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Ladies:  Got Difficult Co-Workers?

How DO YOU Respond to “Them?”

By Joy Huber

As the author of “You Go Girl:  A Woman’s Guide on How to THRIVE Around Difficult People,” business communications expert, women’s business coach and award-winning international presenter who speaks to many groups of women in business, I’m very VERY often asked questions surrounding how to DEAL with difficult co-workers.  Co-workers are especially challenging because we have no direct supervisory authority over them and can not discipline them through verbal or written warnings to change their behavior!  They are often the cause of a lot of working women’s stress and persistent stress leads to many very expensive health problems!

“Working women rank stress as their No. 1 everyday problem.  Women must balance work and family, cope with aging parents and handle interpersonal conflicts,” says the New York Times on the Web Women’s Health section (http://www.nytimes.com/specials/women/whome/stress.html). 

To help you learn HOW to deal with difficult co-workers, I first want to share my favorite definition for the word “attitude.”  I define attitude as “the way You Choose to Respond.”  You probably notice I’ve highlighted three words there:  you, choose, respond.

But how do you choose to respond?  Overall what is your preferred style of communication or behavior in response to your co-workers?  While we can certainly behave & communicate different ways in different situations or with different people, I’ll most be able to help you feel better, stress less, look better at work, and save $$ on expensive reactive healthcare if you choose ONE of the below three options for how you respond MOST of the time.    

  • Passive – I list this style first because this is what most of the businesswomen I work with choose.  Ignore it & it’ll go away!  How often does that really work for you though?  This behavior can be defined as shy, timid, or nonassertive.  Unfortunately for women who choose this behavior, it’s a very lose-win behavior meaning you continue to lose while “they (Your Difficult People)” Win!  It causes you a tremendous amount of frustration about situations, anger & STRESS.  Have you ever looked for a different job, looked to leave a job you otherwise liked (job duties & compensation-wise), because of co-workers who are there every day and cause that very hazardous to your health ongoing chronic stress? 
  • Passive-Aggressive – Any guesses why I listed this one second?  You are correct!  This is the next most common behavior I hear of women.  They mask their hurt feelings and anger by saying in the moment they are “fine” because they are simply not confident and comfortable with a face-to-face conflict and then waste time plotting & planning REVENGE or sabotage of their difficult person.  This behavior and communication is very lose-lose as the person you get revenge on then seeks to “not get mad, but get even.”  You understand why you experience so much anxiety & worry when practicing this behavior! 
  • Aggressive – This behavior is unfortunate as in the moment the person practicing it thinks, “I WIN, & YOU LOSE . . at all costs!”  These are the intimidating, blunt, and sometimes downright rude individuals but ultimately it costs the aggressive person friends and respect using this intimidating style vs. being genuinely respected for being an effective communicator and terrific listener proactively warding off a lot of conflict and managing and resolving other conflict significantly reducing workplace stress!

You likely recognize upon honest self-reflection that you can and do often choose one of the above three ways to respond, but I have found that the best results are achieved when you actually choose a fourth option many women want to learn more about, and that is 4) Assertive Communication.  This is the behavior & communication balance I am able to help every businesswoman (and man!) client of mine find.  This balanced style means “I WIN & YOU WIN” finding a happy medium for you & your difficult people where you are able to not just co-exist but really respect the differences in each other & THRIVE during your workdays making your career, gasp, enjoyable again! 

You CAN succeed with difficult co-workers using assertive communication.  You can have less stress & improve your health.  Live better.  Live longer!  Don’t dread going to work!  To sleep better tonight, go to  


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Joy Huber, a.k.a. “Ms. En’JOY’able”, is an award-winning professional speaker & business communications expert who helps companies & individuals improve their communication skills so they can achieve better results in business & life.  She has international presentation experience & works directly with Fortune 500 companies & associations.  Joy blends her diverse industry experience & education to provide her clients with real-world solutions to meet the challenges of today. 

Joy’s web site is www.joyhuber.com and she may be contacted directly through the site or at joy@joyhuber.com.  She has an online store with CD resources at www.joyhuber.com/online.   


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