7 Phrases That Help You Deal With Difficult Co-Workers3 min read

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We all have been in situations where our work style doesn’t go along with someone else’s in the group. Dealing with such difficult co-workers can be an intimidating task.

The dysfunctionality of the team eventually leads to bigger issues that affect you, the team and the company. Ignoring the person, neglecting the problem and not caring might sound like the obvious solutions, but they do nothing to actually curb the difference. 

It is almost impossible to ignore someone, especially when you work together in an office unless you decide to quit.

Rather than turning to a drastic decision, let’s find ways to deal with the difficult colleague. A better approach is to have a conversation with an attempt to build a connection. It is as simple as tweaking your language to initiate the collaborations.

Here are a few phrases that will help you handle difficult co-workers:

“I understand what you are saying…”

People are not troublesome for no reason. There is always an underlying reason that is making them act this way. It may be lack of knowledge, resistance to change or stubbornness to prove their point. Try to identify the blockers in a polite manner.

By using the word ‘understand’ you show empathy to the person and portray your willingness to work things out. It also negates the immediate difference of opinion, that may come out as attacking to the colleague.


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“Let’s talk…”

Sometimes, it could be the case where your colleague does not recognise how they are behaving or how their actions are affecting you. It’s better to be upfront and constructively make them aware of what the issue is.

Taking them in with the intentions of ‘talking’ will make things clear for both. Regardless of whether they apologise, make an excuse or lash back at you, they will know that it is a serious concern.

“You are making sense, but let’s look back…”

There may be times that one of you is missing out on a piece of information or misunderstood something. The best way to assess is to retrospect about the topic of concern.

Find a suitable time for both when you can ‘look back’ on the problem, the progress and find ways to work with each other. Be clear on each other’s realistic expectation. Having this retrospect early on will prevent the panic and arguments at the last minute.

“Think about this…”

Do not hesitate to put your voice out. Let the person know your thought process and intentions of what and how you are doing things.

Put them in your show and make them think from your point of view. Having them on board with the reason behind your actions and the complete update of what is happening will enable them to empathise and understand your situation.

“Let’s find a solution…”

The easiest way to resolve conflict is to not complicate the issue. Getting angry and agitated will only worsen the situation and trigger others as well.

When such a situation arises, keep you calm and offer your willing to find a solution. By maintaining your calm, you will come across as composed and controlled, which in turn, will foster the collaborative effort between you and your colleague, eventually making the situation better.

“Can we talk at another time?

Handle the aggression assertively when the situation gets out of control. You need to put your foot down if your colleague is being highly aggressive and offensive.

It is okay to ask for a break and revisit the situation in order to calm yourself and think of ways to work it out. Offer to ‘talk at another time’, preferably when you and your colleagues have had time to reflect and have reasonable explanations for your actions. 

“I think it’ll be better if we let (the authority) look into this”

Take it to the authorities only when everything else fails. Sometimes, the only way to get someone to cooperate is through the top-down approach.

Consider this as a last resort and use it only when you have completely exhausted all your other means. Let your colleague know that you refuse to address the issue on your own at this point and are ready to take it to the higher authorities in order to get it resolved.

An honest and supportive conversation starter is all that is needed to resolve the differences. Regardless of how difficult your colleague is, pick your words carefully so as to better the working relationship between you and your co-worker.

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