How to Handle a Tough Boss or Coworker

Mend those unhealthy relationships and make your workplace a comfortable and productive space

Going to work every day to face an unpleasant or unjustifiably harsh boss or coworker can make even a job you love distressing. There's often no clear or simple way out of a situation like this, but with some helpful tips you'll be able to face the problem with confidence and move steadily toward a solution. Learn how to handle a tough boss or coworker and begin to like your job again.

Dealing with a Difficult Boss

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The first step towards a solution is to examine your boss's perspective. Put yourself in their position and see if you can feel the reasons they behave the way they do. It's extremely difficult to do this if you feel like the victim of unfair treatment, but it might help you find the best path toward fixing the problem.

If your boss stresses you out daily about each small task, confronting them about the habit probably won't stop their micromanaging. The best defense against this behavior might simply be to accomplish the tasks you know they'll expect you to do before they ask. Consistent self-management is a good way to demonstrate that you don't need constant supervision from others.

Every solution begins with communication. This doesn't mean directly addressing the problem every time you talk to your boss. Instead, it means nurturing the relationship between worker and manager and hoping that this naturally calms the tension and more closely aligns the goals and expectations of both parties.

If there's simply no way forward and your life at work and at home is suffering because of the stress, it might be necessary to try to transfer to a different team, department, branch or—if the situation is irreparable—company.

Handling a Difficult Coworker

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Workplace relationships between coworkers are even more important than those with bosses. Unfortunately, not every situation is ideal. You might have trouble focusing on your work when you're surrounded by talkative, distracting partners. Or, you might feel like you can't break through with a coworker to form a real friendship.

Dealing with negative effects on your work is difficult and delicate. Like handling a tough boss, addressing problems with a coworker starts with consideration and communication. Standing in their shoes, can you see a reason for their actions? Is there anything you can do to help them that would stem the cause of the problems? Is the situation mild enough that meeting about it and discussing your feelings with the other person would help?

If a coworker's negativity is bringing you down, it's probably best to spend time in another circle of employees or another area of the building. If an employee is overly competitive and uses rudeness or insults to hamper your work, it's important to keep the focus of meetings and presentations on the success of the company and away from personal success. Their selfishness will stand out unattractively next to your teamwork.

A serious problem at work is a colleague who bullies. This is an issue that requires courage and patience to address. Always stand up for yourself but don't fall for bait or lose your temper: calmness and firmness on your part will win this confrontation. However, there are many, many battles in the long war against bullies and constantly spending energy on it will take away from your work. At this point, it's best to take the problem calmly to a superior. HR departments and administrators are trained to deal with this type of problem, so don't be afraid to ask for their help. After all, your happiness at work will only benefit the team and the whole company.

Working in a healthy environment sometimes means having difficult conversations about difficult relationships with bosses and coworkers. These moments are important because you worked hard to earn the position you have and you don't deserve to have it ruined by rude or inconsiderate people. Plus, mending these relationships could make the job even better in the future. Have confidence, use your patience, and act firmly to make your workplace a comfortable, productive space that you'll enjoy going to every day.


Tom Twardzik is a personal finance writer for Paypath. He also covers music, film, TV and gaming for Popdust, social issues and current events for The Liberty Project and travel for The Journiest. Follow him on Twitter.

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