Dealing with Difficult Coworkers

August 6th, 2013

When conflict exists, it shouldn’t be ignored. The key is to remove emotions from the situation and remain professional.

How you react in a conflict situation will be noted by coworkers and supervisors. Look for opportunities to build bridges and relationships instead of allowing conflicts to make you look unprofessional in the workplace.

Conflict resolution

First, step back and review the relationship. Evaluate the interactions, taking ‘you’ out of the equation. Can you change your responses? Can you empathize with your coworker’s point of view? Will taking a few minutes help you calm?

If not, schedule a conversation away from workplace traffic with the coworker in question.

When you sit down to discuss the conflict, remember to be courteous. Take the word ‘you’ out of the meeting. Simply state your observations and then actively listen. Come prepared with solutions and ask for input and ideas to resolve the problem. If you sense the interaction is moving toward confrontation rather than objective conversation, cut the chat short before things escalate to an emotional level.

Taking it to the next level

When direct confrontation fails or isn’t an option, the next step is to schedule an appointment with your supervisor. Have documentation ready instead of generalizing. Present your problem and how it is related to the job (not simply a personality conflict) and be prepared with a solution. Give your employer time to process and act on your complaint. It is okay to inquire about status of a resolution if some time has passed.

Should you find the solution unacceptable, or if nothing has been accomplished, your next recourse is to talk with a representative from Human Resources.

Ask for a copy of the company’s procedure for filing a complaint or requesting mediation. Always document situations with specific dates and the specific details of what occurred, and keep this information for your personal files. Don’t rely on your memory when you sit down with a mediator. Always insist upon on having information documented in your files, and ask to review those files to ensure information is documented correctly.

Your rights

Eleven states have enacted Healthy Workplace Bills to reduce bullying in the workplace. If your coworker situation has escalated to bullying, review the laws in your state. If your coworker problem involves discriminatory practices be sure to review our recent post on Equal Employment Opportunity Laws and the accompanying resource links to further evaluate your recourse.

Ultimately, your goal should be to resolve the issue and move on to facilitate productivity and reduce tension in the workplace.

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