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by Angela Darrens | February 13, 2023


Getting along well with your coworkers is crucial to your success and your team’s success. So, when a coworker is unprofessional and unpleasant to work with, it’s important to understand how to deal with them. Below, you’ll find tips that will help you create a harmonious work environment and minimize conflicts with even the most unprofessional of colleagues.

1. Improve your communication skills

It’s essential to deal with a challenging coworker by openly discussing how to improve your working relationship with them. Talk to your coworker honestly and politely about your challenges when working with them. Also, be receptive to their viewpoint and the possibility of using an alternative strategy when interacting with them. A conversation could reveal misunderstandings between you and your coworker and assist in clarifying any issues.

At the same time, a communication strategy that emphasizes your experience of the situation rather than criticizing or blaming the other person can also be beneficial. That way, you can let your coworker know how their behavior affects you. Just remember that talking with the other person should be pleasant and cordial. They may be unaware of how their words or behavior are affecting you.

2. Learn to listen

Learning more about a difficult coworker can be the first step toward building a positive work relationship with them. It’s easier to get along with them if you understand them better and can empathize with them. When you learn more about them, you'll also gain an understanding of their motivations. It’s possible that their behavior is simply due to stress, a difficult moment in their life, a difficult client, etc. Of course, you deserve to be respected regardless of their situation, but it might help your relationship if you can understand their circumstances. You might even discover that your coworker has doubts about their performance at work or is envious of your achievements.

3. Set boundaries

Being assertive can also help you build a positive relationship with a difficult coworkers. Assertive people set boundaries and don't accept when coworkers break those boundaries. In turn, difficult coworkers come to realize that they can't force assertive people with strict boundaries to comply with their demands. So, when you learn how to be assertive and set boundaries, the likelihood of conflict with difficult coworkers will decrease.

4. Practice acceptance and stay positive

It's possible that a difficult coworker isn't necessarily doing anything wrong; instead, you might just dislike their personality. So, if you identify if that’s the case, the first thing to do is acknowledge that you need to get along with this individual. Second, try to find personality traits you like in them and offer them a chance to showcase their positive side. Patience and positivity go a long way in this circumstance.

5. Avoid office gossip

While it may be tempting (and make you feel better) to speak to other colleagues about a coworker you don't like, it's best to avoid doing so. Your ability to build a positive work relationship with a difficult coworker will only be hurt by gossiping about them. But if you must talk to someone about your difficult coworker, reserve the conversation for a friend or relative who is not connected to your workplace. Also, it's a good idea to always focus on keeping the conversations at work positive by only bringing up positive features of your coworkers.

A final note

You don't always have a choice when it comes to whom we work with. However, you do have control over how you interact with your coworkers. So, make an effort to approach difficult coworkers with empathy rather than hostility, positivity rather than negativity. In doing so, you'll discover that you’ll not only be able to deal with difficult coworkers better but will also be a more valuable colleague to all your team members.

Angela Darrens aims to create harmonious work environments through thoughtful writing and mediation. She is an avid traveler and reader, currently collaborating with Triple 7 Movers Las Vegas, and always searching for new stories to tell.