to be patient. Gently remind him of his tasks that are due or if he seems to be taking his frustrations out on you, let them know that you’re both on the same team so there is no need to be hostile. And if you want to, offer your support to get him through whatever it is he may be going through. Invite him out for coffee so he can get his mind off things or simply talk about what’s going in each other’s lives.

Sometimes our co-workers just need a little support and patience to get them through not just the work day, but also through life’s hardships.

Ditch the passive-aggressiveness

Do away with the parinig, the pointed glares, and the office gossip. We Filipinos tend to be non-confrontational when it comes to personal conflicts. That’s understandable, in a way. No one wants to see or hear a screaming match in the office. But it’s also not productive to resort to passive aggressive tactics such as talking about your problematic co-worker behind his back. Dealing with the issue underhandedly will only antagonize your co-worker and it won’t do the job of addressing the problem directly.

It can be tempting to vent your anger and frustration over your conflict with your co-worker. But remember that passive-aggressiveness doesn’t really solve anything. Yes, you got to release your angst over the problem by taking a discreet swipe at them. Sure, you confirmed with your fellow colleagues that you’re not the problem.  But, in the end, what did it solve? Nothing.

If the difficulties you face with your colleague have reached the point where you stoop so low as to take underhanded swipes at them, you should do something proactive to address the situation, such as sit down and talk to them or your boss.


Talk it out

More often than not, there is no other course of action than to talk to the person. You can be patient with him or even be passive aggressive in the hopes that he will take a hint, but nothing can sort things out faster than actually discussing the issue.

If you choose to talk it out, don’t bring up the subject when you’re upset.  You also need to consider the fact that they might not know that they are ruffling your feathers. Initiate the discussion from a neutral place and make sure you are addressing relevant points.

Let’s say, you have been noticing that your co-worker has been needlessly nitpicking all your presentations in front of your entire department. Take your co-worker aside and ask him if he has any personal issue with your work and if he does, that maybe he should bring it up with you one-on-one instead of taking it out on you in front of everyone.

If talking to your colleague isn’t working, you might need to consult your supervisor or team leader for further steps if the quality of your work is affected.


Don’t let work drama get in the way of getting work done. Remember that you’re all there for the same reason: to work hard and achieve your company’s goals, as well as your career goals.

Conflicts with difficult colleagues are often rooted in issues that can be resolved by talking things out, unless extreme behavior is involved such as verbal, physical or sexual abuse. If such extreme situations are happening, always seek guidance and help from your Human Resources department or legal counsel, if needed.

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