4 ways to deal with every type of co-worker

Do you get along with every co-worker 100% of the time? Probably not.

Conflict at work is perfectly normal, but the way you deal with it can make a huge difference to your wellbeing and productivity. Life’s too short to let work bring you down, so here are four useful strategies to help you navigate around difficult co-workers.

1. Tackle the issue head-on

Ignoring the problem or gossiping about it with other co-workers is unlikely to make the problem go away. Instead, define the issue and think about how you can communicate it to the offending co-worker. It’s best to talk directly with the person in question about their behaviour first.

Tackling the issue head-on rather than letting it escalate is important, since office conflict carries costs for both the people involved and the business. Your own wellbeing, office morale and overall productivity can suffer when conflict takes hold in the workplace. The Choosi Workplace Report 2018 shows:

  • More than half of us have confronted a co-worker about behaviour that annoys us – and one in seven have done it more than once.
  • Confronting a co-worker about their annoying behaviour is the best solution – more than 80% of respondents said it tends to resolve the matter at least sometimes.

2. Recognise office personality types

Sometimes conflict is a personality clash – a coming together of different personality types or varying ways of managing work and conflict. In these situations, it can help to simply recognise these differences when managing the conflict.

Recognise any of these office personalities?

  • The know-it-all: Always right and never wrong. Arm yourself with facts and choose your battles when dealing with this co-worker.
  • The passive-aggressive: If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, stressed or mad, and you’re not quite sure why, you may be dealing with a passive-aggressive personality – don’t get sucked into their simmering, concealed anger.
  • The gossip: If you love a chat with that person who knows everything about everyone, take care – they’re probably talking about you too.
  • The delegator: They’re popular with the boss because they get things done, but everyone else knows it’s because they’re delegating everything.
  • The noisy one: Music, conversations, phone reminders… even the sound of their office chair seems many decibels above normal.

3. Consider your own behaviour

You can’t control anyone’s behaviour but your own. So when dealing with issues, take care not to play the blame game. Take responsibility for your own actions, too.

When dealing with an unreasonable person or difficult situation, consider some of these tips:

  • Be patient and diplomatic – there’s no point fighting fire with fire.
  • Be direct but discreet – address the problem but don’t spread unkind sentiment, and be sure to respect the boundaries between personal and business.
  • Compromise – can you meet halfway?
  • Remain calm – never raise your voice. Have a cool-down session or take a walk if things are getting out of hand
  • Don’t get personal – focus on the problem and how it’s impacting things at work, not the person.
  • Look deeper – is there some other issue that’s really driving the problem?
  • Reflect and consider whether it’s you who needs to apologise.

4. Don’t go it alone

If, despite your best efforts, you continue to feel threatened by a co-worker’s behaviour, it may be best to escalate the matter to management. Get familiar with your workplace’s conflict-management policies and procedures. That way, you can build a path towards resolving the issue smoothly.

Read more about handling the demands of Australian workplaces in The Choosi Workplace Report 2018.

Do you run your own business? Business insurance covers you if your business can’t operate due to an insured event, you can also get cover for financial loss—this is generally called ‘business interruption insurance’. Find out more in Choosi’s business insurance Frequently Asked Questions.