How to Develop Positive Working Relationships with Difficult Coworkers

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At some point in your career, chances are that you’ll end up working with at least one person who is a complete nightmare. Below I detail nine steps you can take to evaluate the situation and work to turn it into a positive one. You spend a lot of time with coworkers; you may as well make the best of it!

1. Don’t take it personally. Even if your coworker’s wrath seems to be directed at you, chances are there are others feeling it too. If you haven’t done anything to warrant the treatment you’re receiving, consider that maybe the person treating you badly is dealing with some difficult personal problems and may not be intending to treat you badly.

2. Keep it professional. Your coworkers don’t need to be your friends, so keep any personal talk to a minimum and instead, focus on work and upcoming projects with them. Regardless of what’s going on behind the scenes, you still have customers to take care of and a job to do, and that’s the top priority.

3. Be a rock star. Your company still has things that need to be done and goals to achieve, so don’t drop the ball just because you’re unhappy. Instead, challenge yourself to perform at your highest level. This will benefit you in multiple ways: no one will be able to legitimately complain about your performance and if you do decide to move on to another job, you’ve built a great reputation and track record to show your performance to another company.

4. Learn their expectations and rules. You may not agree with how a coworker or boss does things, but if you can at least understand their expectations and rules, it makes it much easier for you to stay in their good side and have a more positive work environment. For example, your boss might require you to arrive 5 minutes early every day but show up late every day themselves; it may not be fair, but if you know this expectation, you can follow it. Rebelling will be ineffective, but you can have the satisfaction that they’re making themselves look bad and you even better.

5.Talk to them about it. It won’t be a comfortable conversation, to say the least, but sometimes you need to just hash it out with someone to repair a relationship. Even if things have gotten extremely awkward, it’s okay to say “hey, I don’t know how we got here, but I don’t like it and would like to start fresh if that’s okay with you.” Then make every effort to stick to that fresh start and leave the past behind. If they’ve been struggling personally, they may not even have any idea they’re treating you poorly and this makes them aware and gives them the chance to repair relationships with others they may be unintentionally mistreating.

6. Talk to HR. If talking to them personally didn’t work, or if the situation has gotten so bad you can’t comfortably speak to the person about the issue, try discussing it with human resources. While they may not be able to fix the problem alone, they can at least act as a mediator during your conversation and help you resolve your issues. Be prepared with examples of any mistreatment, especially if it could be considered workplace bullying in case HR needs to start an investigation. Also be prepared with a couple solutions in case HR asks how you’d like to resolve it.

7. Talk to others. Are other people having problems with this person? This isn’t a time to team others up against this person, but instead see if anyone else is having difficulties with anyone at the company or if they notice any patterns of how you’re being treated. Having allies can help support you and be there while you work through the problem. If no one else is having problems with the person, take that into consideration as well.

8. Take a look in the mirror. Are you the problem? Try to look at your situation from the outside; does the person you’re having issues with have a legitimate right to be upset with you? Did you do something to them that might make them upset with you, such as get a promotion, take one of their customers or put them out some way? When we’re so involved in something, it’s hard to see it for what it is, but think of logical reasons why this person could be upset with you, beyond that they could just be a mean person. Sometimes we’re the problem, not others.

9. Move on. Sometimes there’s just no resolving the problem. Perhaps your problem is with one of the owners or their family members employed at the company or others aren’t able to see the problems you’re having with the person. Or maybe for whatever reason, someone(s) at your company wants you to leave, whether you’ve done something to deserve it or not. Companies are complex and when different people with different backgrounds are forced to spend most of their waking time together, there’s bound to be some problems from time to time. If you’ve tried everything and are still having issues, sometimes the best bet is to just move on.

You may be spending 40+ hours in close quarters with your coworkers, so it’s important to have positive working relationships with them. When coworkers within a company are struggling, it can be obvious to customers and affect sales, putting further strain on your company. if you’re going to stick around, take steps to make things positive for everyone. If you’re planning on leaving, build yourself up to be successful and positive so there’s nothing but positive things to be said about you once you move on. You never know when you might need to go back across that bridge.

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