Four Tips for Facing a Difficult Coworker

By Deidra Riggs

April 1, 2017

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18


Two colleagues sitting down to talk things through.You’ll probably have to deal with conflict at work, sooner or later. Even if you are self-employed and you work alone, chances are good that you might one day have a disagreement with a vendor or a client. Missed deadlines, shoddy workmanship, water cooler gossip and more have derailed the peace of many an office cubicle.

Jesus was no stranger to conflict. As his ministry grew and news about his words and work spread throughout the region, naysayers and doubters often tried to catch Jesus making a mistake. Religious rulers approached him with riddles intended to trap him, and even one of Jesus’ disciples turned him in to the authorities.

Though it’s reassuring to realize that Jesus himself, the Son of God, faced opposition and disagreement, this realization doesn’t always help when we face our own conflicts at work. When it seems as if a coworker is trying to throw you under the proverbial bus, your gut reaction might be to retreat or to lash out. However, as followers of Christ, it’s important to remember that our goal is always to build loving relationships and to live at peace with everyone, as much as it depends on us — even at work.

Here are some tips to remember when dealing with a coworker whose primary goal in life seems to be making your life difficult:

Take a deep breath. Before you respond to an email that sounds snippy or a voicemail that seems condescending, stand up from your desk and take a five-minute break. We’ve all typed out a passively aggressive response and then wished we could call it back as soon as we hit send. Often, just removing yourself from the moment makes all the difference.

It’s not you against them. Ultimately, you and your coworkers are working toward the same goal. You want to do your best work for the sake of the company and for the personal satisfaction you receive from a job well done. It’s easy to forget that you and your coworkers have the same goals when one of you drops the ball or when miscommunication happens. Remembering you’re on the same team can refocus your attention to what matters most: getting the job done on deadline, below budget, and at the highest quality.

Don’t avoid. The more you avoid the conflict, the more it festers. When you sense there’s a problem, pick up the phone and calmly talk it out. Be respectful of your coworker’s position. Listen to your coworker’s perception of the situation and make sure you understand their needs. Be sure to express your perspective as well. Addressing the situation head on helps build trust and keeps the lines of communication open.

Go to the person. Don’t complain about your coworker to others. If, after trying to work out the problem between the two of you, you both find you’re still at an impasse, invite a third person — preferably a manager — to help the two of you figure out the best way to move forward.

Ultimately, win-win is better than win-lose. The goal of conflict resolution is not to “beat” your coworker. Rather, the goal is to figure out a way you can keep working together, even if it becomes clear you may not ever share a friendship with one another.


What tips do you have for dealing with conflict at work? What lessons did Jesus teach us about how to handle conflict?


Lord, today I pray for (insert the name of a person you find it hard to get along with). Bless them and give them peace. Let them experience success today, in their work, their relationships, their health, and their finances. Help me to see them the way you do, and to hope the best for them in all things. In Christ’s name, Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentarySpecific Behavioral Principles to Guide Moral Discernment (Romans 12:9–21)

Deidra Riggs

Writer & Author

Deidra Riggs is a national speaker, an editor, and the founder and host of Jumping Tandem: The Retreat, a bi-annual event for writers, authors, and entrepreneurs. She is a storyteller who creates safe space for navigating...

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