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10 Ways to Deal with Coworkers You Hate (Without Going to Jail)

April 8, 2013 at 8:32 AM ET

10 Ways to Deal with Coworkers You Hate
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10 Ways to Deal with Coworkers You Hate

Speak to the person directly
Misunderstandings can abound at work and cause small conflicts to escalate, especially when they are happening over email. Knock on a coworker’s door, take him or her aside and be direct. You may find that the problem you’re having can be easily overcome -- and that it’s a lot harder to hate on someone when you’re speaking rationally, face-to-face.

Try to limit your interactions
In every office there will be some personality types that you just don’t get along with. Switching jobs won’t solve the problem, because Miss Know-It-All will most likely appear at your new place of work in another guise. While some interactions may be unavoidable, avoid getting into long-winded discussions with this type of person. Keep your focus on your to-do list and you’ll be fine.

Play to their strengths -- and weaknesses
Instead of trying to change an annoying coworker -- or constantly lamenting the fact that they can’t get anything done or are always looking to stab you in the back, take some time to figure out how this person operates. Will a little bit of praise keep him off your back for an entire week? If you showed him how to do a certain task would that boost his confidence and help you meet your deadline? See what I mean?

Keep work and personal life separate
There’s no rule saying that your office has to be like the set of 30 Rock. Particularly if you’re having conflict, leave the after-work drinks, interoffice dating and Friday group lunch to the rest of them while you keep your head down and -- gasp! -- just work. Look at it this way, you’ll get finished quicker and have more time to meet up with your real compadres.

Keep the big picture in mind
It’s easy to get so ground down by the daily grind that an argument with the coworker from hell can feel like the end of the world. Stay focused on your larger dreams. Where do you want to be one year from now? While you’re learning new skills and taking on new responsibilities, your nemesis will become somebody else’s problem.

Leave the pack
Are you and your coworkers constantly looking to blame enemy #1 for something? Instead of finger-pointing, take responsibility for the next SNAFU they try to pin on the unfortunate soul. When your coworkers see that you won’t engage in this type of sniping, hopefully they will change their behavior, too. And everybody will feel better for it.

Look in the mirror
I know, it’s hard to imagine, but is it possible that you’re at all to blame for a bad work situation? Are you that person that other coworkers dread being around? Instead of expending energy on disliking your coworkers, look inward and see if there are areas that could use some improvement, whether it’s communicating your ideas more clearly or simply coming in on time.

Kill them…with kindness
There’s nothing quite like a friendly “good morning” and a smile to take the sting off any situation you’re having with a crazy coworker. Extending an olive branch is not the same thing as letting someone walk all over you -- it’s about rising about the fray and being the bigger person.

Keep records
You don’t have to keep an FBI-type file on all the people in your office, but if a work situation is escalating, it’s smart to save emails that could help back you up should the problem get taken to your higher-ups.

Report it
If possible, it’s better to keep management out of your coworker conflicts. Involving others can make you look petty and weak, even if the other person is the true culprit. But when your ability to perform your job is truly being threatened, don’t hesitate to confide in management. And often, simply taking the situation to a third party can help diffuse it.

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