Can You Quiet the Difficult Co-Worker and Not Lose Your Job?

Almost all of us at one time or another has had to deal with that one co-worker you just wanted to give a little smack upside the head.

Be it their attitude, a habit that just got under your skin or constantly listening to them moan and complain about the professional and personal lives, it is safe to say that you likely have contemplated if time in jail was worth relieving this individual of their suffering..... or your suffering as it may be.

That being said, how can you go about silencing this individual without putting your job at risk?

Among ways are:

  • Win the war and not all the battles – Too often, you will find yourself trying to deal with every little thing the difficult co-worker does, reaching the point where you become less than effective in your job. Look at the big picture here and determine what is worth contesting and what isn’t. Saving your time and energy on those things that really do matter is much better than fighting everything from A to Z;
  • Meet the other individual halfway – No one truly ever loses when two people compromise. If your co-workers habits are eating away at you and impacting your ability to get work done, take them aside. Search for a common ground where the two of you can agree and still both save face;
  • Turn the other cheek – This may be the hardest thing you have to do, but don’t get embroiled in a battle with a problem co-worker in the first place. Oftentimes, your co-worker will see how far they can push the envelope. Instead of falling into the trap, remind yourself of why you are at work in the first place;
  • Seek management help – This is oftentimes the last thing an employee wants to do, mostly because it singles them out not only to the disgruntled co-worker but to others in the office that learn the details. Think twice before getting a manager or human resources department head involved in the matter. If you go running for help more than once, you could actually be viewed as the problem at work and not the instigator. On the other side, management can view you as someone concerned about the health of the company, someone who comes to work looking to meet their responsibilities and avoid drama, and as someone who puts the company first, not themselves;
  • Stay calm – The worst thing you can do is turn a problem with a co-worker into an office soap opera. Not only are you playing into your co-worker’s hands, but your putting yourself out there is someone who may not be the best fit for the company over time. Parents oftentimes send their kids to another room for a ‘timeout’ when needed, so consider doing that yourself if your co-worker is getting to you;
  • Document the matter – For your protection, be sure to document significant issues with a problem co-worker. In the event you do have to go to a manager to intercede, it is important that you have your facts straight, something that is easier to do when you’ve compiled them;
  • Don’t become the office gossiper – One of the hardest things to do when dealing with a troubling co-worker is trying to keep your mouth shut to the rest of the office. Remember, it doesn’t take long for gossip to spread around an office. If the individual you are having issues with finds out it is you talking about them to other co-workers, you will have more problems on your hands than just a difficult co-worker.

Remember, in a 168-hour week, 40 or more of those hours (if you’re a FT employee) are spent with co-workers in many cases. If you do the math, that is give or take approximately one-fourth of your routine week.

With that being the case, make sure you work on the issue or issues with your problem co-worker so that your job doesn’t turn into your former job. Better yet, they're not worth going to jail over too.

So, how do you or have you handled difficult co-workers in your lifetime?


Dave Thomas, who covers among other items workers compensation and small business loans writes extensively for, an online resource destination for businesses of all sizes to research, find, and compare the products and services they need to run their businesses.

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