How to Handle a Bad Co-Worker

Dealing with argumentative co-workers


Arguments occur at work frequently, usually, it is due to communication problems or personality conflicts, sometimes there are deeper issues.  Most of the time arguments can be resolved, but if they are occurring frequently they can contribute to an unfavorable work environment.  If you are in such a situation where you feel a pattern is developing with a particular co-worker or other employees, it is time to assess the situation.  Whether the problem is your co-worker’s personality doesn’t mesh with yours, or that you just can’t seem to communicate on the same wavelength, it is important to address the issue before it does permanent damage.


Below are some tips to help you in learning to deal with argumentative co-workers.  This advice is not meant for dealing with those who are bullies or mentally unstable – if you find yourself in this situation get a decision-maker you trust involved immediately.


  1. Accept responsibility:  Understand that it takes two to tango.  If there is someone that there is a problem with, you have to accept you are part of that problem.  Even if you don’t feel you are the one that is triggering the situation, there is something in either you or your response that allows the conflict to continue.  If you accept responsibility for your part, you can take the next step.  This obviously doesn’t apply, if you are in a situation that feels dangerous or where you feel the person may have some mental issues.
  2. Assess the situation: When arguments flare, the initial reaction is to fight back with hurtful words.  Calm yourself and take a deep breath.  Be the bigger person who listens to the other person keenly and respectfully. Only respond once you have understood that person’s side and keep close control of the tone of voice and words you use.  Remember, both of you are just humans and though there are people who enjoy causing trouble, most people prefer a work environment where people get along.
  3. Take concrete steps: Once you have identified the root cause of the argument, take the time to come up with a plan to resolve the issue.  Do not let the argument escalate and affect your day-to-day tasks.  If you can’t solve the conflict with the person directly, you need a plan of who else should be involved.  Be discreet and don’t try to damage the other person’s career by making a bigger deal of the situation than it has to be.  If someone else gets involved try to be fair and rational.
  4. Know when to walk away: There are arguments that can ensue and logical reasoning seems out of reach.  Remember sometimes it is easiest to agree to disagree.  Try to avoid direct contact as much as possible with the other person.  Figure out how to communicate with them in a different way or through a different medium.  Set your boundaries, and request communication happen in a specific way or through someone that can be a mediator.
  5. Most conflicts work themselves out:  Stay positive and remember that most problems will resolve themselves with time.  Be willing to be flexible and let the other party know that you want to make things better.  Treat them with dignity and hopefully with time, they will come to do the same.  At the same time, stand firm and let them know you won’t tolerate ongoing disrespect.

The above ways are just a few recommended steps to better communication with argumentative people, but it is not conclusive.  There are lots of good books that help you examine this issue in more detail.  Taking immediate action when arguments break out is important, otherwise, stress and poor performance can easily creep in.  Get help if you are dealing with a personality that is non-responsive to attempts to better the situation.  Bullies or mentally unstable co-workers will need a much different approach.


By Anjela Mangrum, the founder of Mangrum Career Solutions Inc.  MCS partners with industrial and automation manufacturing businesses to source and secure transformational leaders for critical hiring needs in Operations and Supply Chain.  They work to empower individual job seekers by helping them gain a competitive edge in their job search. For hiring needs contact Anjela at 513.753.3813 x17.

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