Work With Difficult People — and Not Lose Your Mind

work with difficult people
Learn how to work with difficult people with a smile on your face.

“Working with Difficult People” by Amy Cooper Hakim and Muriel Solomon is a guide on how to best resolve conflict in today’s tech-infused work.

The owner of a management consulting company in Boca Raton, Fl., Dr. Amy Cooper Hakim spends her days coaching people to develop better workplace relationships. But you don’t have to travel to Florida to benefit from Hakim’s knowledge.

Hakim generously agreed to give us a crash course on dealing with crabby co-workers. So get comfy and keep reading.

You know you work with difficult people when …

He or she makes it tough for you to do your job. He or she may be be clingy, interrupt you, gossip about you, steal your ideas, or act like a bully. It’s not only in your head!

These things make the situation worse:

  • Getting involved in (or sucked into) his or her drama
  • Fighting like a school kid
  • Yelling at or demeaning the coworker
  • Spreading gossip about him or her

While it may not always be obvious, there are telltale signs that one of your coworkers may be a difficult person.

Telltale signs of a difficult co-worker:

He or she is clingy, interrupts you, gossips about you, steals your ideas, acts like a bully.

Work with difficult people — And be OK

If a co-worker constantly interrupts you when you are trying to get your work done, physically stand up when he comes into your office. That sends a clear message that you are not available. If he still wants to chat, smile and say, “I’m slammed. I can’t take a break until I finish this project.”

A one-on-one chat is preferred when …

You have to work closely with this colleague every day. Smile and use a kind tone to soften the blow of a tough message.

Try these lines:

“In order for me to be most successful, I need…” or “I really struggle to get my work done when…”

Tell your manager or HR if the colleague is disrespectful, deceptive, or caustic.

Never leave a job because of nasty co-workers unless you do not have a supportive boss, and if the co-worker’s difficult behavior impacts you emotionally or affects your work quality or output.

You might be the one being difficult

Pay attention to your colleagues’ reactions. Do they speak in hushed tones around you? Do they appear frustrated when paired with you on a project? If yes, ask one colleague who you respect for his or her honest opinion and advice.


Before confronting a difficult co-worker, have a practice session at home. If possible, role-play with a loved one. Your colleague will take you more seriously if you look him or her in the eye while confidently sharing a well-rehearsed message.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.