How to deal with overbearing co-workers

Most people have encountered a difficult co-worker on the job before. It can be frustrating to start a new job or join a new team, only to learn that at least one of your peers has a few unfortunate traits in the workplace. Whether they are a typical negative complainer, a micro-manager or an office bully, this creates an unpleasant environment for everyone.

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Most people thrive in an atmosphere that is friendly, courteous and collaborative. When you have to interact with an unpleasant co-worker that exercises none of those qualities, you may feel your efficiency and motivation levels drop. Though you might have to pick up the slack when they aren’t open to collaborating on projects, there are strategies to appropriately deal with even the most overbearing co-worker.

Put yourself in their shoes

While your co-worker’s overconfidence or difficult personality may bother you, you may want to make an effort to try to understand where they are coming from. They may feel the need to overly assert themselves at work to get ahead in a competitive field. It’s also important to assess your own attitude or interpretation approach to try to understand why you feel the way that you do. Perhaps their personality reminds you of yourself or someone close to you.

It helps to think about why they are the way they are and try to be empathetic. Learn to know when pick your battles if you are dealing with a “know-it-all” type of co-worker and when to back down if you work with someone who can’t let things go. This balance is key to maintaining a positive workplace environment.

Voice your opinions and ask questions

If you are new to the office or the difficult co-worker has been at your office longer than you have, chances are very few people are willing to refute their demands. If you really want to transform your workplace, consider voicing feedback on the spot during the next negative encounter with this co-worker. Having an open dialogue and clearly communicating your opinion, rather than accepting an unpleasant behavior or criticism may not only benefit yourself and others around you, but can also help to get the job done more effectively.

As an example, perhaps your challenging co-worker interrupts your presentation or critiques something that you have recently done or said. Instead of getting frustrated or immediately getting defensive, acknowledge their concerns, thank them for their input and then reaffirm your own particular idea or strategy. If an incident requires further discussion, suggest meeting at another time that is convenient to both of you.

Your unwillingness to back down might be unexpected in the beginning, however, you may gain their respect for taking a stand in the long run. They may actually have good ideas for what you are doing, but you are subtly showing them that there is a time and a place for disagreement, and a more tactful way to go about it. Not only will you benefit from this experience, but your other co-workers will be grateful for your assertiveness.

Turn them into a comrade

A micro-managing co-worker can certainly be annoying, but one viable strategy is to combat their behavior with kindness. Treat your overbearing co-worker like you would an executive or other member of upper management. Be overly polite to them and try to focus on their positive qualities. Limit your interactions with them as much as possible to maintain a courteous and productive working space.

If your encounters with the difficult colleagues are frequent, try to find the silver-lining to the situation. Perhaps they are the type of co-worker who takes on too much during group projects because they do not trust others to do the job correctly. Instead of arguing, compliment what they do right and suggest that you can help by taking some of the work off their schedule. This may allow them to feel better about the collaboration and back off a little bit, allow you both to do your job and feel productive on the job.

Stand up for your convictions

If you have made your best effort to win them over with kindness and professionalism, it may be time to stand up for your convictions and confront your co-workers. Having a tough conversation may be just what you both need to overcome a difficult situation, but ensure that you do so in a tactful manner, to avoid letting the other person become upset or defensive. Constructive feedback or suggestions may be the best way to start.

Be assertive and clear when addressing your concerns. Your colleagues may not even realize the impact of their behavior. Confrontation does not have to be hostile or make you feel like you are causing conflict in a workplace. Focusing on the issue and the desired outcome will keep the discussion on track.

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Dealing with difficult co-workers is challenging, regardless of the industry. As more paralegals are facing complex responsibilities in the legal field and dealing with demanding nature of their jobs, negative encounters with colleagues can be a regular occurrence. Leveraging some of these strategies in your workplace may benefit yourself and those around you, and make the stressful environment more inviting and pleasant in the process.

You may want to gain as much knowledge and skills as you can about the industry to help prepare you for continued success in the legal field. People looking to make a career change or further their career advancement opportunities should consider the George Washington University’s Master’s in Paralegal Studies online.

As one of the few paralegal master’s degrees in the country, the program will equip current or future paralegals with the skills, experience and knowledge they need to succeed. Contact one of our program representatives today to learn more about our rigorous curriculum that you need to be prepared to enter into the legal field, along with our flexible online offerings to meet the demands of your schedule.


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