Dealing with Difficult Co-Workers

Updated on March 23, 2013
M.V. asks from San Antonio, TX
21 answers

Hi Ladies,

Needing some advice. What is the best way to deal with difficult co-workers but remain classy and professional at the same time? And yes, I'm sure some of you out there will say just ignore them, but sometimes people just need to be dealt with in a correct fashion to stop the behavior. I work in an office with some wretched women. Today, I had a co-worker ask me to help figure out a task. I assisted her, but as I walked off, she made "smart comments" and her and another co-worker started laughing. I don't sit far from this person and I surely am not deaf. I did email that person and let her know that I did not appreciate her comments or attitude to which she replied that she did not have an attitude. Later that day, I had to hear this person and 2 other co-workers make jokes about "people" not being able to joke. Any suggestions or good responses to this behavior would be much appreciated. We are all temps at this job, so competition is high. We have a male boss who informed us on the 1st day that he does not tolerate female drama.

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So What Happened?

Thank you to all the ladies who contributed some great aspects. Yes, maybe I should have not sent that email, but the girl did reply to me in her email that she has an aburpt and difficult personalty. Anyhow, I will just focus on myself and continue to build up my productivity as we work in a high production dept. 3 weeks into the assignment and I am past where I should be in production versus this person & her sidekick who are struggling.

Featured Answers



answers from Santa Barbara on

Well, you missed the boat on staying classy and professional while avoiding drama. Never, never e-mail someone like that! You have to behave professionally and work hard. Don't ever leave a paper trail like that....ughhhhh!!!

7 moms found this helpful

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answers from Tampa on

You are a temp. You can be let go at ANY time for ANY reason and you would have NO recourse. Your boss already warned everyone about this sort of thing. He could easily let ALL of you go and you could say nothing about it.

If these other women are as bad as you say, keep your nose down and give them enough rope to hang themselves. And you NEVER put something that can be used against you in writing.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

I'm shocked that you thought e-mailing your coworker to dress her down was appropriate. If she gets enough of a bee up her behind, she could easily forward that to your mutual boss and since he's informed you all that he won't tolerate drama he could fire you.

Rule number one: never give anyone in the office ammunition against you.

Rule number two: you may not want to play office politics, but you'd better play office politics.

Rule number three: there are always catty women in offices, and yours is no exception so you have to develop a thicker skin and learn to ignore, ignore, ignore.

Rule number four: it's not your place to put anyone else in the office in their place unless you're the boss or a supervisor.

Rule number five: always be nicer and more polite to others than they are to you. That doesn't mean letting people walk all over you or treat you badly.

Since you're doing your job, and doing it well, that's what matters. Their production doesn't sound like it's affecting you so their snide comments are only a reflection on themselves. Let sleeping dogs lie. You don't need to make enemies needlessly. It's just not worth it.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Perhaps the email should have been worded more like "You asked me for help today, and I helped you. Then you ridiculed me to others in front of me. It really hurt my feelings."

That might have shamed her. Instead, you the way you worded it gave her more fodder.

I suggest that next time she asks for help, tell her you don't know how to do it, and only do YOUR job. If you are all temps, you are competing and by doing her job for her, she is getting credit for something she doesn't know how to do.


5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

You should ignore it if you want to keep the job. The supervisor already warned you. If you try to do anything about the behavior, you will be seen as causing drama.

If this were a permanent job for you and you felt like you had some security, then I might suggest otherwise, but with this being a temp job and with you already having been warned about drama, I would definitely let it slide. I don't even think you should have sent the e-mail. Now she has something in writing to show the supervisor!

Think, girl!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Given that you are all temps, it's not your job to help her figure out a task. Next time she asks for help, send her to the supervisor. Trust me, even if it doesn't seem like it, those in charge oftern know who the instigators are. Stay on task with your own work and ignore, ignore, ignore. Problem employees often have a way of sealing their own fate.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

The only way to deal with this professionally and be able to keep the temp job is to ignore them and do your work. If you respond and start something it is only going to bite you in the butt. If you take it to the boss that does not bode well for you to continue the assignment.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

I would call your contact at the temp agency and explain the situation to him/her. This person is your 'boss'. The person who supervises at the office you report to is not really your boss. Tell the contact person at the temp agency your co-workers and gossipy women who act like teenagers. Ask if you can be assigned to a different office.

This way you have filed a complaint and if any of them say something to the people at the temp agency your complaint is on file,

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I would have walked back and said, "Excuse me? I'm sorry, did you have something to say?" with a raised eyebrow and then walked back to my desk. No emails. Now you ignore them in the future and let them figure out their own tasks. Good luck. Women can be so catty.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

If you can't ignore it, start polishing up your resume and get it out there.

See there is a difference between dealing with ONE difficult co-worker (in which case you should document what is happening and bring it up with a supervisor or HR, or your temp agency) and feeling like several co-workers are talking/snickering etc. behind your back.
I am not saying that it's your fault or anything you did, but it sounds like you are "the odd one out" - and that is hard to do anything about.
This particular office setting may just not be a good fit for you and it seems like the company doesn't pay particular attention to creating a good work environment.

Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

It would help if you said what the comment is. Everything I read here could be misinterpretation maybe not. Like if you heard something spoken but didn't hear it and then heard laughter they may not have been joking about you. You just felt it was.

Thing is people who think everything is about them, that get upset all the time, they tend to be not liked. No one likes when everything they say is being held under a microscope so that the person can feel offended.

I know this may not be the case but since the other side is fully represented I figured I would throw out the other interpretation of what you described.

Even the nicest people in our office have suggested some coworkers should remove that stick that is up their butt.

Just think about it because you said the boss does not tolerate female drama, can't say I blame him. What you are proposing to do is be passive aggressive which is drama, if he doesn't tolerate it then you will be out of a job. Not sure how your temp work goes but I am pretty sure there is language in their contract that they can get rid of temp workers who are rocking the boat.

Again, I have no idea if this is what is going on, just wanted to throw this out there.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

The situation you described would've been best ignored. As you discovered by calling her on it you caused more titters and comments. Unless the person is a subordinate for which you're responsible it is best to ignore them. By doing so, you're showing them you are strong and not bothered by them. When you react you're encouraging more of the same. I suggest that if you ignore for a long period of time this will lessen and perhaps even stop.

Think about it. The under dog nearly always gets mistreated. You've become the underdog and are acting like one. Act confident and unconcerned and you'll be no fun for them.

What does it matter what these women think and say? Your job is temporary. Focus on being the best you can be at your job. I would still help others when they ask. The supervisor at the job will notice if you slack off and that will appear as female drama.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

"And yes, I'm sure some of you out there will say just ignore them, but sometimes people just need to be dealt with in a correct fashion to stop the behavior"

Unless you are their boss, it's not your job to correct someone else's behavior in the office. Too bad you can't go back in time and stop yourself from sending that email. That was a huge mistake and out of line.

Being professional means that you are polite and courteous at all times. That your focus is on your responsibilities, not other's behavior. Let your work and pleasant attitude speak for themselves.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Provo on

Remain professional. Which means you ignore snarky behavior and you don't let it get under your skin. Your co-worker is already coming to you for help in figuring out a task. Which means she has noticed you are a capable worker. Chances are your boss has noticed too. Add that all up and she (or they) feel threatened by you.
Put that in a temp situation with high competition (my guess is that only a few of you will be kept on permanently or recommended for permanent jobs?) and you have the source of their snarkiness: they feel threatened by you. If you can frame it this way, then you will see their comments as compliments. Doing that will give you the power to stay professional about them, which will just make you stand out more.
Good luck. I had a co-worker like that at one of my jobs and while I loved the company, I was so happy to leave that job just because of her.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Lancaster on

Yep - next time she or the other culprit needs help, I'd suddenly not be so sharp. Not the most mature way to handle it, but effective.

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answers from New York on

I would definitely ignore it, keep your chin up and be as pleasant as possible! It will drive them nuts and you end up the victor.

On the other hand, I'd be more miffed at my sexist supervisor saying he doesn't handle "female" drama.

That alone, would make me get my resume together.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cincinnati on

I would say to just sit there and do your work and don't pay attention to it. Considering that your a temp and your boss doesn't like drama then you better find a way to ignore it.

I agree with Cheryl b, you shouldn't have sent that email.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Sounds like you shouldnt say anything if your a temp and your trying to become full time. Thats the last thing an employer want to hear is drama from a temp even if it unfair how the other are treating you. Securer your position first. Other wise you'll be the first on the chopping block. Thats just my thought.



answers from College Station on

Obviously, the first thing you did- talk to the person (which I think was right), did not work. Now its time to go to the boss. But, you can't sound like a whiney , complaining baby. You have to sound like a grown up. They have created a hostile work environment. You can also take it to HR, if there is an HR department.


answers from Norfolk on

Do your work, ignore them and if they ask for help then don't help them.



answers from Victoria on

I would have told the woman. " Glad I could help you. Those comments are inapproperate and unprofessional". Then left it at that. Boss doent like drama. Your putting aboundary to the drama but not really getting involved in more drama.

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