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Is a Co-worker Making You Hate Your Job?
Toxic relationships in the workplace can be damaging on many levels. The pressures of deadlines and facing new challenges are positive stressors which, if handled well, can be positive experiences. But the undue stress caused by a difficult co-worker can make your work environment toxic, and may even affect your performance on the job.
So what can you do if you’re cursed with a cranky co-worker? Leaving your job to find a less stressful workplace isn’t always an option. Besides, toxic people exist in almost every workplace. The key is not to run from them, but to learn how to deal with them. Below is a list of some of the most common types of difficult co-workers and some suggestions on how to deal with them.
1 – The Blame-Shifter
Blame-shifters can’t admit they’ve done anything wrong. They constantly shift the blame for their mistakes onto someone else. A blame-shifter will go to great lengths to cover his or her errors and make everyone think they are someone else’s fault. Working with a co-worker like this can be a nightmare, as they won’t take responsibility for their own actions. Worse, they’ll try to make you accountable. So how can you handle this type of difficult co-worker?
The trick to dealing with blame-shifters is to recognize that they are very manipulative. Like most passive-aggressive types, they usually try to steer clear of direct confrontation. At the root of it is a desire for control, so arguing with them will not help. As long as you aren’t in danger of being fired, the best thing to do with a blame-shifter is to avoid working closely as much as possible (even if it means asking your boss for a different partner or shift). In the end blame-shifters usually rat themselves out because their blaming is compulsive. It doesn’t take long for everyone in the workplace, including the boss, to realize the truth.
2 – The Constant Complainer
People who complain constantly are usually highly insecure. These are the types of co-workers who may do nothing wrong to you personally. In fact, they often try to latch onto anyone willing to listen and enjoy getting other people to complain with them. But the constant complainer, while maybe not spiteful, will drain your spirit daily with their constant criticisms and pessimism. Worse, they might give you a reputation from proximity of being a negative person too.
Dealing with the constant complainer requires patience. Your instinct tells you to just nod your head in agreement and tune the person out. But this will only feed the fire by making the complainer feel justified and validated. If you can’t get away without a verbal response, make your response neutral and as brief as possible. Complainers are looking for validation and will grow bored if you don’t offer that.
If the complainer won’t give up or is putting you in a bad situation (such as bad-mouthing your boss in front of you) then calmly tell the person that you see things differently. Don’t argue; just make the conversation a dead end street so the complainer will take his/her pessimism elsewhere.
3 – The Bully
Workplace bullies are driven by various motives: competition, control, fear, or anger. You won’t always be able to tell which of these motivates the bully in your workplace. The workplace bully can make your job miserable, causing you to dread going in every day. Cooperate bullying is a serious issue. It can involve verbal abuse, sexual harassment, threats, constant teasing, and actions meant to intimidate or humiliate.
Handling a workplace bully can be stressful, but they can’t be ignored. Workplace bullies typically won’t stop of their own volition. Confronting the bully is one option, but don’t allow yourself to lose your temper or cry as this is usually what the bully wants. Speak to your boss if you can. If the bully’s actions are against the law or your company code of contact, turn him/her in. Additionally, the Workplace Bullying Institute offers resources for people being bullied on the job.
4 – The Idea Stealer
Co-workers who steal your ideas and try to pass them off as their own are annoying. But more than this, they can hinder your progress at a job and limit your prospects. Idea-stealers aren’t creative or motivated enough to come up with ideas on their own. Instead, when they hear someone else’s great idea they try to make everyone think it was their own. This may only seem like a mere annoyance until the idea stealer is promoted instead of you.
Dealing with the idea-stealer is a bit easier than dealing with the bully or the blame-shifter. The idea-stealer needs to be ignored. Do not tell these people anything about your work or home life. If you must bring up your new ideas around them, do it with other witnesses present. And confront them (with a witness present if possible) if they manage to figure out your idea before you share it.
5 – Some Final Advice on Difficult Co-workers
For difficult co-workers who don’t belong in the above categories, or those who do but don’t respond well to the advice above, here are a few more tips.
Be Introspective – Take a step back and look honestly at your actions up to this point. Have you been doing things to make your interactions with a difficult co-worker worse? Being self-aware and trying to see both sides of a story can help solve a lot of workplace drama.
Resist Being Pulled In – Difficult people want to get other people involved in their messes. They often try to bring other people down to make themselves feel better. Do not allow a difficult co-worker to poison you by dragging you down into their issues. Don’t take what they say to you or about you personally. Instead, focus on yourself and what you can do to make your workplace a calmer, more positive place.
Talk to Your Supervisor – If you’re unable to solve your issues with a difficult co-worker, consider speaking to your supervisor. You don’t have to feel like a tattle-tale. Just go to whoever is in charge and state the facts calmly, clearly and concisely. Of course if your supervisor or boss is the difficult one, this will mean a direct confrontation. Weigh your options carefully. Confrontation could make things better and could make them worse. But if a boss has crossed the boundaries of what you find acceptable in the workplace, then you probably won’t be content at work until you’ve either settled the issue or found a new job.
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