Boutique PR, Advertising and Marketing Recruitment Services

Matching industry leaders with high calibre talent in Sydney & Melbourne
Agency Iceberg

Working with the Enemy

In our personal and professional lives, we will all meet & develop relationships with people that we don’t necessarily like or trust. 

And, learning to work with or coexist with a work colleague can be extremely difficult and even impact our mental health, well-being and energy levels. 

What happens when you can’t change jobs, change teams, or avoid the person in question? 

How do you deal with someone on a day-to-day basis that you dislike? Well, I have five tips for you to follow that could help!

Speak With Them Directly

If your co-worker or Boss is making you feel uncomfortable and is impacting your work, it’s time to address the situation. When speaking with a colleague, it’s important to focus on your feelings rather than the other person’s actions. Use ‘I’ language so that it’s aimed at you. Using ‘you’ may come across as accusatory (and sometimes, aggressive) and make it difficult for the person to accept their actions.

Here are a few examples of a better choice of words:

  • ‘You always talk over me’ try saying, ‘I would like to talk for a few minutes. When I’m done, you can absolutely continue.’ 
  • ‘You always dismiss what I say’ try saying, ‘I would like you to listen to my opinion.’

Changing the way you address the situation can make all the difference. Take notice of how you speak to your colleague and take responsibility for your own language.

Be mindful of yourself & others around you

Do you find that your energy is zapped or you’re in a negative mood even before you speak to a difficult colleague? Be mindful of how you handle yourself around others. Focus on the present and take a deep breath. 

I’m a big fan of practicing mindfulness as it helps me feel calm & improves my mood. I find that I am more positive, able to handle tough situations and think clearer, which helps with dealing with difficult colleagues. Not sure where to start? Read this article by Headspace for a few mindfulness tips.

Be the better person

Unfortunately, co-workers and gossip usually go hand in hand. According to Federation University, gossiping about colleagues can lower morale and increase conflict. Refusing to take part in office gossip can help improve your relationships with difficult colleagues and build trust with each other.

If you find that the office gossip is centred on you, speak to HR or your manager about the situation. Be the better person by not engaging with more gossip, instead focus on your work and setting achievable goals you want to accomplish.  

And, remember that this will blow over and there will be something/someone new for the office to gossip about tomorrow!

Create healthy boundaries 

It’s important to establish clear boundaries with difficult people. A lack of boundaries can be especially harmful to your relationship. Setting clear boundaries with coworkers can safeguard your time, energy, and overall comfort in the workplace.

Examples include:

  • Let your colleagues know when you’ll be out of the office
  • Share your calendar and block out time for important meetings, phone calls, or for completing deadlines
  • Set daily priorities

Seek advice from HR & your Manager 

If you’re still struggling to deal with a difficult colleague after trying different strategies, seek advice from HR or your manager. 

But, what if it’s your manager that’s the difficult colleague? YIKES! Again, speak with HR, let them investigate the situation and allow for them to do their job.  

If you ever find yourself being bullied in the workplace, visit the WorkSafe website for tips and resources or call them for a confidential chat.


Iceberg, Melbourne’s go-to recruitment company! Specialising exclusively in recruiting for digital, marketing, PR, digital, experiential & advertising jobs. Permanent, freelance and contract roles available!. Sign up to our weekly newsletter HERE.