8 Brilliant Tips To Handle a Difficult Coworker [Scenarios]

A Colleague Upsets You in a Meeting, Another Frequently Turns Meetings into a Battleground. Learn to Deal with Difficult Coworkers Using These Practical Tips:

We discussed How To Deal With A Difficult Boss in our previous tutorial.

In this tutorial, we will discuss some difficult situations that a Test Manager may have to face while dealing with his colleagues.
how to deal with a difficult coworker

Practical Tips To Deal With a Difficult Coworker

Scenario 1:

Someone from a different section is making your life miserable.

When you have no common manager, how will you handle it? You’ll have to use a method called feedback. This involves talking to other people about the problem, in a non-confrontational and helpful way.

The 10 principles of feedback are very simple and can be applied to both characters as well as work-based issues. You can use feedback from colleagues, managers, and juniors.

#1) Obviously, you need to speak to the person in remote, and at a time when none of you is in a rush. Decide in advance, what key points you want to make, and prepare ways of saying them that do not include:

  • Overemphasis, such as ‘you’re always complaining’.
  • Decisions, such as ‘you’re hopeless at dealing with problems by yourself’.
  • Markers, such as ‘you’re a whinger’.

#2) When you speak to the person, emphasize on yourself and not on him/her.

#3) Clarify why you feel this way: ‘I can’t meet my targets if I don’t have the information to do the job’.

#4) Now let the other person express his/her thoughts. Listen to them and show that you’re attentive.

#5) Be ready to be criticized in turn.

#6) Emphasize on how they behave, and not what they are (in your view).

#7) Be prepared to quote actual cases wherever possible.

#8) Be optimistic as well. Tell them, when they have been helpful, by promptly giving what you needed.

#9) Suggest an explanation and see how the other person feels. This is very important as you can’t change their personalities, but behavior.

#10) Attend to the other person’s response and be prepared to compromise with them. (You may even learn something about how you appear to others. And be able to adapt your own behavior and improve your performance.)

Scenario 2:

A colleague upsets you in a meeting.

How often do people get sensitive and angry, when they have all the arguments on their side and they know they’re going to win? They don’t need to. So as soon as anyone starts to get irritated, you know that you’ve got them on the run.

Nevertheless, you don’t want a colleague who spits blood at you. You will be far more popular with the meeting and look far more like a good raise prospect to your managers – if you can keep the proceedings calm and enjoyable as you graciously win the battle.

And the technique for doing this is very simple. You need to remain peaceful. Don’t respond with the sentiment but simply pick out the facts of what is being said. And deal with those, as you would, if the person is talking calmly. If they keep criticizing you, just wait patiently before you reply, until they run out of steam.

A decent chairperson should intervene to let you speak but if they don’t, appeal to them by saying, calmly and politely, ‘May I respond to that point?’

This might sound as though your opponent will get to do all the talking and you are incapable to put your case across. But it doesn’t work like that. Not only they will look very senseless- if they are the only ones losing control of their sentiments but also they aren’t likely to keep it up for very long- if they don’t get a fiery response from you.

They will burn out fast (after a brief period where you look cool and reasonable while they look like a two-year-old child), and the discussion will become calmer.

Scenario 3:

A colleague frequently turns meetings into battlegrounds.

There are two main reasons why anyone turns upfront meetings into compound war zones. And you’ll need to work out on what is going on (it could be both):

  • Status battles: Whoever can prove themselves the most deserving will be the first in line for the next raise. So everyone wants it to be there, offers that get agreed and their arguments which win the day. All of this will make them appear more significant than their colleagues.
  • Turf wars: each manager has their own ground or department. No one is ready to give an inch of their territory as the size and power of their department defines their personal clout.

Status battles

Broadly speaking your goal should be to win the dispute obviously, but do it in a way that makes your colleague feel as positive and fruitful as possible. After all, you can afford to be generous over the details if you’ve won the battle.

Be nice:

For a start, be as nice and welcoming as you can. Ignore criticisms or personal put-downs. You will only rile your opponent if you are egotistical, sarcastic or smug. The kinder you are, the less they will mind losing to you and the less they will fight the status battle alongside the practical quarrel that you’re debating.

Turf wars

You’re in immense trouble if you step into the other people’s toes, in a meeting. Your colleagues will not want to share their expertise with you. People are obviously territorial and you forget it at your threat. So don’t even think about putting forward the idea which involves reducing someone’s responsibilities unless you:

  • Suggest replacing them with other tasks (preferably ones that seem more respected)
  • Suggest that they are too significant to do them.

Taking tasks away from people isn’t the only way you can tread on their toes. No one likes it if you will give the imprint that you know more about their department or their area of expertise than they do. So don’t make worn statements about other people’s territories.

Scenario 4:

A colleague in your team is not performing well but your manager can’t understand it.

This will only be a problem when your colleague’s poor performance is making your work life more problematic. If this isn’t the case then it’s frankly, none of your business. If your own work is being negotiated then you need to act.

  • Don’t complain to your manager about the person involved. Monitor their work. Complaining about them personally will not be appropriate. Because if you complain and your manager doesn’t understand, the problem it may look like you have a problem working with that particular guy. Besides, it will reasonably rile your colleague if he/she finds out and will cause unpleasantness.
  • When your colleague’s work is creating a problem for you, let them know about it.
  • When you discuss this matter with the manager, don’t mention the colleague’s name – your focus should be on work, not on the person. So you can simply say, ‘I have a problem. I’m supposed to deliver this report on Monday and I have all the data that I needed, except the figures from Kite. I can’t complete the statement without them’.
  • Do this every time when your work is bargained for by your colleague. You don’t have to mention his/her name (that might look personal), as your manager will soon realize where the actual problem lies.

Scenario 5:

A colleague frequently puts an emotional burden on you.

Have you ever heard any of the following?

‘I’m going to be in real chaos if you don’t help me out with this.’ Or

‘Just this once . . . I’ve been so under the weather lately and I just can’t manage with this as well’. Or

‘Please don’t be unhelpful.’

Emotional blackmail is a popular gun in getting people to do whatever the blackmailer wants. Such people are playing on your fault, or your desire to be popular, to manipulate you into doing things their way.

But there’s one thing you need to know about emotional blackmail is that it doesn’t work on confident people. If you find this situation threatening then there is a chance that you’re not as confident as you should be. Emotional blackmailers know how to recognize confident people. So apply a bit of confidence and become impervious to this kind of manipulation.

There are some steps you can do.

  • Recognize what the emotional blackmail is for. As soon as you start feeling embarrassed for saying no or emotionally uncomfortable for your response to someone, ask yourself a question that ‘Am I being emotionally blackmailed?’
  • Tell yourself that emotional blackmail is not a reasonable, equal and adult behavior so you owe nothing to those who are doing it. If they’re prepared to use such an underhand approach with you then you must respond to them by not giving it.
  • You must have to be firm with your decision then also if someone is insisting you can refuse by saying ‘I’m afraid that I don’t have the time’. Keep telling them until they get the message. Don’t allow them to make you feel bad – it is they who are behaving unreasonably, not you.
  • Inspiring people directly over this technique can cause unpleasantness but with some people, you may find that you can say – with a joke and a laugh – ‘Careful! It’s the beginning to sensitive blackmail…’ It pulls them up short. If they think you’re getting wise to them then they’ll back off.

Scenario 6:

A colleague in your team is being devious.

Good manipulators never leave any evidence. You can’t prove that they’ve been devious. But you know it anyway. There’s no point in stimulating them directly because they’ll deny it. So make them feel that you want to help and not point the finger.

  • If they are manipulating a situation then they must have a motive. Let them think it through and work out what they are trying to accomplish.
  • Talk to them without accusing them of manipulation. E.g. ‘I get the feeling that you’d like to run the XYZ Ltd account. Is, that right?’
  • Perhaps they will agree with you. But if they deny it then give them reasons for which you have this impression by giving an example that ‘I noticed at the meeting last Monday that you highlighted one or two errors which are made recently with the account. You don’t normally focus on such kind of details unless you have a particular interest in the subject. So I concluded that you are probably interested in the XYZ account.’
  • Once the manipulator feels that they can talk openly to you, without fear of allegations of manipulation, they will do so. After all, they are more likely to achieve their goals that way.
  • Now you can have a balanced and sensible discussion with them for what you are feeling that you’re being manipulated. To keep the discussion truthful and unemotional don’t be accusatory. After all, they’re entitled to run the same account you do. The problem is simply in their way of doing it.
  • Now the issue is out in the open so you can go to your mutual manager to find an arrangement between you.

Scenario 7:

You are being sexually harassed by a co-worker.

It can be rigid to define sexual harassment – what one person enjoys as flirting may be considered as harassment by another. However, once you’ve made it clear that you are considering this behavior as harassment then the person doing it should respect it.

Consider the following guidelines:

  • Let them know how you feel about their behavior and ask them to stop.
  • If they don’t stop then tell them that you will make an official grievance against them. It is also wise at this point to start keeping a written record of their harassment.
  • If this will not make them stop, then go ahead and make a complaint to your manager (if your own manager is harassing you then go to his/her manager). Many people worry about that, this will make the matter worse but it will not. Anyone who persists in harassing you even after mentioning your feelings clearly needs to be thick-skinned. A warning from the manager may be the only thing that will get through to them.
  • If you can’t get enough support to stop the harassment then you may choose to leave. If you have followed the company’s grievance procedure and it has let you down then you may have sufficient grounds to sue for positive dismissal.

Scenario 8:

You realize that one of your colleagues is breaking the guidelines.

For a serious crime such as theft, you may feel appreciative to report your colleague.

But what if it’s a matter of minor pilfering or a minor fiddle of the expenses? Or maybe they’re taking time off when the manager thinks they’re on company business? You can feel much cooperated by this kind of rule-breaking. You don’t want to be a snitch but you don’t want to be unfaithful to the company either.

The best solution is to say to your colleague: ‘I don’t want to land you in trouble but I know you’re breaking the guidelines. I will not say anything this time but if I will find you doing it again I shall feel obliged to tell the manager.’

We hope you enjoyed reading this informative article on how to deal with a difficult coworker!!

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