How to Deal with Coworkers You Hate!

Avatar for Cmmelissa
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-13-2008
How to Deal with Coworkers You Hate!
Mon, 04-08-2013 - 1:17pm

I know we've all been there, that one coworker who makes your want to scream in frustration (or throw your stapler at the wall) even if you just hear their voice.  It's Career Week on iVIllage, and I thought the following article contains some great advice on dealing with those headache inducing people: 

10 Ways to Deal with Coworkers You Hate (Without Going to Jail)

It contains some good advice.  I particularly like to "kill them with kindness".  Do you have any tips to add?

Avatar for lizmvr
iVillage Member
Registered: 06-06-2001
Mon, 04-08-2013 - 7:27pm

From the article: "If possible, it’s better to keep management out of your coworker conflicts."

i agree with this. I do want to warn employees that often HR is on the side of management; so, if you know that your boss seems to be on the side of the coworker with whom you're not getting along, be especially careful of coming across as a complainer to HR as well. If an employee can figure out how to manage a relationship with a difficult person on her own, I think she's better off--not only is she learning a new skill, but she's showing leadership, too.

From the article: "Knock on a coworker’s door, take him or her aside and be direct."

Be careful about this one, too. While I am in favor of managing a conflict without involving management, conflicts at work shouldn't involve personal stuff that occurs outside the office. If a coworker is threatening, by all means, take it to the boss. If a coworker is making comments that are just mean about an employee, such as insulting the way someone dresses, I would encourage the employee to do her best to ignore the coworker and not necessarily engage the coworker in a debate about fashion, especially if it leads to the employee saying that feelings have been hurt or if it leads to the employee being insulting in turn. If the employee ignores such comments enough, I really feel the mean coworker will begin to tire of focusing meanness on the employee. Sometimes confronting such a rude person only fuels the insults and leads to more stress for the employee, too.

Thanks for sharing this, Melissa!


Clinical Research Associate


Avatar for Cmmelissa
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-13-2008
Tue, 04-09-2013 - 1:14pm

You made some very good points.  I agree that you have to tread very carefully in complaining to HR about a coworker.  I know when I was a manager, I would get frustrated with employees who would come to me complaining about an issue with a coworker that could have easily been worked out between the two of them.  You have to realize that you have no control over a person you work with, and sometimes have to learn how to either ignore or accept their behavior.  It was even more frustating when they wouldn't want to have a face to face with them, it's like they wanted me to wave my magic wand and make it all better. 

I also agree that sometimes you have to walk away and not engage a rude coworker.  As I said above, you can only control your response, not their behavior.  If you don't give them fuel to fan the flames, they will get the message.  

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-26-2010
Wed, 04-10-2013 - 7:26pm
Yep and there are some types that you cant even engage with at all, such as narcissists. Best to just ignore them and count down your days until either one or both of you leave the company.
Community Leader
Registered: 01-03-2004
Sat, 06-15-2013 - 7:37pm

Good article. Good suggestions.

I sit directly across from the difficult person in my life - at my job. And here's what's interesting, she's "difficult" because she's angry; angry at how her life has turned out and very unhappy with anyone who dares to be happy around her. 

Therein lies the problem: I sit directly across from her. I am happily married and happy in my job. 

We're both in our 50s. She was married to a rather well-to-do man and has a grown daughter. Then, she got dumped for a younger woman and with it went the nice house on a lake, a 6-figure income, new cars, international vacations, the country club membership, etc. She had to move to an apartment, drives a used car, and gets paid a lot less than she's used to having to live on. In short, she's pissed at how her life turned out.

She's made it very clear she is "beneath" her station in life for having to work with us. She gripes about "no privacy" in an open plan office and that she should have an office with a door (there are 8 of us in the office, we'd like an office with a door, too!). She complains we're "too loud" and she talks loudest of all. She avoids eating lunch with anyone else, declines to attend office events like picnics, potlucks, and office parties, always claiming she has "other plans". If you sit down with her in the breakroom, even with a book and no plans to talk, she'll quickly finish what she's eating and leave.  I laughed at Christmas when she made a 15-minute "appearance" at our staff party like visiting royalty and then left claiming she had another party to attend. In short, she doesn't want to associate with people she feels are beneath her social station.

So, I've been her target for a while. I get snide comments about my phone presentations, my suggestions in staff meetings, my requests for help with my workload (we're 6 months behind hiring a 2nd person for my area), my requests for documentation (she's unilaterally decided she doesn't have to share information about mutual clients), and the volume of my voice, my phone ring, and the sound on my computer.

I've tried the "be kind" approach. I've tried ignoring her. I've moved to another space to work away from her for a few hours (that got me a snide comment about "My are you being quiet today.") I've tried neutrality: not responded to her obvious jibes no matter how provocative. I've tried walking away from her when she's gone for the jugular and expected an outburst. I've gone to my boss and asked him to help. (He says its MY responsibility to 'get along' with her. Message received: don't bother management about a disruptive and uncooperative coworker.)  I've asked her to "take 5" and back off when she disagrees with me. I've tried it all.

The bottom line is this: she's not happy and she gets a rise out of provoking others to engage them in her little game. It irritates her that: I like my job. I'm good at my job. I get praised for my performance. I have the respect of bosses and other staff. I am introduced as "the expert" in my area. That I am still in love my husband and he's still in loves me - after 27 years, i.e. he sends me flowers and cards, and I don't come to work listing his faults and how they irritate me (which she does about her EX). I could go on. 

This drives her crazy! And so she seethes in her cubicle directly across from mine when I have a good day or my husband sends flowers or a higher up praises my work. Or, I am simply in a good mood. Or, it's Friday and everyone is feeling good about the end of the week and the prospect of the weekend.

I do have hope for some relief. She recently confided in a coworker that she "hated her job" and was looking for something - anything - so she could leave. I pray she is successful in her search. We'll all sigh relief when she's gone. Meanwhile, I will once again engage her only when needed and only by email. I figure there's less opportunity for verbal exchange, even if we do sit less than 10 feet apart.