Work + Growth

How to Deal with Co-Workers You Can’t Stand

  • Don’t take it personally or sweat the small stuff
  • Make sure you keep things civil and calm, and that you’re not part of the problem
  • Remember that law firms are competitive workplaces

It’s bound to happen: Even if you love your firm, like your deal or case teams, and make a ton of friends, you’ll eventually run into a coworker who just completely rubs you the wrong way.

It’s a big ask that everyone in the office will get along seamlessly and with no issues. If you dread going into the office because of that one person who just drives you up a wall, there are ways to deal with it that don’t involve yelling or arguing. Here’s how you can deal with coworkers you can’t stand, and maybe even achieve some peace in the office.

Don’t Take it Personally

When you’re dealing with a coworker you don’t particularly like, try your best to look at the situation with at least some objectivity. If you take everything too personally, you’ll probably end up exploding at some point, so take a deep breath and don’t let every single problem get to you. Maybe your coworker talks to you in a snide tone of voice that you think is completely obnoxious or nitpicks everything that you do even when it’s not their place. Or maybe they chew gum loudly or click their pen too often—those kinds of things definitely aren’t about you, and even if they bug you, there’s going to be some things you’ll simply need to let go. Not every person is social, easy, or even nice. Ultimately, we’re all different from each other, and you’re not going to get along with every single person you work with.

Stay Civil and Calm

Whenever someone is driving you nuts, it’s hard to resist the urge to snap and give them a taste of their own medicine, but when you’re dealing with a condescending coworker, the best way to handle the situation is to stay as calm and collected as possible. Always be civil, because that way, they can’t say you haven’t been on your best behavior and you might as well try to maintain a little bit of moral high ground even when you’re seething inside. The other issue is that it’s possible you might be presenting a problem to this person, too—maybe you drive them nuts. So rather than escalate the problem, take a deep breath and try to be as tranquil as possible.

Can you think of a time when staying calm in the face of someone else’s snarkiness has served you?

Hear Them out—Maybe You Have Something in Common

It’s probably difficult to imagine having any empathy for someone who makes your workdays so unpleasant, but stop and think about this other person—maybe they’re having a rough time at home or just really have trouble relating to other people. If you can bear it (and don’t think it’ll make anything worse), maybe try listening to your workplace nemesis and learning more about them. It’s entirely possible that their bad attitude is there for a reason and is actually just a cry for help. By extending a lifeline to a difficult person, there’s a chance you could end up with a new friend and improve your work experience at the same time, but either way, it’s about showing kindness to those around you and looking past your own issues.

Remember: Law Firms are Competitive Workplaces

Law firms can be some of the most insanely competitive workplaces. The people around you might be your friend one day but step on you to climb the ladder the next. While this doesn’t excuse other people’s crappy attitudes or downright meanness, be realistic about what to expect from your colleagues, especially if you can tell someone is extra-competitive or is determined to prove themselves by any means necessary. Keep focusing on working hard, and if you don’t let your more ruthless coworkers get to you, you’ll be sure to triumph in the end.