How To Deal With Difficult Coworkers

As the Office Manager at my organization the majority of my interactions are not with the people we are providing services to but with our staff. One of the things I like to tell my coworkers is that my job is to make their job easier. I try to do everything I can to help them provide the best services to those in need. Of course this isn’t always easy.

On one occasion I had one of my coworkers come barging into my office – well walked right in, my office doesn’t have a door – steaming mad. My goodness I thought, what’s happened to him. Then he looked right at me and shouted “You need to fix this stupid thing.” It was then that I realized he was mad at me. He continued to go on and on about how I did this and I should have done that. My blood quickly began to boil.

What right did he have to come in here and yell at me? I didn’t do anything to him. I’m trying to help him. I was quickly getting steamed myself and was ready to fire back when suddenly something happened. Something clicked in my thinking and I was able to respond in a gentle and calm fashion.

It didn’t happen immediately, but after several minutes of asking him questions and keeping my cool I was able to calm him down, figure out the problem, and show him how to solve it.

It turns out he had just spent over an hour trying to figure out how to do something that he had always been able to do before in a few seconds. And that hour, was his lunch hour. Not only was he frustrated but was probably being egged on by the voice in his belly. He wasn’t just trying to be a difficult coworker after all.

In the end my coworker went away satisfied and equipped with the knowledge to complete his tasks without losing anymore lunch hours. And I went away knowing I was able to help my coworker help others.

I didn’t think about it at the time, but afterwards a simple proverb kept going through my mind ” A gentle answer turns away wrath.” So true. I don’t want to imagine what the outcome would have been had I responded in kind to my upset coworker. But, now that I’ve experienced the power of that short proverb it stays with me wherever I go.

My coworker called me up the next day and apologized profusely for his attitude. The oddest thing happened after that, this conflict turned co-operation gave us a shared experience that created a new level of camaraderie and friendship that we had never had before. I guess we had gone through a battle together and now were old war buddies.

I don’t share all this to brag on how much self control I have, because I was millimeters away from giving him back some of his pie, but to encourage you. As an office administrator or director your job may not be direct services and that’s ok. When you take the time to work through a situation with one of your coworkers or staff you are enabling them to provide great and incredible services to those in need. Without people like you and me, they may be too stressed out with the administrative stuff to be able to help those who need it the most.

So keep doing the good you’re doing and remember the next time someone gets your blood boiling, a gentle answer may just win you a new friend.

Photo Credit Robert Couse-Baker

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