4 Tips For When You Can’t Stand Your Coworker

By Ryan Morris
Jan. 22, 2023
Articles In Life At Work Guide

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Summary. When you can’t stand your coworker, start with empathy, confront the problem directly, connect with them, and reflect on what upsets you.

Being best friends with your boss and coworkers is everyone’s dream situation. It makes work life so much easier.

Unfortunately, when people send a lot of time together in small spaces, issues are going to come up and people will start to fight. It’s never an ideal situation when you are apart of the conflict at work and are fighting with your coworkers.

While we can’t promise you’ll be best friends with that coworker you can’t stand by the end of this article, we can guarantee that these steps will set you on a path for a healthier workplace relationship.

Key Takeaways:

  • When you can’t stand your coworker you need to first determine what the issue is, then you need to handle the situation, and finally identify if you are the issue in the office.

  • If you’re having a problem, the responsibility to fix it is yours by reaching out to the coworker that you can’t stand and address the issue or ask to meet up outside the office and have a chat that has nothing to do with work.

  • Offices are small, enclosed and you spend a lot of time there. There is bound to be time when someone gets mad at you or you get mad at them, it happens at most offices.

4 tips for when you cant stand your coworker.

4 Tips For Difficult Work Relationships

When you have difficult work relationships, considering the following tips to help you out:

  1. Start with some empathy. Think about what might be making your coworker act the way that they do — even if the behavior annoys you, you might find you can stomach it a little better if you understand it more.

  2. Confront the problem directly. Some people respond well to people being upfront with them.

  3. Connect with them. If you and some coworkers go for beers sometimes, invite this coworker along. Maybe just look for opportunities to ask this person about their day and how they’re feeling.

  4. Think about what’s really upsetting you. Even if it hasn’t turned you into a jerk yet, you might find that much of your dislike of this person is in your own head and stems from you associating them with someone or something else that you already hate.

How To Handle With Difficult Coworkers

Additionally, make sure to do the following to effectiviely deal with difficult coworkers:

  • If it’s just one person, make friends with everyone else. It’s tougher for someone to hate on you when you have the support of the entire office — particularly if you have the support of your hater’s direct superior.

  • Make new work connections. Invite people to take a painting class or learn Zumba. You’ll feel good, and start developing connections outside of the ones that upset you.

  • Wait and see. If it somehow feels like the whole office is against you, well, then it’s more of just a waiting game. What’s the turnover rate like for your work?

  • Make an exit plan. If it’s likely that you’ll be dealing with these workers for your entire tenure at your job, the only real thing to do at that point is to decide how long you’re comfortable staying for.

  • Try to view this person as a mirror. Identify what behaviors or personality traits you find unbearable. Move away from “he’s a conceited jerk” toward “I don’t like how he disrespects people by talking over them.”

    By juxtaposing our annoying coworker’s traits with our own, we can see how not to be at work and gain clarity on how we’d like office relationships to function

  • Use these qualities to form “I” statements when you confront the person. People have a much easier time making adjustments when you don’t attack or accuse them from the start of the conversation.

    For example:

    you can say “I feel upset when people speak over me at meetings,” rather than “You always speak over me.”

There’s always the chance that no matter what you try, someone in the office will continue to hate you. Or, at the very least, they’ll say weird passive-aggressive stuff to you forever.

Let’s assume, for the sake of this article, that your relationship with your coworkers is still in a mostly repairable state.

That’s important to assume because, unless they’re doing something truly heinous/illegal that you could report them for, odds are you’re not going to get anyone fired just because you don’t like them. Problematic or straight-up bad behavior can be relayed to HR, but it’s not against any rules to be annoying.

Fortunately, there are quite a few things you can do to mitigate or even totally squash said beef.

Determine The Issue With Your Coworker

It’s important that you figure out exactly which kind of beef you’re currently involved in before you can take any steps to squash it.

As everyone knows, there are many popular varieties of office beef, including (but not limited to):

  • Sneaky beef. You hate someone else, and they have no idea.

  • Unrequited beef. Someone else appears to hate you — you have no idea why and don’t currently feel the same way, but they constantly work to undermine you or take credit for your work.

  • Mutual beef, or beef squared. You hate someone and they also hate you. This is the stuff that showstopping dance battles are made of.

  • Beef unlimited, aka “The Potluck.” When there’s plenty of beef to go around. You indiscriminately hate everyone in your entire office. Congratulations — you’ve made it.

If you’ve just dealt with an intense situation with a coworker and tempers are flaring, give yourself some time and distance to decompress and understand the circumstances. Throw on some headphones and keep your head down while you get work done for a day or two.

While it’s admirable that you want to handle the situation quickly, some situations require a bit of space to handle professionally.

Some of these situations are easier to identify than others, but the steps for dealing with all of them are all relatively similar.

Identify Whether You Are the Problem

Look, you know, we get it. People can be annoying.

But just because there are all these jerks out there in the world, putting fish inside of microwaves and eating unlabeled fridge yogurts, that doesn’t mean you have carte blanche to start taking out every perceived slight on everyone around you.

Because then you’re the office jerk. You’re the one starting drama.

But being the office bully can sometimes sneak up on you. Here are a few signs that you might not be as much of a victim as you think you are:

  • For starters, do you actually do your work? If you’re a lazy or unqualified worker, you might be holding up the success of everyone in the office, or at least making them resent you for doing so little and still collecting a paycheck.

  • Do you tend to overshare, or have stories that never end?

  • Is your music always too loud while you obliviously drum your fingers along your desk?

  • Do you always make cynical, snarky comments without ever providing any positive support or feedback to your coworkers?

Finally, before you put a whole bunch of energy into fixing the problem, ask yourself some important questions:

  1. What’s the power dynamic? How you go about handling the situation changes depending on whether this is a peer, superior, or subordinate you’re dealing with. This is not to suggest that you should just forget about the problem if it’s your boss, but you do have to consider office politics.

  2. Is this relationship important? We all want to have amicable relationships with everyone we work with, but it’s not always necessary. If it’s someone you only have to interact with once a week, consider devoting your energy elsewhere and just accepting that you won’t be BFFs with this person.

    If you won’t be working with them for long or don’t have to work together often, try to minimize your interactions with the troublesome coworker.

  3. What can I do to resolve the situation? Answering this question requires you to know precisely what your problem is with the person. Think about non-confrontational ways to address the issue, but let them know what you’re unhappy with. Also, encourage them to tell you how they’d like the relationship to improve.

    Maybe you’ve contributed to the souring relationship, and it’s important to take responsibility for that. Do some self-reflection and try to be the bigger person moving forward.

    Remember, you can only control your actions. Do everything you can to remedy the situation, and you’ll feel a whole lot better, even if you still can’t stand that coworker.

Problems With Coworkers FAQs

  1. What to do if you don’t like your coworkers?

    Even if you don’t like your coworkers, it is important that you remain professional. Try to be empathetic and at least learn to work alongside your corworker. Your priority at your job should always be to serve your professional needs and goals.

    In this light, a coworker who you don’t like will distract you if you let them get to you. That isn’t to say you cannot take action. If you have legitimate issues with your coworker that interfere with your professional life, then you should work with your supervisor, or fellow coworkers, to address them.

  2. What is a toxic co worker?

    A toxic coworker is someone who does not respect you, has a negative effect on your self-worth, and interferes with your ability to work professionally. Toxic coworkers can be loud, agressive, confrontational, and rude. They can also be less obvious. They can be passive-aggressive, false, corrupting, and conspiratorial against you.

    Identifying toxic behaviors is the important first step to rectifying the problem. Without understanding exactly what you are facing, you will have difficulties finding solutions.

  3. How do you stand up to a toxic coworker?

    To stand up to a toxic coworker, first make sure you are objective as possible about the situation. This is a key element to remaining professional. A toxic coworker will prevent you from doing your job, so focus on those issues.

    Then, do your best to manage your emotions, and work with others to deal with this person. Ideally, you should have a supervisor or someone in leadership who can help you. Present to them the facts and explaing to them why you need their help.

  4. Can you be fired for not getting along with coworkers?

    Depending on your profession and circumstances, you may be fired for not “fitting in” to the company culture. However, this is more likely to manifest in other forms. Employers will not do anything that can get them in trouble for discriminatory practices. It is possible, if your contract clearly states, they might terminate your employment without even giving a reason.

Final Thoughts

Again, we want to stress that if you’re being harassed or abused at work, you should come forward and tell someone as soon as you feel comfortable doing so. No one should have to deal with that at their place of work, and there ought to be a process in place for handling those kinds of complaints.

But a lot of times, office disagreements are much more mundane than this. It’s petty sibling kind of stuff, like someone taking up too much space or accidentally eating your food a few too many times.

And, as with siblings, the best tactic to take in cases like this is just to let it all go.

If you can find it within yourself to let go of the past and let bygones be whatever the heck bygones are, then you’ll find everything slipping off you like water off a duck’s butt.

And if that’s not enough to keep you calm at the office, just remember that work relationships aren’t everything and you don’t need to be BFFs with everyone at your office.

Anyhow, best of luck with the whole “evil coworker” thing! Remember to keep the lines of communication open and be flexible in addressing workplace issues. As long as both parties make an effort to improve the situation, you should be able to get along just fine with that coworker you can’t stand.


  1. Office of Personnel Management – Employee Relations

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Ryan Morris

Ryan Morris was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog who tried to make the job process a little more entertaining for all those involved. He obtained his BA and Masters from Appalachian State University.

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