Few things can suck the joy out of the workplace like an unpleasant coworker. Interacting with someone who is abrasive, rude, negative or otherwise difficult on a daily basis can test anyone's professionalism. If you find yourself working alongside an unbearable colleague, here are seven ways to handle the situation.
1. Act impeccably. While you can't control another person's behavior, you are responsible for your own. No matter the tactics your irritating colleague is using, maintain your sense of decorum without lowering your personal standards. It's not always easy, but you will demonstrate to others that you are unflappable and able to navigate stressful situations - qualities that are valuable in any employee.
2. Observe the office dynamics. Make some subtle observations of interpersonal relationships around you. Do several people seem to have a problem with this person or is it just you? Is this difficult person a real productivity dynamo or do they need to be constantly prodded and reminded by others? Are they well regarded or scuttled from one team to another, leaving a trail of lowered morale in their wake? Having an idea of their office reputation will help you determine how to move forward.
3. Be careful. If you are working closely with a difficult person, create an email trail or a communication file. Never attempt to break through their wall by confiding in them. It's highly likely that this will backfire on you. Not all people are worthy of your trust.
4. Don't let them sap your energy. It's absolutely draining to overcome a negative environment; do what you can to contribute positively. Unfortunately, toxic coworkers have a way of spreading their misery to others and can significantly dent employee morale. Make sure that your actions and words don't contribute to an unpleasant environment. Strive to keep the energy at work uplifting. If nothing else, your good cheer will endlessly bother your negative colleague.
5. Restore yourself outside of work. It's difficult to deal with complainers, naysayers or otherwise frustrating individuals. It's important to leave them at the office and use your off-time to recharge your own batteries, whether it's spending time with loved ones, pursuing favorite activities, exercise, meditation or simply rest. Rejuvenate yourself and prepare to be your best during the next work day.
6. Know when to get help. It's one thing to have an Eeyore on your team, a gloomy individual like the donkey in Winnie the Pooh who is depressing but relatively harmless. It's another to have a coworker who threatens, harasses or bullies others. You shouldn't handle situations like this on your own. This is the time to enlist the help of a manager or HR executive to take the lead.
7. Identify your limits. If you are stuck working alongside someone who makes life miserable on a daily basis despite your best efforts to cope with the situation, it's decision time. If no improvement is on the horizon, it's up to you to choose an environment that will allow you to perform at your best. Only you can make this determination.