How to deal with difficult colleagues

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We've all encountered them – those annoying colleagues whose sole purpose it seems is to make our working life more difficult.

From the co-worker that that puts you down in meetings, to the boss that takes credit for all of your hard work – we explore how to deal with nightmare colleagues.




1.The arguer
A productive workplace needs honesty and debate, but arguing for argument's sake can be disruptive and counterproductive. With colleagues that seem to challenge whatever you say, it is important to keep your cool and not lower yourself to their level, advises Adam Riccoboni, co-founder of talent marketplace MBA & Company and co-author of the The Art Of Selling Yourself. "Stay calm as this will enable you to win the argument by reason and stop you getting caught up in confrontation," explains Riccoboni.

There are likely to be reasons behind an argumentative attitude, so try to find out exactly what is bugging them. "Ask The Arguer what their issues are, then address each issue and calmly present the benefits of changing to a new approach, and the decision-making process behind it," adds Riccobani. "Always strive to be be inclusive and professional, and if you feel a person is far too angry to reach a resolution, walk away and arrange to talk later."

2.The credit-thief
One of the most infuriating of co-workers is the person that takes credit for your work. Whether it is your boss or a peer trying to impress your boss – they are basically trying to convince themselves and others that they are doing well. Address the issue promptly, but don't criticize – they will only criticize you back, advises Cat Williams, relationship counsellor and author of Stay Calm and Content.

"Instead, start with something positive about them, explain your point of view to them and ask for what you would like. For example: 'I know we worked together on the project, and your contribution was very helpful, but I contributed to these specific parts, and influenced the final outcome. How can we make sure we are both acknowledged the appropriate amount? I would like specifically to be acknowledged for x, y, and z.'"

3.The boss boot-licker
The person that loves to please the boss thinks that it is the best way to get ahead and often has no idea that their colleagues, and probably their boss, know exactly what they are doing.

"It might come as a shock to the regular office brown-noser, but bosses don't really care for them much, and usually aren't that impressed," says Elliot Kidd, co-founder of Staffbay.com. "A good boss knows his weaknesses as well as his strengths, and to be told they're brilliant all the time by a toadying member of staff will be irritating at best. The best thing to do with the bootlicker is let them dig their own grave, whilst at the same time continuing to do your job to the best of your abilities."

4.The belittler
Like many troublesome colleagues, the person full of put-downs, demeaning remarks and disparaging comments is having serious self-esteem issues of their own. Expressing an overtly negative attitude towards others is a way to make themselves feel right and important.

If the belitter is sharing mean comments about others with you, just don't agree with them, says Williams. "Don't criticise the belittler's behaviour, simply be as positive as possible about other people, regardless of their attributes or ability."

If their put downs are aimed at you, it is likely that they somehow feel threatened by you. While the comments might make you upset or angry, Williams says the key to dealing with this person is learning to maintain your self-belief and self-confidence in their company. She adds: "Maybe even try to help the 'belittler' with their own self-esteem if you can by demonstrating the self-confidence to praise and appreciate them, so that they will hopefully feel less threatened by you."

5. The slacker
The colleague that doesn't pull their weight is a real burden in the workplace, but take a moment to consider why they might be slacking. It could be that they don't enjoy their job, or don't think that they are good at it.

Try to lead by example and adapt a helpful, coaching style with your colleague, advises John Salt, website director at Totaljobs.com. "Perhaps arrange to go for an informal drink to find out why they are struggling – you may find out their motivation is being affected by reasons outside of work."

If the subtle approach doesn't work and it's having a negative impact on your team, take it to the next level. Salt suggests: "Ask for a meeting with your boss, say you feel you need more resources in the specific area your colleague is responsible for – this should send a message without directly implicating the person involved."

6.The rumourmonger
The person who relishes spreading rumours does so in an attempt to control gossip and give themselves a small power trip to feel superior to the people the gossip is about.

"Just don't react to gossip," advises Williams. "Say that you prefer to make your own mind up about people, based on how they behave towards you, or based on information you know is correct. Don't criticise the rumour spreader, or they might start on you too, but if you feel strongly about their behaviour then you can say that it makes you feel uncomfortable, or that you don't think it is kind to spread gossip."