We all have come across coworkers that test your limits. You try to promote a healthy relationship with all your coworkers. Let’s face it, you spend most of your waking hours at work and want to do your part to foster a positive work environment. However, occasionally, you come across someone that’s very negative or tries to ruin the reputation of peers or takes all the credit for your hard work. It can drive you a little nuts, especially if your boss or someone high up in the organization thinks they’re a superstar. It can make for a frustrating situation. The question becomes how do I effectively deal with challenging coworkers that totally stress me out? Some of these individuals can be truly toxic to the health of a department and it’s hard to believe other people don’t notice this and do something about it.
First of all, let’s put things in perspective. Is this someone that can impact your career or someone that just rubs you the wrong way? If they really don’t have an impact on your personally, I do not suggest fighting other coworkers battles. You can act as a sounding board for your colleague but let them handle this issue themselves.
Approach Your Manager
If this coworker is affecting your reputation, then you should seriously consider going to your manager for help. When you do approach your boss, put the emotions aside and strictly deal with the facts of the situation in a calm and clear way. Reinforce how committed you are to the organization and how important it is that you be seen objectively. Ask for advice on how to handle this individual. That way, if your boss hears some gossip, he has your perspective on this particular situation. If you plan to confront this challenging coworker, you want your boss to know that beforehand as well.
Interactions with Challenging Coworker
It’s important that you don’t give this individual any ammunition. Maintain your professionalism. Rise above this behavior and don’t allow them to tempt you into a confrontation. How you approach the situation will depend on what toxic behavior your coworker is engaging in. You can limit contact to interactions only on a professional level. If (s)he provokes you, it’s important that you always present yourself in the best possible light. For instance, the individual is attempting to take credit for your work, you may want to copy your boss on some of your communications and provide him or her with progress reports.
If you decide to confront your challenging coworker, do so with diplomacy and tact. Let them know what your concerns are in a factual way and see what they have to say. Leave the door open by saying, I wanted to get your point of view on this matter so we could address it and work more effectively together. Perhaps they are unaware of their behavior and open to feedback. If nothing changes, then at least you tried your best to resolve this matter. If you are working in an environment that promotes this type of behavior, then you have a bigger issue. Your values may not be aligned with the company culture. If that’s the case and that’s a big if, then you may want to decide if this is the place for you.