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How to Work With Difficult Coworkers

A universal experience that tests your patience and reminds you that temper tantrums have no place in adulthood…no, it’s not your first love this time; it is about working with  the existential jerk. You know the one. The coworker who doesn’t contribute but takes all the credit, or perhaps it is someone you work with who refuses to bus tables.Whoever it is, we’ve all had them, and every version of them out there.  Irritating people exist in practically every aspect of life and are here to stay. The question is, how do you deal with working with jerks, or, in other words, how do you practice effective conflict management?

First and foremost, conflict is typically a serious, protracted disagreement. Conflicts may occur in every aspect of life, and as we mature, we should manage them differently than we did as teenagers.There are several factors to consider when dealing with a person you can't avoid at work. First, you should assess how you handle conflict in private. Is this a personality or work ethic conflict? Does it have an impact on your romantic life? Once you’ve assessed this, you can focus on the appropriate conflict management style. 

Conflicts in the workplace can take place for various reasons. Conflicts in the workplace can take place for various reasons, including personal factors, which often contribute to workplace issues. In life, you meet people who you do not get along with, and that is okay. Usually you can move on and avoid further interaction with such individuals. Except when you work with them, though, it's a different story, and life isn't always as portrayed on "The Office."

The hierarchical positions of power can not only affect the types of conflicts that arise but also affect how those conflicts are resolved. Higher-ranking positions often deal with substantial decisions that subordinates may not agree with. Leaders in organizations often use competitive or assertive styles of communication when interacting with subordinates, while they often use collaborative styles for obvious reasons. Dealing with conflicts involving higher-ups can be more difficult than dealing with issues involving coworkers at the same level since it may be more difficult to create a connection with individuals in higher positions in the workplace.

Additional factors can include poor communication, resources scarcity, overwhelming workloads, and a lack of clarity. Moreover, the presence of a difficult or toxic individual in the workplace does not always result in their dismissal.Difficult or even toxic people often remain in an  organization because they are perceived as highly skilled and valuable. That is why addressing the factors that interlock with your work conflict is significant because you need to find a way to resolve it. 

Despite all these conflicts that may seem existential, there are proven ways for managing workplace conflict. Formal bargaining remains effective when it is marked by a  clear understanding of and willingness to follow the rules of the negotiation situation. This is especially useful when resolving a specific situation, which can differ in terms of goals, issues, communication methods, and outcomes. Additionally, third party conflict resolution may be essential for some workplace issues. This becomes necessary when the individuals (or groups) involved in the conflict are unable to solve the problem themselves without complete  chaos and disruption. The third party can either be a neutral coworker familiar with the situation or a completely external party willing to assist. More often, when conflicts between  coworkers stem from differences in personality, work processes, or organizational procedures, a  supervisor might be called in to help settle the dispute. Information sharing and honesty is  important when it comes to this tactic, but the mediator can use the acquired information to come  to a helpful result. Furthermore, you can try to limit your interactions with said coworker(s) if  your conflict deals with their personality, which likely won’t change. If conflict is a matter of how you work together, you can approach them as a coworker while keeping conversation surface level and  professional. Approach them as a coworker and focus specifically on the work conflict at hand, avoiding any personal discussions. If the problems persist and you feel you have done everything you can to address the conflict professionally, the last resort is to seek assistance from the higher-ups to de-escalate the situation and find reasonable solutions. Having a conflict affecting your working abilities is not fair to you or your workplace, so  solving it effectively will help everyone involved. Nobody exclusively evades workplace drama,  though it does tend to follow more people around than others. When dealing with a difficult coworker, they do tend to appear, so you must be well-equipped with conflict management approaches to deal with the situation proactively. Knowing factors that can influence workplace conflicts, recognizing the situations you might find yourself in (which may or may not be worth the risk), and knowing  how to  approach these issues can save you from possibly having to leave your department or job. As a wise proverb once said, “If you run into one jerk during the day, that’s unfortunate. If you run  into two jerks during the day, that’s bad luck. If you run into three or more jerks during the day, you’re the jerk”. 

                                                                                                                                                                        Edited by: Sally (Anh) Ngo October 15, 2023

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