Address problems with a difficult co-worker directly



When confronting a difficult co-worker be sure to avoid personal attacks.


With a new year comes a resolution for better things to come. For some, this means brushing up on interpersonal office skills and trying to get along with even the most difficult of colleagues.


As a management organization development consultant and coach, Susan Heathfield has had her share of experience working with troublesome employees.

Before taking a confrontational stance, Heathfield encourages employees to examine themselves first to make sure their frustration with a particular co-worker isn't coming from a simple difference in personality or communication styles.

"Ask yourself if you are sure that the other person is the problem and that you’re not overreacting. Ask yourself if you have always experienced difficulty with the same type of person or actions," says Heathfield, who also writes Guide To Human Resources for

Personality differences in the workplace are bound to arise, but maintaining a professional approach can keep colleagues focused on getting their work done.

Should your problem with a difficult colleague be more specific, Heathfield encourages workers to speak with the colleague directly but avoid personal attacks.

"Talk to them about what you are experiencing using ‘I’ statements. That communication approach focuses on your experience of the situation rather than on attacking the other person," says Heathfield.

Sometimes, even after your best attempt to resolve the situation, the problem colleague still doesn’t get the message. Heathfield cautions that while this has to be done carefully, sometimes rallying other employees or surveying others to see if they are experiencing similar difficulties with that colleague can help strengthen your argument before taking it to management.

"In some cases a group approach convinces the boss that the impact of the behaviour is wider and deeper than a simple personal issue between two employees. A behaviour that could negatively influence office productivity if not seriously addressed," says Heathfield, adding it is crucial the focus be on the inappropriate behaviour and not on bashing the person.

For more tips on workplace behaviour, visit