In a perfect world, we would all have amazing and hardworking colleagues. We’d all get along, be aligned and make decisions with little conflict – but you and I both know, that’s not the world we live in.

Fortunately, our work environments are filled with all kinds of diverse people; people we can build relationships with and people we can learn and grow from. Unfortunately, with that comes the reality that we can’t always get along with everyone all the time.

We’ve all had that one difficult colleague – you know the one; the one that drives you absolutely crazy, the one that doesn’t ever seem to leave your thoughts or comments – even when you’re at home.

You’re thinking of that person now, aren’t you? Good … and I bet you’re also thinking, “If he/she would just change this one thing!” or “If he/she would just stop doing [insert frustration here], then everything would be fine.” But here’s what I know – if he/she wanted to change or do things different, they would have done so already. So, where does that leave you? It leaves you with an opportunity to grow and stretch yourself and your perspective. If you’re ready for that challenge, then keep reading …

Below are two tips for helping you grow and stretch your own perspective which will ultimately help you improve your relationships with difficult co-workers.

Tip #1: Step Into Their Shoes

Even though it might seem certain colleagues are intentionally trying to be difficult, the truth is not many of them wake up in the morning and say, “I think I’m going to be a royal pain in the butt today!” or “I hope I annoy so and so today.”

So, when that particular colleague is being difficult, take a moment to step back and step into their shoes. Most likely there’s an underlying reason why they are acting the way they are. Take a moment to think about what might be causing them to act a certain way or what’s stopping them from being more cooperative. Maybe something happened on a past project that’s still bothering them. Maybe you or someone else inadvertently said or did something that triggered them to behave a certain way.

The bottom line is to try and see things from your colleague’s perspective. Then adjust your communication style to account for that.

Tip #2: Start Practicing Acceptance

Practicing acceptance means you’re able to see, embrace and accept the colleague for who they truly are without judgment.

Recognize that just because you perceive a colleague to be difficult, doesn’t mean they are in fact difficult. It could simply mean the colleague has a different approach — and that’s okay! Thank goodness we’re all different and approach things differently – that’s what enables innovation! The key here is to not judge your colleague as wrong, ineffective or inappropriate.

It’s also helpful to remember and focus in on your colleague’s talents and strengths. By thinking of them through this lens you’re better positioned to see the value they can bring which will help you become more accepting of the things about them you don’t like.

I know from experience that Stepping Into The Shoes of Others and Accepting Them for Who They Are is tough – really tough! And I also know that if you start practicing these tips, your relationships with difficult co-works will improve.

Try these two tips for the next week with that one difficult co-worker you thought of earlier and see how it works for you.

And if you want some support in dealing with that co-worker, email me – – and we’ll get a conversation started!