How to Deal with Pesky Peers

While the office can be the perfect place to make new friends, you’re also bound to run into some people and personalities that rub you the wrong way, and you will probably be put in a position where you have to play nice with a not-so-nice colleague. With me experiences in a larger office- the key to advancing in your career, building relationships and being happy at work in general is just as much about how you deal with the negatives as the positives.


I’ve come across my fair share of “bad apples” in past jobs, and while it’s definitely not fun, it’s something that every working person will encounter. So, to help you navigate this awkward situation, I’ve put together some tips for getting along with any type of difficult co-worker.


Keep It Professional

If you’re in a situation with a less than pleasant co-worker, the best piece of advice that I can offer is to keep personal details to a minimum. Don’t divulge anything about your after-hours life that anyone could use against you. Also, you never want to respond from an emotional place in a work setting. If your not-nice coworker just sent you a nasty email or insulted you face to face, I recommend taking a breath, clearing your head, and responding in a professional and calm manner. It will be to your benefit in the long run, even though it may be difficult to do.

Talk It Out

In some situations, it can be smart to confront an uncomfortable work situation so that you and your foe can work out whatever issues are going on. If the person you’re dealing with is completely irrational or somewhat scary, you’ll probably just want to stick to being professional and not try to talk it out. But if you feel like there’s a chance that there’s some tension that has been caused by a misunderstanding, a little honest conversation can heal a strained working relationship quickly. Tip: Do this in person, never by email. People tend to read “tone” in emails and a face-to-face meeting can be much more fruitful.

Kill Them with Kindness

My mother always said, “If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.” I would recommend taking this one step further. If you come across a not-so-nice coworker, go the extra mile to be positive, helpful and a little extra sweet with them. This helps in two ways: First, it prevents them from having anything negative to say about you. Second, it lays the foundation for a happier, healthier working relationship.

Step into Their Shoes

If someone is generally negative and difficult, it’s a good idea to remember that 99% of the time, the way someone acts is not about something you did. It usually comes from something that is going on in their personal life, or something that they are struggling with themselves. Now, I don’t think that dealing with something difficult is an excuse to treat your coworker (or anyone for that matter) poorly, but it can give you a little insight as to why they’re acting the way they are. And maybe instead of feeling annoyed or frustrated, instead you’ll be sympathetic and a little more patient with them, which never hurts.


Like them or not, we spend almost every day with our coworkers (many of us probably see them more than we see our significant others and/or families), and it’s key to our career success — not to mention overall well-being — to get along. 

Last Updated: April 14, 2016
About the author

    Alexandra Hoeflicker

    Alex is a Tucson-raised, Austin-based brunch aficionado. She enjoys a solid cup of coffee and browsing used record stores.