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Top tips for handling difficult colleagues at work

Follow our tips for how to handle these difficult colleagues and ensure that you do not become one of them

In life, there are those who get on with things and do something about it if people or situations annoy them; on the flip side, there are those who love nothing more than to moan or complain about a situation without doing anything to try to change it.

Listen up to a point

If someone is spending time blowing off steam to you about things that are going on in your workplace, it is fine to let them do so provided you restrict the time you are happy for them to talk. Everybody needs to blow off steam at some point and they might not be someone who does it all the time; therefore, make sure you listen – with a time limit – so they feel that somebody is hearing what they are saying.

What to say

Whenever a work colleague decides to use you as a sounding board, it can be difficult to know how to respond. One thing you should never do is respond by saying nothing, as both the person who is complaining and other work colleagues may assume that you agree with what the complaining colleague is saying.

On the other hand, it is wise not to agree with the person, even if you think this is a good tactic to get rid of them and leave you alone. Anything you say, or even a gesture to indicate that you might agree with them, will only make things worse.

Use the facts to help solve the problem

Once you have listened without staying silent or agreeing with your colleague, the wisest thing to do is try to help them solve their problem. Not being able to see a solution is the reason most people resort to moaning to colleagues in the first place.

Make suggestions as to how they could improve their situation; however, before you do this, make sure they have all their facts straight. Over-exaggeration of the facts is a common trait in difficult work colleagues; therefore, make sure you bring them back to the facts when they are talking to you.

If all else fails

If none of the above tactics work, the best thing you can do is make it clear to them that you are no longer interested in what they have to say or prepared to listen to their negativity about the workplace. The danger with listening too much to this sort of person is that you will become one of them. If you have listened and offered constructive solutions to no avail, simply move on.

Next time you hear someone complaining about something that is happening at work, you will know how to make sure you do not get sucked in and become one of these people yourself.

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