Co-workers from Hell

Listen in to Audio Introduction:

Why you need to read this piece. (4 minutes)

We have all been there, stuck working with someone who makes our life miserable and feeling forced to pick our chin up and make the best of the work situation. They are the proverbial “colleague from hell” who won’t go away and we bet any amount of money that co-worker was a woman, not a man.


It’s a hard pill to swallow. Here at In Our Shoes  we talk a lot about how women like ourselves seek to inspire each other in our careers. How we aim to support one another and always have an eye out for any opportunity that can help one another pay it forward. While these incredible women do exist (you’re one of them), watch out for the ones that become your manager right? Or the office pariahs who suddenly either want your job, are territorial about keeping theirs or whose life purpose is to squash your hard-earned reputation.


While each situation is unique and holds its own share of drama, there is actually a way to handle these difficult situations regardless of circumstance. Running seminars in the UK for example,  I learned there seem to be  far more aggressive female professionals there as compared to the US. I hear women have to fight harder to survive in companies and defend themselves against the negative female stereotypes in Corporate UK. However in America we women have our share of struggles as well.


What I am sharing with you here however, is how you can deal with co-workers from hell regardless of circumstance. This will not only clear the path for you both to work together, but you will never allow another difficult colleague to take you off your A-game again – I promise. This is something you need to do for yourself more than anyone because you will feel empowered and in control of any rocky road relationship you ever encounter – again.

How to handle the Co-Worker from Hell


  • Fact: If you are not feeling comfortable around someone then I promise you, they are feeling it too.
  • Fact: They may have turned their  back on you and seem like they are made of strong-willed iron, but the reality is they can’t be very productive. It takes a lot of mental energy to defend yourself against someone whom you are not working well with.
  • Fact: If they haven’t approached you yet to talk about it or discuss how you each can resolve your conflict, then they aren’t a very experienced professional dealing with this and it has now become your problem. Regardless, this gives you so much room to step up first.

Here’s how you are going to TAKE IT ON:

  • Put emotions aside. As women, it’s our Achilles heel. You don’t have to like it, but you do need to know it, especially in this situation.
  • Choose an empty office, conference room or any private area in the office and ask if she has a few minutes to speak privately. You never want to confront someone in front of others in the office. It will inevitably become office gossip and will not look favorably on either one of you.
  • Say:
    • “Can we set aside some time to talk in private for a few minutes?” or
    • “Do you have a few minutes to chat? There’s something I’d like to discuss with you.” or
    • “I’d like to touch base with you on something in private. When would be a good time to meet for a few minutes?”
  • When behind closed doors, first thank them for making the time to speak with you. Then start the conversation with honesty.
  • Say:
    •  “I know we haven’t exactly hit it off working together but…” or
    •  “I am pretty sure you feel there is room for improvement for us to work well together…”
  • Offer solutions. You need to have at least 3 potential ways in your hip pocket which you believe will help the situation. You can bullet them out or say them casually, but if she’s given you her ears to listen, then it’s your job now to offer possible solutions. Put aside your pride and think of the end-game. You work for a company; your only chess move is to rise and shine over time. Who cares if you took the high road first? Think of the bigger picture, in a year we promise this will be a distant memory.
  • Say:
    • “Here are some possible ways I thought we can turn this around and really put our best foot forward when working together…” Now list them out.
    • Ask if she has any of her own possible solutions. Assure her that you are listening (because you are) and would really love to hear them as well. This is not “your way or the highway.”
  • Before leaving the room, thank her again for making the time. If the moment feels right,shake her hand, extend a hug or simply nod your appreciation. If at all possible, the key is to leave on a good note to make room for progress.

If you need some pointers on what to say in your “co-worker from hell” situation, reach out here: It’s about sharing what it’s like in your shoes and your name would always be kept private. I hope this piece has helped support you in some way, in your career. : )

With love and lots of gutsiness,

Look for our upcoming Home Study System on Gutsy Education for Smart Women to Raise their Rank in Business.

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