How can I deal with a difficult co-worker? She always feel that she needs to be the center of attention. Not to mention she believes that she is always right. She snapped at me regarding my "attitude" our boss turned around and told her to stop the nonsense because in fact I did not give her a attitude. Needless to say.. every time I have something to say in causal conversation she has to put in her two cents and make me feel lower than her. Do I just ignore her? Or say something. The boss knows the situation and already said she was on thin ice.. but I'm at the end of my insanity.. what should I do?

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    Don't take it personally as the boss clearly recognizes she is out of bounds. Every time she says something, just mentally roll your eyes and think, "What an idiot" and then move on to more productive thoughts.. – HLGEM Sep 17 '15 at 19:32
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    I'll second @HLGEM and will add that I'm a fan of just saying "Wow." and walking away whenever someone like that says something rude or abusive. – Lilienthal Sep 17 '15 at 19:36
  • Have you gone the route of going to HR with this issue? – Kevin Horvath Sep 17 '15 at 19:36
  • Not sure if there's anything actionable by HR in this. Rudeness and ego aren't their purview. First, do you trust your boss to take care of this? Sounds like there is good reason to do so. If you continue to look like the "reasonable" one to your boss eventually will deal with her. Just concentrate on what you can control, ie, your own reputation and your deep breathing exercises. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Sep 17 '15 at 19:47
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    In your situation I would attempt to ignore her. Giving her the attention she wants will only encourage her combativeness towards you. Remain professional at all times, your boss will appreciate you for it. – Kilisi Sep 17 '15 at 19:53

Be professional, even when she's not. Focus your conversation on the work, on facts, and on your own expert opinion.

I tend not to be able to hear unprofessional statements, unless they cross the line between being an unpleasant, insecure person and bigotry or truly abusive or threatening behavior.

I have had success dealing with excitable coworkers by simply not responding to anything that isn't related to the task at hand. If I say " this isn't the right time/place to talk about that, let's schedule some time later" and they keep talking, I just look at them without saying anything until they get back on point. Either they run out of gas because no one is arguing with them, or they escalate and become obviously unprofessional. Either way my reputation and credibility remain intact.

Refusing to dignify something with a response is a very viable strategy. You just have to practice having selective hearing so that it's more difficult for someone to push your buttons.

  • This is the strategy that I would recommend (and employ myself) :) – Jane S Sep 17 '15 at 23:35

Write down every problematic occurrence - what she said literally.

Monday, 9am. I said we need to downgrade the software. xyz replied:"This is the most stupid thing I've ever heard since I was born."

When the journal contains enough information, hand it to your boss, tell him that it seriously affects your work performance and ask him "to please find a solution".

HR and managers always have the problem that they need to justify the termination. People will sue and play their "I was just fired because I'm" card, even if you caught them stealing, but didn't have it recorded on cam. She will be questioned and deny one half and downplay the other half and it ends up in a "he said/she said" situation. Nobody magically knows that your complaints are justified and that you aren't just overly sensitive. A reasonable documentation helps people assessing the situation.

The benefit of starting this way is that this approach can be done in parallel to other strategies - you can choose how many other strategies, like ignoring her, talking to her in private, etc., you want to try before finally giving up and handing in the journal. The important thing is that when it's enough and you really can't stand it anymore and are about to get sick, you don't have to endure it then for more months in order to to collect material.

Avoid getting other co-workers involved. Mobbing is popular and so are complaints about mobbing. If you become the head of a movement to get her removed, there is a fair chance that this will actually backfire. If other people think the same way you do, they will have their own talks with your boss.

  • Sounds like a hot potato. My question is, OP mentioned that she is already on thin ice. Chances are, there are many more like you are are irked by this individual. Why not make it a group effort instead? – Frank FYC Sep 17 '15 at 20:18
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    @Riorank If you want to write an answer, you should do this. If you are asking me about my opinion about your suggestion: Teaming up against one co-worker is close to mobbing, which means she will end up as the problem...creating unrest to get her agenda through. – John Hammond Sep 17 '15 at 20:24
  • Sounds like "xyz" could have been Donald Trump in your example. – TTT Sep 17 '15 at 20:34
  • @LarsFriedrich Should've been more clear in my comment. I was in fact, asking your opinion whether or not OP should consider making the disagreement a group effort. As for the mobbing, OP has stated that the boss is knowledgeable of the problem. Inferring that there were complains before. However, given the fact that the troublesome individual is still employed, bothering OP, it would imply that the previous complaints were not enough to 'poke a whole in the ice'. Hence, would the ice will actually 'break' with more people this time. – Frank FYC Sep 17 '15 at 20:39
  • +1: First it allows you to anticipate the remark to write it down, so instead of thinking "Oh no, not again" you can think "Another one for the book". Second it gives an objective estimation how serious the problem is, humans are often notoriously bad to recognize how often occurences happen. – Thorsten S. Sep 18 '15 at 7:18

People get hired for their specialties and skills and some of them turn out to have major issues.

Below are some strategies that might help you:

Accept. To fully accept what is happening in the present moment means letting go of the wish that it will change by itself. It means a commitment to rise above. It means disciplining yourself not to take bait. It can be the hardest step of all, but it also brings a lot of potential for growth.

Anticipate. If you can look ahead to where trouble is likely to happen, it's often possible to avoid or at least mitigate it. Be prepared and be vigilant.

Adjust. If there are frequent misunderstandings or conflicts, make sure that you're doing everything you can on your side. Are you practicing good listening, empathy, and openness? It may not solve the problem, but it can help minimize conflict--and give you a chance to model good responses.

Attune. Is there anything you can appreciate about this person? Even a little edge of positivity gives you something to build on. And look within yourself, too. Remember, we're usually most bothered by the things in others that we dislike in ourselves.

Avoid. If the trouble remains, focus on minimizing crossed paths. Find ways to avoid direct contact, whether that means going through another person or by communicating via e-mail and other technologies. If you have the freedom to work at home, take advantage of that when you can. (But don't subvert other workplace relationships or become a recluse.)

Apply. If you've exhausted all other strategies and you're still miserable, maybe it's time for Plan B--whether it's a change of departments, a transfer to another city, or a different company altogether. Change can be challenging, but it's what keeps careers moving forward.

There will always be annoying, angry, chagrined, cross, irritating, and difficult people in our lives. We may not be able to fix them, but we can always care for and protect ourselves.


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