Six Tips to Deal with a Heinous Co-Worker

Nicole Williams
Posted: 10/07/2009

She talks down to you like you are a child, keeps spreadsheets of your mistakes, withholds vital information from you and blames you for every problem that comes up. Her number 1 goal is to make you look bad. She’s your worst nightmare, a living, breathing she-devil…a truly heinous co-worker.

How do you work with someone who would love to see you fail? You’ve probably already done what any rational person would do: You reassessed your own work style and fixed any problems that might be fueling her rage. You swallowed your pride and tried to win her over with kindness and consistent professionalism. Unfortunately, these tactics aren’t always enough. Here are six tips to help you come out on top.

1. Look at it as a challenge. Instead of viewing your co-worker’s behavior as a personal attack look at it as a challenge. Remember that her deep insecurity and anger has nothing to do with you. Even though she is making you feel like you are the problem, don’t believe it, and don’t take it personally. She probably slept on the couch last night. Avoid her web of anxiety. This is a chance for you to become stronger, better, faster. Put your game face on.

2. Keep your eye on the ball. The petty teammates screaming at each other in frustration never make it to the big leagues. So get in the action and keep your eye on the ball. Look at the bigger picture of your company and your own career trajectory and set specific personal goals for yourself. Decide when and how you will tackle your most important objectives. Knowing your purpose will motivate you to do your best and help you to stay focused on what really matters.



3. Limit your interaction with her. Trying to win over negative personalities is like beating your head against the wall. Don’t waste your energy trying to get her to like you. Avoid prolonged interaction with her by being efficient and prepared. And when she looks at you with icy dagger eyes, take it as a compliment. She is only undermining you because she feels threatened. People are threatened by the strong, not the weak. You can see beyond her manipulative tactics. You have a good thing going, so keep it rolling.

4. Pursue the positive. Use your breaks as a time to refresh and relax with positive people. Avoid venting about your evil co-worker to people you work with (that will only spread her toxic power and taint your other relationships as well). Seek advice from a mentor or friend outside of the office to encourage you and help you find new solutions. Another useful tip is to think of your mind as a safe harbor. You decide what thoughts to dwell on and what to just let go. Seeing the humor in your situation is always a great release too. If things get really weird, just imagine your day as an episode of The Office. It’ll be a great story for later.

5. Stay cool under pressure. This is the ultimate opportunity to learn new coping strategies and anger management techniques. These strategies will help you get through the workday, and they will also prove invaluable in the years to come. Staying calm and positive gives you incredible power and leverage in high-pressure situations. So cultivate your inner Zen. When you feel yourself getting upset, focus on your breathing; this will help you stay calm. Because so much of what you communicate is expressed through your tone of voice and body language, try to keep your voice composed and your body relaxed. If you speak in a steady, calm tone of voice, people are less likely to view you as hostile. Excuse yourself from the room if you feel too overwhelmed. Go to the bathroom or another private space and collect yourself.

6. Stand up for yourself. You teach other people how to treat you. There may come a time when you have to draw a line in the sand. During a confrontation, remember to always keep it about the job. No matter how tempting it may be, avoid personal attacks. Think twice about making broad generalizations about "the way you are treated." This is murky, dangerous territory. Pick and choose your battles carefully. If you are being totally misunderstood or blamed for something you didn’t do, you may want to use physical evidence such as e-mails, schedules or calendars to bolster your argument. Keeping the confrontations focused on specific details will minimize the risk of you being perceived as overly sensitive and defensive. The bottom line is you care about doing a good job and want to prevent future misunderstandings or problems.

Nicole Williams
Posted: 10/07/2009

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