Conflicts at work: how to deal with a “difficult” colleague

Workplace tension is easy to create, but if it persists, it can negatively affect an employee’s personal and work life, lead to mistakes, reduce creativity, and make bad decisions.

According to Amy Gallo, author of two books and an expert on problem relationship management at work, there are four main ways to deal more effectively with “difficult” colleagues:

1. It’s unrealistic to expect everyone to always agree with you. When difficulties arise, it is helpful to ask yourself the following questions: What am I doing wrong? How can I change my behavior? Did I take everything for granted?

2. Did I take everything for granted?
You must aim for the specific result you want to achieve. For example, if you are working with a “difficult” person, do you strive to complete the project? Do you want to build strong working relationships that last long term? Do you strive to be less angry and go home in a good mood after working together? First you need to decide on the goal, and then constantly strive for it.

3. Avoid gossip
If you want to complain about a “difficult” work colleague, Gallo advises choosing carefully who you share your complaints with, but also being careful about what you share. Your best bet is to find people who will give you constructive advice, people who are interested in how you feel, people who can challenge you when they genuinely disagree, and of course, those who can be considerate.

4. Experiment
In all likelihood, the way you want to build relationships with a “difficult” colleague won’t work on the first try. Therefore, Gallo advises to find two or three methods of overcoming problems and try them. For example, if you want to improve your communication with a colleague who is acting harsh, decide that for two weeks you will ignore his tone and focus on the substance of his messages. “Often small steps have a big impact,” Gallo notes.

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