Mallory Welsh, LCSW

I work with many clients who not only have stressful jobs, stressful personal lives, but that incredibly one stressful coworker. I have several clients who often discuss a stressful coworker or theirs. As their clinical therapist, my job is to help the clients to cope with this particular frustrating coworker. We talk about reasons why the coworker frustrates them, and then what things they can and cannot do to change the environment in regards to this coworker.

I recently read an article that touched on this very topic of how to cope with challenging coworkers from Sayge, “Dealing with Difficult Personalities in the Workplace” by Rachel Garret.

Garret discusses 5 useful tips and guidance on how to deal with that one coworker that causes added stress to your life.

  • Empathy goes a long way. While this coworker can be so stressful, attempt to reflect on what they may be going through outside of their professional life that may be causing them to act the way they are acting. Not to give them an excuse for the way they are acting, but attempting to understand why they are acting the way they are, may then have a less of an effect on your frustrations about them.
  • Get pumped up. While you are not about to go on a triathlon, try to get as energized as you can prior to your meeting with this challenging coworker. Find things you can do to mentally prepare yourself, maybe that means listening to your favorite motivational song or podcast, or taking a few deep breaths. Thinking of ways to prepare yourself both mentally and physically prior to interacting with this coworker can truly help.
  • Boundaries. Boundaries are on the best gifts you can give to yourself, whether it is in your personal or professional life. When working with this challenging coworker, think of appropriate boundaries you can put in place. Garret recommends that when this coworker shows up to your desk without a scheduled meeting, to physically stand up. Standing up then allows you to both be at eye level with each other and for you to reclaim your power. Then simply say you think what he or she has to say can provide value to the company, but you would like to schedule a specific time to discuss it further. Doing this shows that you value both their time and your time.
  • Learning opportunity. While this challenging coworker frustrates you, think of it as a learning opportunity for yourself. Use these interactions as ways you can improve yourself when dealing with challenging situations. It can help you in not only your future professional opportunities, but even in your personal life as well. Adversity is always a beautiful way for some self-growth!
  • Celebrate small moments. Anytime you face this challenging coworker with a kind but also assertive manner, celebrate it. It is not easy interacting with stressful people, so it can be helpful to applaud yourself along the way during the process of your interactions with them. Have some self-compassion with yourself during this period. At the end of the day, you are truly your own advocate, and it is important to celebrate that daily! Advocating for yourself does not happen overnight, so take each win, whether small or big with this coworker, with a celebration.

If you are currently struggling with a challenging coworker at your job, it may be a good idea to connect with one of our skilled counselors at Symmetry Counseling today. You can contact them at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment.