How To Handle Coworkers You Want to Tell Off

When dealing with a coworker whose personality clashes with yours, it is best to get some physical and emotional space.

Telling a coworker off is not the ideal reaction for any professional!

This means you may need to unpack your conflict management skills, dust them off, and utilize them very carefully.

Promise yourself time alone to think clearly.

Then, at the very first opportunity sit down with a pencil and paper and begin to write out your thoughts about this person.

Be sure to go through the following exercises in order to clear your head regarding this coworker.

How do I avoid telling off coworkers I can’t stand?

Step One: Assessment – Get Ruthlessly Honest

Be honest with yourself; what is it about this person that irritates me?

It could be that once you examine your reasons for disliking this person you might find that it is no more than two different personalities rubbing each other the wrong way.

It could also be miscommunication errors between the two of you.

The last thing that you want to do is create a situation where your supervisor decides that the tension created in the workplace between the two of you is too much and fires either one or both of you.

The holidays are no time to be forced to look for a job!

Being honest with yourself and clearly outlining the reasons why this person gets under your skin may help you to take a giant emotional step back so that you don’t wind up causing a situation that you come to regret.

Be sure to be ruthless with yourself in your honesty don’t allow hidden truths to hide away in your subconscious, for instance, if you are jealous of this person, own it!

Admit to yourself that you are sick of hearing about their perfect spouse and perfect life because you’re single and feeling lonely.

Then get on with it; begin to decide how to deal with your feelings.

Step Two: Strategizing – “Don’t Get Angry – Get Strategic!”

The next step is planning your way through the relationship – don’t allow relationship issues in the workplace to disintegrate to the point that you emotionally explode.

That ticking time bomb can take you out in the process as well.

A favorite saying of mine is, “Don’t get angry – get strategic! 

Now that you have been completely honest with yourself it is time to decide how to handle the relationship.

Don’t be afraid to talk it out with someone that you trust – just be sure that the person you choose isn’t just going to jump on your side because they love you but is willing to hold you accountable for your feelings and actions.

Before you discuss however make the commitment to hear them out without getting defensive.

Listen without defending yourself, your actions, or your feelings.

Getting outside input can make a world of difference. 

Remember that planning is always better with more than one person brainstorming the problem.

Now it’s time to write out those steps so that you can see your plan and make adjustments as needed.

For instance, you and Tim have difficulty communicating, and you realize that it’s because Tim is an arrogant jerk.

He refuses to listen to others and during team meetings consistently cuts you off before you can finish a sentence.

Maybe it is time to get a little more assertive during meetings, when Timothy interrupts you cut him off by saying, “Excuse me, Tim but please allow me to finish my thought before you process.”

Then continue without waiting for his okay.

Don’t feel the need to hand the floor back over to him when you are done speaking, it is entirely his responsibility to get himself heard – just not at the expense of others.

You might also like these coworker quotes for a better day at work.

Step Three: Processing – Assertiveness is not Aggression

The problem with most people who try to handle difficult coworkers is that they confuse assertiveness with aggression.

You can disagree without being disagreeable.

It is possible to get your point across to a pushy, obnoxious coworker without resorting to aggressive mannerisms.

You have no need to “tell them off” what you really need is for them to realize that their behavior is unacceptable.

This may require some help from your supervisor in extremely challenging or volatile circumstances, and they may decide to handle it differently than you have planned but be sure to impress upon your supervisor that you are aware of the personality clash, that you have carefully examined the problem and that you are willing and ready to deal with it in a responsible manner.

You might be surprised to learn that your supervisor has already observed the situation and was contemplating how to handle it.

You will gain support and score major points by bringing a plan of action and remaining open to their direction in handling the tension.

Step Four: Execution

Now comes the time to take careful planning and strategy and put it to work for you.

Carry out your decision to calmly deal with your coworker and your plan on how to handle and execute them!

Be prepared to adjust as necessary for steps that may be ineffective.

Also, keep your supervisor in the loop; you don’t need to constantly update them, it just gives the impression that you can’t handle the situation and/or that you are trying to put down your coworker.

Keep in mind that if you realize after your introspection that you are the problem, not your coworker you need to hold yourself accountable and if possible apologize for any past behavior which may have added to or caused the tension between you and your coworker.

Approach your coworker directly without involving your supervisor and apologize for any wrong behavior on your part.

While doing this keep in mind a few things:

1. Your coworker does not have to accept your apology and the two of you may never be friends.

Just try to reach an agreement to work together cooperatively and peacefully and it should work itself out.

2. Make allowances for misunderstandings and miscommunication and assign good intentions to the other person.

That may help to leech out a great deal of poison in the atmosphere.

3. If the situation looks as if it may turn violent, you feel threatened or harassed or seems to be spiraling out of control, keep safe, notify your supervisor and call the authorities if deemed suitable.

Do not allow yourself to raise your voice, use threatening or intimidating gestures or language or physically or verbally threaten your coworkers.

The authorities can and will be called in this instance and the likelihood of anyone trusting you with another position just grew slim to none.

Keep calm and carry on

Above all, keep calm and try to remember that although it may feel very personal this person will not be going home with you, don’t allow them to mean so much to you that you thoughtlessly impact your life.

One of the ‘secrets to life’ I have learned is to not take anything personally.

What people do is not about you, it is about them.

So, learn to control your need to tell off your crazy coworker, and improve your own self-awareness!

Your career will be much better for it!

Stephanie Dillard has been in the consulting business for over 10 years working with non-profit, community and government organizations on efficiency strategies and work team interpersonal relationships. She holds an A.A.S. in Human Services and a Master's Degree in Transformational Leadership. Stephanie is the CEO of Pathways LLC in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
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