7 Tips To Deal With Difficult People At Work

We spend about a third of our lives at work, and given the complexity of human nature, things will inevitably become challenging. We can’t always stay on good terms when there is regular interaction between people, whether it’s issues directly related to work or troubles at home, despite our best intentions.

While the definition of “difficult” varies from one person to another, there are some personality qualities that when combined might create a recipe for problematic professional conduct. Working with a tough coworker is an experience that almost everyone has had, and it can be one of the most difficult to overcome.

There will always be difficult people to deal with at work place. How can you deal and outsmart them at work?

I’m referring to that coworker that likes being obnoxious and feels they are superior in terms of power and knowledge. But is so uncomfortable about themselves that she hides it behind her Jimmy Choos by treating everyone like dirt.

Keep reading for seven tips to outsmart difficult people at work.

woman with angry boss

Every office has difficult people.

They are difficult – typically – because they feel threatened, and the only way for them to cope with their feelings is to lash out and be horrible to others around them. Unfortunately, it’s the poor assistant or intern who just trying to survive their first job that ends up being the victim.

I’m sad to say…. that has been me on more than one occasion.

A many numbers of years ago I worked in an office where one of the senior female staff took delight in making me feel as unwelcome as possible. She delighted at hurling snarky comments across the office hall at me then stomping back into her office swinging her ponytail.

Such unneeded drama that sent me home crying.

This went on for about a year and I avoided her in the corridors, hid at my desk and went home each day a ball of anger and hurt.

Eventually, we have to deal with difficult people at work whose words or actions we can’t stand for our own sanity.

One day, it was just too much. I couldn’t take the abuse any longer.

She yelled at me across the office hall demanding to know why I was creating a drama and I should just do my job, not hers. I turned around and put my Wonder Woman pose on and firmly said:

If you had done your job and helped Mark in the first place he wouldn’t have needed me to help. It’s not my fault that he knows I will support him and help to get your job done. By the way, you’re welcome. Let me know if there is anything else I can support you with.

I immediately turned around and went back to work. My heart was pounding, did I just stand up to the office witch?

This was huge step forward in dealing with the office witch; I was able to take the high road, stay calm and hide my raging anger. All I really wanted to do was grab her swinging ponytail and slam her head into the table Charlie’s Angels style.

She never bothered me again after I stood my ground and I could walk through the corridors without fearing for my life. 

woman mediating in office

Something occurred to me a few weeks after that incident.

I heard from a colleague that she was going through a difficult time in her marriage which can’t have been easy.  Instead of seeing her as the office witch, I saw her as someone’s mother and wife who was going through a difficult time. From that moment, I decided to show some empathy and kindness instead of secretly referring to her as the office witch.

We were never besties after that, yet she never treated me like dirt under her stilettos. We even started to speak to each other at the coffee machine in the mornings. Never thought that would happen.

Read also: 10 Ways to Cope with Friends Going out of your Life

In difficult times, it’s really hard to hold your head high and take the high ground.

It’s terrifying and took me at least a year of being bullied to gain the courage to stand up for myself.

If this happens to you, is there a way to outsmart difficult people at work?

Responding to verbal attacks validates them and gives them exactly what they want. If someone is sniping at you, never engage in crossfire or demean yourself by yelling back. If you do that, you’re just lowering yourself to their standards.

In my case, I dealt with difficult people at work with kindness and laid down the facts. There are other ways you can deal with difficult people whilst still holding your head high and being professional.

7 Tips To Outsmart Difficult People At Work

1. Maintain a Friendly Demeanor

Instead of adopting a defensive stance when someone is horrible to you. Not fake friendly, real friendly. Treat them with respect. Nobody enjoys being treated as though he or she is ignorant, inept, or unable. If you treat someone with rudeness, it’s not unexpected if he or she treats you the same way. When you maintain a professional demeanor in the face of immaturity, the other person may find it difficult to continue their attacks.

Read also: 14 Great Tips to Feel More In Control

2. Don’t Retaliate

Take actions to improve the situation. Make sure you handle each situation with more complexity and intelligence than a thirteen-year-old squabbling in the playground. They won’t expect you to remain cool, maintain a steady tone, and avoid raising your voice — that’s what they expect you to do.

3. Search for a solution

It is advisable to investigate all feasible methods for coping with your coworker before making a final choice regarding the matter. The best options are to try to work out any issues with that colleague or to build a new working connection with someone who is not damaging to your performance and productivity.

4. Ignore

Sometimes there are people in the workplace who have an opinion on everything and like advising you how to do your job better. This individual is a sort of tyranny without necessarily intending to be cruel since he or she is persuaded that he or she is always right and methodically strives to elevate himself or herself over others.

In this case, all you have to do is ignore them.

The more you ignore this individual and keep them from approaching you, the better off you will be. Simply reply, “Thanks, I’ll think about it,” when they offer an unsolicited opinion. If you’re irritated, remember that most people in the company think this individual is irritating. You aren’t the only one who gets annoyed by his or her actions.

5. Be Empathic

Show empathy instead of retaliating with anger. Everyone’s life narrative is unique, and you never know what they are going through outside of work. .I’d like to assume that not many tries to be unpleasant just to be difficult. In most case, it may appears that the individual is simply out to get you, but there is always an underlying reason for them to act in this manner. Try to find out the what motivates him or her to behave in this manner. What is it that is preventing him from collaborating with you?

6. Have a Broad Perspective

We also need to take a broader perspective of difficult people at work: distinguish between the person and the problem. You need to understand that most people generally behave this way because of who they are, not because of you. Remember that stress and de-motivation can make someone more difficult to manage than usual, and try to take a proactive, rather than reactive, approach.

Read also: Why Self-Care is Important When Running a Business

7. Learn from Experience

Regardless of the outcome, you must understand that every situation brings with it a lesson we can learn. Whether it is because you improved your problem-solving skills or your resilience, there is always some positive learning to be gained from every experience.


If the problem persists and is having a significant impact on you, begin keeping a log of each incidence and reporting it to your Human Resources Manager. They’ll be able to encourage you and assist you in outsmarting unpleasant coworkers.

Working with an unpleasant coworker is never enjoyable. However, it is critical for your job and reputation that you never allow interpersonal concerns to interfere with your professionalism. It’s difficult and sometimes scary to speak out for yourself. It will be difficult, but powerful, and you will be stronger as a result of standing up for your beliefs.

And if nothing else works (since there are certain organizations that are truly dysfunctional and badly managed), one must decide which is more important: the job or one’s health. The high mobility of today’s employment generates new conflicts, but often also opens the door to new opportunities.

IMPORTANT: We have all faced difficult people, so how have you tackled a tricky situation where someone was horrible to you at work? You never know who you may help, so comment below on the three things that helped you.

I hope you find a tactic from the above that can help you.


I’m a writer, new mom and foodie. I love sharing what I know while making others feel beautiful. On this blog, I share my healthy lifestyle, simple meals, fitness tips and experiences.

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