How To Handle Difficult People in the Office and Workplace

Tips on Successfully Dealing with Difficult People

Dealing with difficult co-workers

We all have experience dealing with difficult, unpleasant and problematic people at our offices and workplaces.

Difficult people are those who:

  • create problems for their colleagues
  • always gossip and spread rumors
  • discourage and criticize other’s work just to boost their own ego
  • hardly cooperate
  • do not put enough effort towards accomplishing the tasks they are assigned to
  • are not willing to listen
  • always find some thing negative in someone or something
  • etc.

The list of these bad qualities can go on and on depending on your perception of how you would define a difficult person, but a broader definition would be that a difficult person is someone with whom it isn’t easy to work/deal with. This person could be your boss, your coworker, a costumer or anyone associated with your work/business.

We will not focus on the behavior and attitude of difficult people here because we have no control over their behavior and cannot directly change them to meet our criteria. However, what we will discuss here is our own behavior, which we do have control over. We can adapt in order to deal with such people.

Here we will look into some techniques and tips on how to cope and deal with difficult people in a working environment.

  1. Find out if others are experiencing similar problems with the difficult person. Examine your own behavior first. See if it’s only this particular person you are having the problem with or is it every other person around. Chances are that you could be overreacting or behaving differently and, as such, provoking others to aggressively react to your actions. Think about the problem that you are facing with this person and see if it really is an issue that must be dealt with. Does the person know your hot buttons and weak points? Talk with your close colleagues that you trust about the issue and find out if they also have noticed such a behavior in this person.
  2. Communicate with the person. Try to bring your concern to the attention of the person privately at first; he/she might be doing it unintentionally. Be careful not to do this when you are angry, frustrated or your emotions aren’t in your total control. Inform the person about the possible bad results of his actions. Let him know that he will bear serious consequences if he continues to misbehave with the costumers, does not cooperate with his colleagues, misses the deadlines, gossips and/or offends other colleagues and that his poor actions will have a negative impact on his career, the reputation of the office and the overall output of the office.

    Watch your words and body language so as not to make the situation worse. People often perceive such consultation as an insult and confrontation. Consider the position of the person in the organization and think about how best you can present the issue to him/her. Create a friendly and calm environment before beginning the discussion and be as friendly, positive and patient as possible during the discussion. Be very fair in your reasoning and never judge the personality of the person. Never bring your past bad experiences or the overall character of the person into the discussion, only focus your discussion on the current problem you are having with him and come up with some reasonable solutions.

  3. Don’t get it personal and try to remain patient. Focus on your own goals and duties and assure yourself that the person’s poor behavior is none of your business unless it is seriously affecting your performance. Don’t take his words and actions personally and try to ignore the person or situation.
  4. Keep it professional. Limit your contact with the person to a purely professional level. Try not to engage in unnecessary chatting and gossip around the office. Be honest in your intentions and always do your best to professionally fulfill the duties assigned to you. Be cooperative.
  5. Treat others as you would like them to treat you. Respect your colleagues and demand respect. You don’t have to like your coworkers to have a good relationship with them. Never make jokes and tease other colleagues in the office and try not to put yourself in a situation where others may tempt you to do so. Don’t assist or encourage a coworker to make fun of another coworker. Don’t complain to every other person passing by about how irresponsible, idiotic and lazy your coworker is.
  6. If possible, share the issue with your boss. Be ready to defend yourself and your role in the situation. Try to remain positive and actually be willing to solve the problem. Never show up and act as though you are trying to kick the other person out of the office.

There are different types of difficult people. You will face them wherever you go and will have to either deal with them or leave the place. Your success in effectively handling difficult people depends solely on your ability to assess the situation, find the root cause of the problem and patiently deal with it.


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This is always an issue as each person is different. Sometimes humor can help.

By Mary Norton

Very well written and some great insights indeed.

By Lalit Khanna