Career Corner: Dealing with Difficult Coworkers | AIChE

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Career Corner: Dealing with Difficult Coworkers

Career Corner

You spend more time with coworkers each week than you do with your family — especially if you work in an open-plan office. When you must interact with a colleague whose behaviors annoy you, your workday can quickly become stressful and unproductive. You may even begin to consider switching jobs so that you can work more sanely elsewhere.

Difficult coworkers can range from the mildly annoying — for instance, someone who talks too loudly on the phone — to those whose pushy, power-hungry, or bullying behaviors make you dread going to work each day.

When Ray Henson, an organization and management consultant and licensed psychologist (Henson Consulting International, Somerset, NJ), coaches individuals who come to him because of problem associates, he advises them to diagnose the situation first. “Don’t immediately put all the blame on the other worker. Step back and notice if there are hot buttons that they are triggering in you,” he says. “For example, if it bugs you when that person is chronically late to meetings, examine why that behavior bothers you.”

Try to put yourself in that person’s place, Henson adds. What could be causing them to behave the way they do? Have they suffered a personal loss or perhaps are under tremendous pressure on a different project? In addition, looking at whether...

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