How to Deal with Different Types of Difficult Co-Workers

There are lots of ways to deal with a difficult colleague as an athletic trainer, but the strategies differ depending on the person. Here are 5 types of difficult coworkers and how to handle them. 

1. The sloth

People generally think this person is a slacker. They finish their work, but just barely, and work hard to do the bare minimum. They’re usually slow, or late getting paperwork done. It’s especially annoying when your own work depends on theirs. 

The solution: Be kind and respectful. Talk to them privately. Find out when their work will be done and politely ask for an explanation. Maybe they have personal issues you don’t know about. You might get them to work faster if you tell them how their tardiness affects your work.

Keep track of your attempts to fix it. Conflict resolution can be helped by your manager or human resources department if you fail several times.

2. The bellyacher

We all need to let off steam from time to time. But when a coworker keeps complaining, it’s exhausting. Coworkers like these focus on problems and rarely offer solutions. Negativity gets old after a while. Eventually, it can make you more unhappy with your job, even if you love it. 

Solution: Acknowledge your difficult coworker’s complaints and move the conversation elsewhere. Ask them to pitch a solution. Make sure they know that nothing will change unless they take action. It seems like they’re passionate about the issue, so why not them?

Another way to surprise the bellyacher is to offer a different opinion. Keep being kind and respectful and just say, “I enjoyed that meeting.” If you don’t echo their complaints, this difficult coworker will get bored and move on. 

3. The center of attention

There are some people who love the spotlight but don’t like working for it. It’s common for this person to take credit for other people’s accomplishments. They usually mask their insecurities with this behavior.

It’s better to focus on yourself in this case. To help your manager recognize your work, keep a list of your accomplishments and share it with them. 

4. The hotshot

You might have a team member who thinks they’re an expert. They don’t take criticism well and make reckless decisions. They like to steamroll over other people’s ideas.

Solution: Ask them for advice on a problem. You’re showing you’re open to a positive relationship. Your ideas might be more appealing to them if they learn to trust you.

If that doesn’t work, try being direct. Let them know you don’t feel heard. Maybe this person doesn’t realize how bad their behavior is. 

5. The gossip

Office gossip can be innocent, but it can also go too far. A person like this gossips behind people’s backs and spreads unverified rumors. Anyone who has experienced high school knows how dangerous this behavior can be. A workplace should be free of put-downs and gossip.

Solution: Don’t participate. Simply leave if the conversation turns negative and don’t repeat the rumor. Alternatively, you can change the subject. Whenever someone spreads particularly harmful lies, politely ask them to stop. 

How to deal with any kind of difficult coworker 

There are several general ways to remain sane when working with difficult coworkers aside from the above scenarios.

1. Avoid them if you can

There are some people who are best served in small doses. It’s okay to limit your interactions with them. Keep small talk going and be kind to avoid drama. Don’t give your difficult coworker the cold shoulder – just keep your time with them short. 

2. Don’t let them push your buttons

Find out what bothers you about your difficult coworker. Which behaviors bother you the most? What are the buttons they push? Whenever they exhibit those traits, you can politely excuse yourself. Deep breathing can also be used as a coping mechanism.

3. Stay positive

Work with a difficult coworker, but don’t let them burn you out. Stay focused on the people who make your job worthwhile and remember why you love it. You will benefit from this in the long run by protecting your mental health.

4. Don’t take it personally

It’s not your fault if a coworker behaves badly. Don’t let it weigh you down, and only intervene if it interferes with your personal or professional goals.

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