Staffscapes Explains How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers

Coworkers in office meeting

Regardless of profession, success as well as productivity at work often depend on the state of working relationships.

While the bulk of the workforce aspires to create a friendly and productive environment, issues and confrontations do arise for various reasons that impede the well-being of the organization. Tension amongst coworkers, whether it’s fueled by miscommunication, envy, or emotional turmoil, can also add unnecessary stress spawning a myriad of unpleasant working conditions.

According to a study conducted by Olivet University, which surveyed 2,000 working Americans, the primary cause of mental and emotional stress at work was interpersonal relationships.

Naturally, stress on the job derives from multiple sources, not just tricky colleagues. Still, according to StaffScapes, one of the prominent HR outsourcing companies in Denver, developing skills to deal with difficult situations and challenging coworkers is beneficial to careers long-term.

Below, StaffScapes reviews several strategies anyone can implement to turn adverse circumstances into rewarding experiences.


As we mature as working professionals, it’s important to remember that we are imperfect beings. If a coworker is exhibiting undesirable behaviors towards you, try to learn and understand the root cause influencing their attitude.

Specific individuals thrive on degrading coworkers in a group setting as a technique to win arguments and score points with the boss. Avoid resorting to the same level. Instead, keep the conversation focused on ideas and solutions. The same applies to coworkers who express hostility out of envy. Yes, a coworker may resent your success and feel insecure about their job.

By observing your colleague’s negative behavior and reflecting objectively, you are in a much better position to solve the dispute via a one-on-one civil discussion.


It’s easier to deflect and disregard our flaws, then to acknowledge our weaknesses. However, once you accept your weaknesses at work as well as your mistakes, you will have a much more open mindset, especially towards colleagues previously seen as a burden. Instead of viewing accidental actions as deliberate offenses, recall a scenario where your behavior was unintentionally disruptive and misinterpreted. Channeling kindness and forgiveness can go a long way.

Emotion Management

Emotions are an essential part of the human experience but left unchecked can create stress in the workplace. When a person or setting pushes your buttons, exercise mental toughness. Take a deep breath as you work through the anger or whatever emotional state you’re in and step away until you’re ready to be responsive, not reactive.


Confronting conflict in the workplace is never easy, but avoiding it is far worse. Whether it’s rampant gossip or a difference of opinion, animosity can fester.

Take a healthy approach and ask your coworker to sit down with you one-on-one. Avoid the blame game but be clear on how their behavior has made you feel. Emphasize that you want to find a solution and be on good terms with them going forward. While the minority may feel attacked by your directness, the majority of professionals will appreciate the chance to clear the air. And you may have turned an antagonist into a new ally.

Final Thoughts

Learning to play ball with others, whether it’s a boss or direct teammate, is critical to professional success. Your education or experience will pale in comparison to the inability to form positive and productive relationships at work. Try to view conflicts with coworkers as an opportunity for both of you to expand your problem-solving skills. It won’t always be easy, and you may not always succeed. Still, through perseverance and by incorporating the strategies above, odds are you’ll be viewed as an instrumental collaborator within the company.

About StaffScapes

StaffScapes helps businesses in the Metro-North area and throughout Colorado navigate the complex landscape of human resource compliance, policies, and best practices. We customize our approach to each client’s unique needs and work with firms that run the gamut of business types, from family-owned service businesses to manufacturers to disaster recovery firms that send employees all over the country.

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