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VIA LIFE SCRIPT:

By Jennifer Gruenemay, LifeScript Staff Writer lifescript.com

Difficult people. They’re everywhere. From the snobby saleswoman to the rude lady at the nail salon. Sure, you can shop somewhere else and find another pedicurist, but there’s one person you can’t get away from – the toxic co-worker. She’s condescending, confrontational and makes your blood boil. Simply put, she’s impossible to get along with. Or so you think. Perhaps the key to workplace harmony isn’t in hoping she’ll suddenly realize what a pain she is – maybe the solution is much closer to home. How YOU deal with a difficult co-worker can make all the difference in the world… Fortunately, there are tricks to getting around the situation. You’d be surprised how much you can do to change a difficult co-worker into a manageable, and perhaps even likeable, one.Don’t waste energy having a mental breakdown on account of someone you can’t stand. Instead, practice these five tips to make it through your work day in spite of an co-worker who rubs you the wrong way:

Dealing with Difficult Co-workers Tip #1: Be Prepared for Conflict

The best way to deal with a problem is to see it coming before it invades your cubicle. If you work closely or otherwise deal regularly with an argumentative co-worker, anticipate ahead of time how you’re going to handle the situation. When you’re unprepared, you’re likely to react instinctively to your anger and annoyance with childish behavior that accomplishes nothing. This will only succeed in making a bad situation worse. Sometimes it helps to practice a debate before it actually happens. Stage a likely conflict in your mind and work through the various scenarios. First, allow yourself to act immature and listen to how foolish you sound. Does name-calling and performance-bashing make you the better person? No. Next, play the part of the professional. Instead of having a witty comeback to her every snide remark, act like a grown up and aim to resolve the conflict. Just don’t be stodgy.

Dealing with Difficult Co-workers Tip #2: Don’t Fuel the Fire

You’re going to be tempted to retaliate – to lash out at a hostile co-worker with equally low blows. This is the worst thing you can do. People who instigate confrontation and cause tension also thrive on controversy. Any exchange of negative words fuels their malice and makes them feel powerful. And if you stoop to their level, you’re opening the door for them to make you look like the bad guy. Instead, use the oldest trick in the book: Kill ’em with kindness. It’s the ultimate ammunition for fighting off irrational people. They will either end up too frustrated or too bored, eventually becoming weary of engaging in debate with you. Once they back off, you can focus on what you get paid to do – work.

Dealing with Difficult Co-workers Tip #3: Lend a Helping Hand

Although not beneficial in all situations, sometimes a difficult person is simply a troubled soul looking for an ally. Unfortunately, this co-worker ends up making enemies instead of friends because she doesn’t have the necessary social skills.Negative behavior is often the hallmark of a person who’s dealing with a whole lot more than they let on. Maybe it’s money problems, marital issues, health concerns, or all of the above. If her home life is barely under control, how is she going to be able to handle the pressures of work? She may not be justified for her bad attitude, but it’s possible she’s dealing with issues that are simply beyond your reach. Bullying is a shield to protect what’s vulnerable and fragile inside. Break down that barrier and you may find someone who could use a friend. And once you’ve crossed enemy lines and become comrades, this person may become aware of her downfalls and look to you for advice. Lead by example so as not to spend all your time pointing the finger at their problems.

Dealing with Difficult Co-workers Tip #4: Get a Third Party Involved

No matter how competent and wonderful a person you are, you just can’t win everyone over. If a difficult co-worker is not receptive to your attempts at defusing the situation, enlist a neutral third-party to help navigate the choppy waters. They can act as a sounding board for both parties’ frustrations and work with you to find common ground.But don’t pull someone into the argument thinking he or she will automatically side with you. In fact, be prepared to answer tough questions such as, “How are you contributing to the problem?” Maybe you’ll discover that your toxic co-worker isn’t the only difficult person around – you might be one, too! Come with an open mind, be prepared to compromise and always keep your goal in mind – to get along, put the pettiness aside and work as a team.

Dealing with Difficult Co-workers Tip #5: Move On

You tried to make nice, and it just didn’t work. There comes a point where you have to hang up your hat and admit that the situation just isn’t going to resolve itself.If you can honestly say you gave it your best shot and you’re still stuck with a disruptive co-worker, it’s not worth the stress to work day in and day out in a combative environment. So whether it’s her or you who moves on, somebody needs to. This is especially true if your work is negatively affected because of this person. You basically have four options: move yourself to a different department, move her to a different department, find a new job, or let her go (if you have that kind of say in the situation). Sometimes difficult people make it tough for everyone – not just you – lowering productivity across the board. And in a company where productivity is paramount, that’s plenty reason for dismissal.

There’s no point in giving someone the power to determine whether you’re going to have a good or a bad day at work.

Don’t ignore a bad co-worker relationship – it’s not likely to go away on its own. Confront the problem head on with these five tips, and watch as you gain the upper hand in the relationship. Now, the ball is in your court!

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