In Career, Discussions

How do you deal with difficult colleagues?

I am having issues with someone in particular at work. She is just so ornery. Her approach is so rough, defensive, and accusatory that it immediately gets my hackles up.

I TRY not to bristle but she just has this approach that makes me want to grit my teeth and tear my hair out.

I am also not the only one she treats like this. I have just been observing and then hearing other colleagues complain about her, and how they go to extreme lengths to avoid working with her.

NOT ONLY THAT, she is a consultant like me. So it irks me even more, and surprises others even more how mean she can be as a person to everyone, considering she is making at least double if not triple their salaries.

It is so incongruent with the rest of us consultants who basically know that it is our job to smile, be polite, professional and accommodating to the ones who help keep us there and sign our cheques. Not necessarily ass-kissing but delivering solid, platinum customer service.

I am trying my hardest to take the high road and remember how people are all different and sometimes I have to suck it up and smile, but it gets harder and harder when you’re busy AF and people all want a piece of you, then you get THIS coming up in your face, starting a fight and basically telling you that your job is not a big deal and she could do it in 30 seconds.

FOR REAL NOW?

YOU CAN DO MY JOB IN 30 SECONDS?

GO. AHEAD.


Keep insulting me. Yes, please do. It just makes me angrier.

And the worst part of it is I am TRYING SO HARD not to get caught up in petty office drama and politics, but when people are overloading you, and you’re working overtime, while trying to help everyone, stay nice and friendly, stay calm, get #%*#%) done, be efficient, baby sit others and so on…. it takes ever last bit of you until you are drained completely and your nerves are so frayed that you snap.

I don’t need a break from work but I need a break from people like her, you know?

I don’t mind the actual work itself, I love it when my brain goes into over drive and I’m planning everything out, but I don’t want to deal with people’s baggage, that I then have to control my emotions over and not bring out MY baggage.

Why can’t we just be nice and civilized to each other?

Ask me nicely, Try the carrot / honey approach, not the stick / vinegar way.. it really works better if you’re nice, not demanding and not hassling people every 2 seconds for something that in the end was NOT THAT FREAKIN’ URGENT.

#TrueStoryShe’sARat

Anyway.

I don’t need to tell you but I sort of lost my $*%@) (professionally) this week.

No screaming, but I had a forceful voice and basically exploded on her after she needled and needled and needled me until I burst.

Professionally, that is, which means no swearing, gritted, clenched teeth and the stress just came out.

Thoughts? Help?

I have tried the approach of getting up after something like that and walking around to calm down, taking deep breaths and keeping my mouth shut (all working great by the way), but when you’re in the middle of a conversation with someone like that, you can’t just get up and walk away.

It is worse (image-wise and professionally-speaking) than just going through it and finishing the conversation, isn’t it? Walking out is like a full on – whoaaa… this girl is about to lose it and go postal up in here.

I have gotten better over the years at controlling my temper but my emotions are all over my face and in my voice. I am too much of an expressive open book to become an ice cube at work now.

I am not like that.

I simply can’t turn off my emotions like a faucet. It is both good and bad because I can see it opens people up (how expressive and warm I am), but I also can’t turn it off when I get very angry and stressed.

Thoughts? Techniques? Help.


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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K (savings rate = 85%). I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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9 Comments

  1. r
    raluca

    I’m like you, trying to be nice and move on and bottling it up inside until it spills. This is not ideal. My husband is the opposite way. He will point out immediately when somebody is dismissing him and smack that person back (verbally). This allows him to release any annoyances often and in small doses. His way is best.
    “I could do you job in 30 seconds”, would get from him “It’s not your job to do my job. Please leave so I can continue.” or “I have doubts about that, please leave so I can work”. If you want to be really nice: “I’m sure you’re much better at this than be, but right now I can’t talk to you. Please leave so I can work”, but this only validates that other person.
    I think we’re taught to be nice, but to be professional also means demanding space so that you can get your work done. Professionalism also means that you stand up for yourself. Experts are often challenged and they need to get comfortable with telling people off. It’s not being rude reminding that other person that you need to get work done or that they are over the line and you are much better at what you do than they are.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      It is a fine line for me — she makes me so angry sometimes but I have to bite my tongue to get along with her and stay as a team…

      Reply
  2. Financial Orchid

    Wrote this up after tough day dealing with counterparts. Hope some parts help
    https://financialorchid.com/how-to-handle-difficult-clients/

    Reply
  3. S
    SSSfan

    Whoever manages this transgressive, rude consultant needs to step up and manage her. Has anybody tried to get the manager to do his/her job regarding this deliberately provoking consultant?

    Have you been documenting your encounters? I suggest consulting askamanager.org. It is not the job of anyone at your company to tolerate this behavior, not when it’s been going on so long.

    Reply
  4. S
    Sense

    Ooh. Deep breaths.

    Bottling up feelings can lead to trouble–I don’t think it is wise to keep doing that. There are not many other options that I can see here, though:
    1. Deal with this on your own, and privately. Change your feelings about this person in order to change how you deal with her and react to her (counseling is fantastic for this). She is the worst, but whether you like it or not, you are feeding into and playing at least a small part in the dynamic between the two of you. Reframe that dynamic in your head.
    2. Involve others to help you with the situation. Talk to your manager / someone in charge and see if they can put you on separate projects with minimal contact with one another (it would be good for the office to at least mention that you and many others are finding her difficult to work with so that there is a record of complaints about her if things get worse). Talk to your coworkers to see if they can share the burden of working with her. Maybe someone else can act as the go-between you two?
    3. Talk with her directly/resolve it between the two of you. Let your feelings out calmly with a constructive intent. Set a meeting with her when you have cooled down to talk about why you are having issues working with one another. Distill the feelings down to practical reasons why you react to her the way you do (acknowledging your part in this dynamic) and possible actions that can resolve your issues. e.g. Advise her on how you like to be approached/how you like to work, and give her an opportunity to do the same. This is the adult option, but we all know that problem coworkers are not always adult-like in behaviour. A neutral mediator/counselor is good to have for this talk if you both can agree on someone.

    oof, this is tough. I have done all three of the above (and mixtures of 2 of them) when dealing with a problem co-worker.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      My approach lately has been to say: what do you think? / good point / thanks for your help

      And then to avoid her as much as possible…

      Reply
  5. A
    Anne

    The problem, I believe, is not your feelings, but your expectations. Of course you should be able to expect a professional attitude and behaviour when it comes to your colleagues, but not everyone will live up to those expectations. My way of dealing with these kinds of people is that I concentrate on the good things and lower my expectations on other areas. If you think of those people as difficult teenagers, it is easier not to get angry when they behave badly: they’re not necessarily bad, just not matured yet. Some people never grow up, but most do. While waiting, you just have to keep your boundaries.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Yeah, avoiding her has been my go-to coping mechanism lately.

      Reply

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