Dealing with your former drill sergeant was painful. But try working with a nightmare co-worker -- i.e. passive-aggressive behavior, inappropriate, unmotivated, or rude.
In the service you dealt with conflict head-on, but if someone is bothering you the direct approach may not work in the civilian workforce. If you have a new job, and you work with someone who's a little difficult -- or just plain drives you crazy -- here are 10 ways to handle it in a professional manner.
Identify the problem. It's not hard to spot the "toxic" co-worker. This person can be a backstabber, a gossip, a meddler, an instigator or just a nasty competitor.
Beware if the toxic person is the boss. If your boss is meddlesome, or worse, a competitive instigator, then you have to evaluate if you confronting your boss is worth losing your job. If you do confront your boss, avoid putting him or her on the defensive.
Assess your situation. Initially, you might be shocked that you're treated unprofessionally. Take a deep breath, and try to understand exactly what is happening to you. Realize that you are not alone.
Take concrete action. Once you're fully aware of your toxic co-worker's behavior, you can decide to live with the situation or do something about it. In fact, it's best to nip the situation in the bud. Talk to your co-worker privately, and address the problem in a non-confrontational way. If the problem gets worse, warn your co-worker that you will escalate the problem to a higher authority.
Don't let the problem fester. Take action swiftly. You may eventually become so angry that your efforts to address the situation could become irrational. It's far better to tackle the problem while you can and try to maintain some objectivity and emotional control.
Safeguard your reputation. Constant complaining will make you look like the "office whiner." Managers may wonder why you're unable to solve your own problems, even if their tolerance of the situation is part of the problem.
Don't sink to the toxic co-worker's level. As problematic as the person may be, there are many dysfunctional approaches to dealing with them. Here are some no-no's: sending anonymous notes, gossiping about the person, bad-mouthing him or her to the boss.
Keep it private. Be sure to keep all of your dealings with the person private. Never lose your temper at work or engage in a confrontation in front of your boss or colleagues.
Make the first move. If you go into this "conversation" with the mindset that this can be resolved quickly and happily, then you can make the first move. Start your conversation with statements such as, "I'm sorry for what I may have done to hurt you," or "I could be wrong..."
Agree to disagree. If you personally dislike your co-worker or boss, you can still learn from their opinions, viewpoints and ideas. If you can find something to appreciate about them, comment on it in a favorable way. If that person senses your allegiance, they will be naturally drawn to you, and you may both learn to get along despite your differences.
Sometime differences can't be resolved with one short conversation. But, for the sake of your sanity, it's important to pursue a professional relationship with a difficult co-worker.