If you are reading this article, it might be because you have a colleague that you want to turn into a sausage! Hence, you wanna know how to deal with an unpleasant coworker without going bananas.
Or else, you want to be prepared in case you encounter someone who has the potential of making teamwork an unpleasant experience.
This coworker impacts your motivation, your well-being, your work and just thinking about them right now makes you nervous. You might even question yourself on whether it’s worth keeping that position you’re currently holding.
You are Batman and they are your Joker and we will call them that throughout this article!
They annoy you and you can’t find a way out. You feel you’re gonna explode.
This article is here to help you how to deal with an unpleasant coworker so that Ways Searchers no longer feel bad because of shit searchers!
To this end, I’ll start by going through the most common behaviors that can make our life a nightmare, and then I’ll tell you what to do about them.
The objective is for you to identify traits of Jokers and take action that stops toxic behavior, ultimately leading you to a better quality of work life (and making you an expert on how to deal with an unpleasant coworker).
Most common types of Jokers
The falsely sweet
They smile at you from the front, to better criticize you from behind. This person is very manipulative and hypocrite and you have understood their game well.
The Joker tries to conquer by dividing and it can frustrate you because some of your coworkers are being manipulated and do not see the person who is really hiding behind the mask. They can easily impact the team’s integrity.
Keep your distance as far as possible. Decline politely their false acts of kindness.
They are manipulative, so don’t try to change them, only a psychiatrist should do it! The best solution is to stay away and stick to work-related factual exchanges.
The fake worker
This one always says they have too much on their plate when you can see that Facebook, Amazon and their phone are their best friends.
You’re not here to play spy, but it gets frustrating to see your TO DO List grow as your colleague spends more time on coffee breaks than in front of their computer.
You are not their manager so it is tricky to ask about their work as they might find your questions illegitimate.
It would be possible to ask your manager to review the assignment of tasks and the progress of each project on a weekly basis so that everyone has the clearest and most accurate picture of the workload distribution.
It’s important to list all your tasks and quantify them precisely so that your manager can see the disparity of the workload.
Try to turn this injustice into something positive!
Perhaps your manager empowers you with more tasks because they trust you more or because they have been more satisfied with your work. It’s rewarding.
At a certain point, try to highlight your involvement. It is important that your manager understands that a promotion or increase would be welcome in order to enhance your work and distinguish your efforts.
The Ass Kisser
The ass Kisser is very ambitious, wants to please, wants to be the favorite, wants to be noticed.
The most annoying thing is that it doesn’t stop them from criticizing your manager behind their backs, but in front of them, they do everything to please.
They are ready to go against their principles, their values, or even what they told you 10 minutes before if during the meeting your manager thinks the opposite.
It is infuriating, and their potential for nuisance can quickly escalate. Don’t worry, it doesn’t just annoy you, so raise the subject subtly with your colleagues. Together you will be stronger and better able to counter them.
The ass kisser is prone for contradictions. When this happens, challenge their inconsistencies.
Be aware that ass kissers do not gain the esteem of managers and that managers are often very lucid about this kind of personality.
Mr/Mrs “I know everything about everything” puts themselves forward at every meeting, take credit for things they don’t deserve.
Their self-confidence can even make us lose confidence. Indeed, they seem so confident that their arrogance has the potential of destabilizing us. But be aware that most times, excessive self-assurance hides excessive insecurity.
If their individualism bothers you too much, remind them that you are a team.
If, for example, they monopolize a presentation you both worked on, do not hesitate to bounce back and clarify some points: “I will allow myself to add and complete XXX”.
You feel that your performance annoys them, that the attention you can get irritates them.
If you succeed, according to them, it is only because of luck, or easier tasks assigned to you.
They are jealous and it’s quite unpleasant, so you tend to be more and more discrete in your successes and sometimes even censor yourself.
They are very competitive and spend a lot of time comparing themselves to you, but comparisons must be between them and themselves only.
“Don’t let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace”Dalai Lama
If you do better, it’s their problem, not yours so don’t waste time with them and above all don’t devalue yourself to please them!
They are in their jealousy, you are in your dignity!
They are clearly mean, they sting you directly, withhold information, speak aggressively to you, undermine you.
Be aware that the most aggressive people are the unhappiest, then try to detach yourself emotionally from these people as much as possible.
Robert Sutton, Stanford Professor and organizational psychologist, gives psychological tricks that can help you be more emotionally detached:
- Imagine a wall between the person and you
- Repeat every day to yourself “I can’t take it personally, I am above them, it is not me the problem, it is them”
- Approach your coworkers like a scientist would study a foreign environment and its inhabitants. Observe with distance how they act and speak and how other responds. By doing so you will create a mental game and will take their comments less personally.
- Remember that this situation is temporary: You are not in this environment forever! You’re not married to them, this situation shall change.
Though greatly helpful, mental strategies may not be enough to help you feel better when your coworker might be crossing the line.
In those cases, you may wanna take tougher action and that is what we will see now.
What to do about this Joker
By studying the different personalities, we briefly outlined some actions to counter your Joker.
We will now study in more detail different ways, from the lightest to the largest to know how to deal with an unpleasant coworker.
We saw as a strategy the fact of studying these colleagues as a scientist but you can also laugh at them as if you were at a show!
Why don’t you take your colleague’s remarks as if it were today’s joke?
What nonsense are they going to pull out of me today?
It’s like you’re at a comedy show or a circus and you’re watching clowns! You can fill a notebook with the top 10 of the dumbest idiocies ever done or said by your colleagues. You think of it as a game.
“Okay. Today, are they going to give me a reflection that is top-three worthy?!!”
In addition to giving you a sense of relief, writing things down can help you keep a record of the reflections, which will allow you to be as accurate as possible if you want to talk to your manager about it.
Taking your colleague for a clown, and laughing at their attitudes will allow you to take the necessary distance. If you don’t change things, you will find a more pleasant way to live them.
“Laughing is like wipers, it doesn’t stop the rain but it allows you to move forward” (Gérard Jugnot, French Actor), so no, you won’t stop their spikes, but their spikes won’t stop you anymore because you will take them with greater distance!
Get some second or third opinions
Subtly approach your close colleagues for their opinions and advice.
Maybe they will shed a different light and you will see your Joker’s comments from a new angle. Indeed, if they tell you that your Joker is making mean comments to everyone and that it is their heavy humor, you will feel less targeted and you will take more distance.
So, listen to their views, they can give you valuable insight.
Be aware of your own biases
So here I speak with expertise! I have a negative tendency to take my thoughts for reality.
However, thoughts are not reality, they are only mental activity.
I’ve often been paranoid.
For example, if my colleague went for coffee without asking me, I would conclude that she didn’t like me, or that I had done something she didn’t like, and I would ruminate until I’d realize it was unfounded facts and I was wrong.
So stop the paranoia and don’t be fooled by your thoughts that don’t always reflect reality!
My advice: start by examining yourself before judging others and be sure not to overthink or overreact. Better know yourself.
And if your thoughts dominate, transform them! Instead of thinking negatively, think positively. Like the psychologist Lise Bartoli puts it “by creating a positive reality in our head, we give it existence in our life” thus try to focus on the positive 🙂
How to deal with an unpleasant coworker?
“Ignorance is the greatest contempt”.
Ignore those who talk behind your back, because that’s where they belong, behind you while you keep moving forward.
Exchange with them only when necessary, otherwise, avoid interactions with them as much as possible.
This is the strategy I have used most often, acting as if the person does not exist, focus on my work and other more caring colleagues.
And no, ignorance is not weakness, but a willingness not to lower yourself and not to waste your energy.
Sometimes conflict situations are generated by miscommunication. Thus, clarify as much as possible the situations subject to interpretation.
Don’t let rumors get the upper hand. Don’t ruminate, don’t speculate. Clarify!
It’s an option you can dread and I understand it, I don’t like conflicts or confrontation, but sometimes speaking up for yourself is needed. You’re not a victim, they can’t be your bully. Doing so is highly effective when it comes to knowing how to deal with an unpleasant coworker.
If confrontation causes you stress, you can check out this methodology to counteract it.
Furthermore, confrontation doesn’t mean conflict. The exchange can also be ultimately constructive.
You must not be aggressive or lose your temper, nor attack them directly or they might shut the discussion.
The idea is to tell them how you feel in an objective and factual way. You can use this method to help you formulate what you think more easily – The OFNR method: Observation, Feeling, Need, Request.
You can also use the I-Message technique, invented by Thomas Gordon. I-Message helps you being assertive without putting the listener on a defensive position. The idea is to focus on your experience, your need, rather than attacking the other person using the You-message.
Avoid saying “You don’t have enough team spirit”.
Instead, say “I wish we could work better together, I believe that solidarity is important in a team”.
The discussion can be very constructive, perhaps your colleague did not realize the impact of their comments on you.
It was certainly clumsy but not intentionally malicious.
We often lack perspective on ourselves, on our own behaviors.
Research in 2014 lead by Ethan Zell and Zlatan Krizan, demonstrated our lack of self-awareness, especially at work.
For example, I had no idea I was talking very loudly on the phone until my colleagues pointed it out to me and I understood that it was bothering them! I definitely had a lack of self-awareness on that!
So if you feel that your colleague is capable of discussion, open their eyes, but to make it perfectly constructive, ask for feedback as well.
Abby Curnow-Chavez, in the Harvard Business Review, explained that members of highly effective teams are 106 times more likely to give each other feedback than low-performance teams.
Thus, open an honest dialogue and your relationship might improve.
If, after talking with them nothing changes, it is time to talk to your manager.
Talk to your manager about it
You tried to communicate with your colleague. You have ignored their comments as much as possible, but they go too far, so you must talk to your manager about it.
Write down all your points, be prepared to be precise in your exchange, and show how their recurring spikes impact you professionally and personally.
Ask them what action plan they can put in place to change the situation. At last, it’s their responsibility as well to help you know how to deal with an unpleasant coworker.
To make your manager even more receptive, you should mention the impact on the team’s overall performance.
Abby Curnow-Chavez explains in the Harvard Business Review that “the single most important factor in team success or failure is the quality of relationships on the team“.
70% of the difference between the lowest-performing teams and the highest-performing teams is linked to the quality of the inner relationships.
Therefore, having a toxic colleague can clearly jeopardize a high performing team, and your manager will care!
The author also suggests that you ask your boss to organize a team meeting.
This meeting should not be your colleague’s courtroom, but it may be appropriate for everyone to speak out against intolerable behavior, and to hold everyone accountable for the need to set limits so that no aggression is tolerated.
Talk to the Human Resources manager about it
Your manager does not do anything to change the situation? Thus talk to the Human Resources manager as they also have a responsibility to prevent any form of harassment or inappropriate behavior. Plus, they are experienced when it comes to knowing how to deal with an unpleasant coworker.
I had a Joker and I didn’t take enough distance, and that’s why I wanted to write an article on this subject. In retrospect, I should have acted differently and I don’t want you to make the same mistake I did.
I took things too seriously, I took my thoughts for reality, I was too afraid of negative comments.
I should also have accepted that we can’t please everyone. Remember this quote from Benjamin Franklin: “There are many roads to success, but only one sure road to failure, and that is to try to please everyone else”.
Then some may be jealous of you or talk about you and unfortunately, that happens more commonly than we think.
Focus on the benevolent people you will meet; fortunately, not all are toxic, so stay away from the malicious and surround yourself with the benefactors.
That’s easy to say, you might think. It’s easier to write, than to do!
I understand you, but I can only insist on simple words: They don’t deserve you being sad. Consider this quote: “Meanness is like a boomerang; it always returns to its sender“.
Whatever you decide to do, confronting, ignoring…only one thing must prevail, YOU! Take care of yourself, don’t let your Joker affect your mental and physical health (the two are linked ;))
If you read this article it shows your desire to develop a better relationship and it shows your interpersonal intelligence. Knowing how to deal with an unpleasant coworker starts with your desire for harmony in your workplace.
If despite your efforts and all your actions nothing changes, then you always have the option of looking for something else. Life is too short to let a moron hurt you. You won’t have any regrets, as you’ve tried to fix the issue.
But this option is really a last resort if none of the solutions developed in this article have worked.
You may encounter annoying colleagues everywhere, but through their complexity, you will strengthen yourself.
No pain no gain some say, I will tell you that “the struggle you are in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow” (Rober Tew).
Even if today you suffer from it, you will come out strengthened and grown from this unfortunate experience.
I will end this article with these words from Seneca: “All wickedness has its source in its weakness“.
The mediocrity of their actions reveals their weakness. You are much stronger, their pettiness can’t reach you.
Thus, focus only on yourself, your work, your health, your loved ones, and your life 🙂
And one last thing: Lions and hyenas do not hunt together 😉