We spend 1,645 hours at work a year.  If you are having to deal with a difficult work colleague it can feel like twice that amount, and the effect that it can have on your health and well-being can be devastating.  We all have bad days, even bad weeks when WE can be the difficult colleague.  But that is a world away from having to constantly deal with one of these types

The Blocker

Undermines every idea you have, often making veiled personal attacks on your ability.  They are constantly looking to make you look incompetent while getting brownie points from the boss.

Jealous Jane (or John)

Resents you because they recognise you are good at your job and going places in the organisation.  They believe they should be in your position.  These are some of the most insecure people you will ever work with.

The Bully

Never crosses the line by doing anything that would get them sacked or disciplined.  The most devious of difficult co-worker who gets their way be insinuating they can embarrass you or hurt your career prospects.

The Time Sponge

Is demanding and needy the level where they won’t leave you alone.  Asking for help on matters they really shouldn’t means they take unfair advantage of you.  Not a bad bone in their body, but they are self-centered in the extreme.

There are a number of ways to deal with difficult work colleagues.  But be aware there is a line where you need to involve your manager/HR Department.  No one has the right to threaten you or make you feel vulnerable.  If your health is suffering after having attempted some of the things below then you need to escalate the issue – and if you don’t get resolution or things get worse then you need to consider your future in the organisation.

  1. Patience really is a virtue

This can be tough when faced with extreme provocation.  But its best not to stoop to their level if they are being borderline aggressive, so don’t fire accusations back regarding the quality of their work as it will only escalate the situation. Take a time out and breathe.  The long-game needs to be played – if the behavior has been trending for a while you need to document things that are said so that if things get escalated you have all the facts.  And mention it to your manager so they are aware of how you feel, this may raise alarm bells and a quiet word may resolved the situation. This will take time.  You may think you don’t have it, but trust me, I have seen some thoroughly unpleasant people come unstuck because the person they have been targeting has thought ahead.

  1. Kill them with kindness

This has worked for me in the past.  It’s hard to be mean to someone who greets you with a smile every morning, asks you about how the trip at the weekend went and offers to help at every opportunity.  The other benefit is that actively doing this will improve your mood and can have a positive influence on others. Other colleagues will see how nice you are being and your co-workers horrible behavior will be magnified – so if they continue with their mission to undermine you they may face resistance from others and also offer you support.  This can stop them in their tracks.

  1. It’s good to talk

Speak to them – ask them directly why they are behaving in such a way.  But do it in a non-confrontational manner.  Help them understand how their actions are making you feel.  They may not even realise the impact they are having and feel awful, apologise and stop.  I have seen it happen.  Doing this outside the office can often be more effective as they might actually see the real you not just a colleague who they subconsciously want to destroy.

Speak to others – As I’ve mentioned, keep the lines of communication open with your manager.  But more importantly talk to your friends and family about what is going on.  Bottling things up is a sure fire way to make your health suffer – your health is more important than ANY job.

  1. There is no “I” in team – a cliche to take advantage of

Lead by example for starters.  When faced with constant criticism you need to be on the ball and be sure that you are contributing effectively so they don’t have ammunition to attack you with. Always re-enforce why you are doing the work you are doing.  Every piece of work that both of you do contributes to potential success – so credit them for great work they do and you may find that they reciprocate. Become an influencer and always thank them when they give you the tiniest bit of help. Subtly educating your colleagues in the ways of collective responsibility might be worthwhile.

  1. Last resort…..”talk to the hand”

There comes a point where you must ignore people.  By this stage I would suggest you should have made your manager aware (and discussed this with your friends and family).  Politely stating that you refuse to be spoken to in that manner or simply walking away can sometimes defuse a situation.  But there’s a balance – do NOT be afraid to stand up for yourself against a difficult work colleague.  If you feel your manager is doing nothing to improve your misery, then it’s time to get out. Sometimes making everyone aware that you are going to leave and explaining the reasons is a light-bulb moment for your everyone. Although if it comes as a shock to them and you have already spoken to management – then you need to leave anyway.

Complex yet simple

Our workplace relationships, particularly the difficult ones can be complex and nuanced. Many people react differently, some may laugh off or confidently stifle constant criticism from a difficult work colleague. But others can be emotionally destroyed by it. The one common denominator in resolving an issue is effective communication. Its good to talk. Because you can’t let Jealous Jane dictate how happy you are at work.  You spend too much time there to let that happen.